This spring term the Fleet Singers have been focusing on John Rutter's Feel the Spirit, a fun, moving and challenging set of spirituals, which we'll perform in a concert Sunday 31st March. The choir has really enjoyed working on some of the piece's more challenging rhythms and harmonies under the guidance of our conductor Phil Wilcox and with the support of our brilliant pianist Philip Godfrey. In Phil's absence, a couple of weeks before the concert, "Antoine DingDong" helped us clarify and energise the rhythms of Jericho, I got a Robe and When All the Saints. Rehearsals can be fun as well as hard work and we always have a sociable break with Fairtrade cuppa and biscuit or occasional celebratory cake.
Thanks to our Armistice Day programme, we didn't start rehearsing Christmas music until 12 November. Rather than prepare a full concert programme for the end of term, we worked on arrangements of Christmas Carols which we sang in the Carol Service at Gospel Oak Methodist Church Sunday 16 December and the next day at East Finchley station. The station carol-singing had been organised by the charity Health Poverty Action under their Choirs for Change programme and we raised a fantastic £264.43 for our hour's singing. Here's the Thank you article they posted on their website
We were delighted to take part in the nationwide celebrations on Armistice Day, Sunday 11th November, for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1. Many choir members attended the Remembrance Day service at St Anne's Highgate which included a procession to the war memorial on the grass in front of the church for the act of remembrance and 2-minute silence. The Last Post was played on the bugle. After the service, a little later than the planned 12 noon, we sang a varied selection of music on the theme of peace. We had to cut our programme short as it had to finish promptly at 12.30 but we were able to sing Al Shlosha in Hebrew, 2 short rounds in Italian and Latin, Siyahamba in Zulu, the Irish Danny Boy, John Lennon's Imagine and Paul McCartney's Pipes of Peace. The St Anne's Tower Bell Ringers were taking part in the nationwide Ringing Remembers campaign, ringing from 12.30 to remember the 1,400 bell ringers killed in World War I. Wonderful to hear the bells as we sipped a drink in front of the church.
For their last concert at the end of July, the Fleet Singers abandoned their usual black with a dash of blue and donned stripey tops and sailor hats for a nautical concert. In addition to the main work, Stanford's Songs of the Fleet, there were some solos, some Purcell and G&S, one of the altos wandered round playing appropriate jigs on her violin and conductor Phil Wilcox engaged the audience in jolly communal singing of sea shanties. Refreshments and a supportive audience of family and friends old and new further contributed to another enjoyable evening at St Martin's Gospel Oak.
Following a successful concert before Easter, the first with our new professional conductor Phil Wilcox, the Fleet Singers summer term will have a nautical theme. The main work in the concert at the end of July will be Stanford’s Songs of the Fleet. New singers welcome – especially basses - free introductory rehearsal.
Sad as we were to hear James Davey would be leaving us after the December 2017 concert, we were delighted to learn that Phil Wilcox would taking over as Musical Director in the New Year. We’d already experienced Phil’s conducting and coaching in a couple of rehearsals of the Stainer and three of the Britten and look forward to discovering new music with him in the months to come.
During the first few weeks of the autumn term we put considerable work into learning the multi-lingual South African National Anthem for Pam Gilby’s Memorial Service at Gospel Oak Methodist Church 8th October. The rest of the term we focused on Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols for a performance on Saturday 2nd December at St Martin’s NW5. The Ceremony of Carols is one of Britten's best-known and most-performed works. Written in 1942 for 3-part children’s choir, the work is often heard sung by boy trebles but we sang a 4-part version for adult choir. Originally conceived as a series of unrelated songs, it was later unified into one piece with a framing chant based on the Gregorian Antiphon "Hodie Christus natus est", heard at the beginning and the end. We filled the 2nd half of the concert with vocal and instrumental solos, readings and sing-along carols. During the interval we enjoyed mulled wine and mince pies and people were able to buy Fair Trade treats from the Traidcraft stall. This was our last concert with James Davey who’s been music director for the choir’s first 9 years but has now moved out of London and is pursuing other career developments. We were pleased to be able to say our goodbyes over a successful festive concert.
This term we are working on The Crucifixion by Sir John Stainer.
Stainer was the organist and choirmaster at St Paul's Cathedral from 1872-1888. He wrote several hymn tunes which are still well-known today, for example "Lead, kindly light" and the standard arrangements of some Christmas carols, including "Good King Wenceslas". The Crucifixion is one of the most popular English choral works. The concert, where we will be accompanied by two professional soloists, will be on Sunday 2nd April at St Martin’s Vicars Road NW5 (time tbc).
We held a concert on December 2nd at the Gospel Oak Methodist Church with an interesting mixture of musical styles including Te Kaiwhakaora, a Maori chant with words that we found quite challenging to learn. There were carols for all, including James' favourite "Good King Wenceslas", and mulled wine and mince pies afterwards.
At 6.30pm the church bells of St Anne's Church, Highgate West Hil, rang out heralding a concert, The Man in the Straw Hat, under the auspices of the Fleet Singers, a local community choir. The concert was very well received!
The Fleet Singers commissioned a piece of music, Songs About the Weather, to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – it was performed in the old Hampstead Town Hall to a capacity audience. The composer was Benjamin Till, an English composer, director and film maker who works in the field of through composed musical documentary where contributors often tell their stories through the medium of specially written song. His works include Oranges and Lemons on the theme of London church bells which had in-depth coverage from BBC London, he has directed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and composed Hampstead Heath: The Musical which was nominated for a Royal Television Society award.
Benjamin has just completed a new composition for the choir based on the years John Betjeman spent in the Hampstead/Highgate area – it will be performed in St Anne’s Church, Highgate West Hill, the church where Betjeman was christened and in fact he lived as a child just opposite the church.
The lyrics of the composition are composed of poems written by local people at a poetry-writing workshop led by John Hegley – these poems follow the themes of some of Betjeman’s poems – the solo parts will be extracts from some of Betjeman’s own poems.
There will be an exhibition illustrating places mentioned in Betjeman’s poems on local places as well as extracts from the poems, both Betjeman’s and those written by local people.
Rehearsals for this work commence on Monday 12 January at Gospel Oak Methodist Church at 7.30pm until 9.30pm.
Prequel to a new composition written by Benjamin Till about the life of John Betjeman - Betjeman spent his formative years in the Highgate/Hampstead area, he lived in Highgate West Hill opposite St Anne'sChurch (where he was baptised) as a child - this composition will celebrate his life, particularly his north London connections - some of Betjeman's poems will be sung as solos but the remaining lyrics will be based on poems written by choir members and members of the public around the places Betjeman wrote about.
It will be led by John Hegley and Cicely Herbert, both accomplished workshop leaders - it will take place at St Anne's Church, Highgate West Hill on Friday 11 July at 7.30pm, refreshments at 7pm. You think you can't write poems, you would be surprised what you can do - come and have fun learning to do it.
Open to all, no charge.
The choir performed at St Anne's Highgate West Hill. A well attended and acclaimed concert.
A revival of Songs About the Weather, our commissioned work to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, attracted about 150 people and all the comments were very complimentary. We were joined by the Belsize Community Choir for part of the performance which meant that we were a large choir in St Anne's Church, Highgate West Hill. It was an unmitigated success and tribute must be paid to Benjamin Till, the composer, who supported us throughout the rehearsals and as ever to James Davey, our talented director, who has made us what we are. Also to Philip Godfrey our faithful and accomplished accompanist.
The choir performed the premiere of Ode to Living Things - this was composed by the choir's accompanist, Philip Godfrey, an accomplished composer. We were assisted by the Camden Young Singers who sang from their own repertoire in the first half of the concert.
There were estimated to be not far short of 200 people in the audience and it received an enthusiastic ovation. There was an excellent review in the Ham & High.
As a community choir it was good to be able to include the Camden Young Singers, a young people's choir run by the borough of Camden.
On Monday May 6th the choir gave a pre-premiere outing at the Southbank to Ode to Living Things, a cantata composed by the choir's accompanist, Philip Godfrey, a well-known composer.
The official premiere is on Saturday 18 May at St Anne's Church, bottom of Highgate West Hill, at 7pm. The Camden Young Singers and Camden Senior Singers, part of the 70-strong Camden Youth Choir will perform with us and will also perform several items from their own repertoire as well as several solo items.
The work is based partly on poems by Arthur Guiterman, Gerard Manley-Hopkins, Walter de la Mare and E E Cummings.
It is free but donations will be received for the Camden Music Service.
Benjamin Till, the well-known composer, is writing a piece especially for the choir to celebrate the Jubilee - it is based on memories of the last 60 years from the choir as well as weather phenomena in the area in each of the six decades.
If you would like to learn a couple of pieces from it to sing with the choir in the evening come and join in.
11.30-13.00 : a workshop for beginners or less confident singers
14.00-15.30 : a practice for more seasoned singers
16.00-18.00 : dress rehearsal with full choir and accompaniment
19.00 : Jubilee event (£4 entry)
During the day it will be possible to create small pieces of artwork to add to the panels created by Fleet School in advance.
Get those vocal chords working!
Make those creative talents active!
Not an April Fool, the choir sang at St Pancras Church - we joined with other choirs conducted by our director, James Davey, to sing excerpts from the Messiah. A great tribute to us was that James Davey said our choir would be and was the best there and we sang several parts by ourselves - a very moving work which we enjoyed.
The Fleet Singers were nominated, and have been awarded Camden's Unsung Heroes Award. The award ceremony is at the Roundhouse on Moday 28th March. Read more at the Camden New Journal.
The Fleet Singers held their Christmas concert at Gospel Oak Methodist Church on Sunday afternoon, 12 December. There was a varied programme of Christmas pieces and there was audience participation in a number of well-known carols. It was attended by a good representation from the local community.
The choir travelled to Ealing to sing at the annual Sangerstevne which draws choirs from all over Europe as well as Britain - we had a 20 minute slot but it was also an experience to hear such a variety of other choirs.
The choir joined Voicelab, a feature of the Southbank, which brings together various choirs from all over London, to give an evening performance, usually of a well-known piece of vocal classical music, following an afternoon of rehearsals. This was the choir's first experience of this and it was an inspiring event which gave a taste of singing as part of a very large choir to a large audience.
The choir participated in the Hallelujia Project which was set up by the BBC; they sang Handel's Hallelujia Chorus from the Messiah at the ecumenical carol service at St Martin's Lismore Circus, Gospel Oak, just before Christmas.
BBC Radio 3 featured a weekend on Mendelssohn to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth. As part of that weekend they invited choirs throughout the country to register to sing Hear My Prayer my Mendelssohn
The Fleet Singers took part and were recorded by BBC Radio 3 and featured in a broadcast on the afternoon of May 11th.
About 24 members of the choir took part in a Learn Something New weekend at the Barbican over last weekend.
We joined with the Bell Boys (Les Grooms) a group from Paris who have a very innovative programme to bring classical music within the reach and understanding of ordinary people - they also perform lighter music. The group we were with had a brass band.
On Saturday we promenaded round streets very local to the Barbican with a considerable following. We sang a negro spiritual outside Waitrose there, posing as shoppers! Then we sang the Drinking Song from La Traviata.
On Sunday we promenaded round the Barbican itself with the same programme. It was a wonderful experience and has helped to create a united and committed choir.
There was such enthusiasm among the 50+ members of the choir that it was decided to continue with the choir in 2009. A musical director was appointed and a programme set in place.