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Worcester Male Voice Choir

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Worcester Male Voice Choir - Worcester Male Voice Choir

Worcester Male Voice Choir celebrates its 30th anniversary with a series of local concerts and a tour of Devon. Terry Dillingham, a tenor with the choir, tells us more.

It's the 30th anniversary year of the Choir-what do you know about how the Choir formed ?

Male Voice singing has a particularly strong link to certain areas of the country and or occupations; the obvious examples being Wales and the mining industry. In addition however on the occupation side it went and still goes much beyond just mining and many large employers provided as part of the role they then played in society, sports and social clubs. In the same way male voice choirs were often introduced by or supported by large employers fulfilling what they saw as part of their social responsibilities to their staff. Amongst those occupational roots one finds evidence of local Police Choirs-some still in operation today.  Worcester Male Voice Choir emerged in 1987 from the demise of the Worcester Police Choir. This probably reflected a number of changes in society generally and the changing nature of employment in the police service.

Whatever the exact details, male voice singing in Worcester continued and I believe the then MD of the Police Choir took on that role with the new Worcester MVC. The conductor at that time was Henry Sandon the well known Worcester porcelain expert and established expert on the Antiques Road Show. Henry is still a Life member of the Choir and just occasionally comperes a concert and even conducts the occasional song! Gradually the Choir membership changed and members now come from a wide variety of backgrounds and live in Worcester, Droitwich, Pershore, Malvern and Kidderminster and many parts of our rural county.

What are the highlights of the choir's 30 years?

The Choir has been strongly led by a number of dedicated MD's. Following Henry the MD’s I have known are the late Barry Jones ,a Senior Lecturer in Law and colleague of mine at Worcester Technical College  and then by Nicolas Wright who has been a member of the Choir for 25 years either as accompanist or MD and has been outstanding taking the Choir to new heights. Under Nicolas there has been very significant improvements in the quality and range of singing, increase in number of choristers, enhanced regional and national reputation and therefore a recognition as a Choir of considerable talent increasingly invited to perform in major concerts. The Choir is a member of several national associations of choirs and has hosted and led a number of English Association of Male Voice Choirs Annual Concerts in Worcester Cathedral, most recently in 2016.

The choir itself has achieved charity status and amongst its aims is to donate proceeds from its concerts to local, regional and national charities; for example Acorns and St Richard's Hospices, Midlands Air Ambulance and Cancer Research UK. Its contributions to such charities over the 30 years is now in excess of £200,000.

The Choir has performed in many prestigious venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Symphony Hall, Town Hall, Birmingham, The Grand Hall,  Univ. of Birmingham, Colston Hall, Bristol, and many Cathedrals throughout the UK. The Choir regularly tours throughout the UK but also abroad including France, Germany and Ireland. One of the most memorable recent tours was to France where amongst other things the Choir sang at the Theipval Memorial in the Somme. In return the Choir has hosted concerts where they have welcomed artists from Russia and choirs from France and Australia.

The importance of a Choir to the City of Worcester and beyond

The Choir is proud of its title Worcester Male voice Choir and pleased to promote the City at home and abroad. The links with the City of Worcester and with every Mayor who comes into office is strong; their attendance at our concerts, at our awards ceremonies and hosting visiting choirs is really positive and very important. In return we support the City elders through concerts at the Guildhall and singing at formal civic functions in the Cathedral. The Choir also works with the Worcester Twinning Association which have links to Le Vesenet in France and Kleve in Germany both of which we have visited.Only Worcester in the USA to complete the set! We perform at the occasional Worcester Warriors match and support many local charities including St Richards Hospice and Acorns. We are also very pleased to work closely with Pershore Town Council and the staff at Pershore Abbey, the latter being a splendid venue for our two Christmas concerts. We also work closely with the international renowned Malvern Motors in Malvern singing at a variety of their events. The Choir is sponsored by St Peters Garden Centre Worcester and the Lawns Care Home in Kempsey.

The Choir have also recently entered into a mutual sponsorship deal with Worcester Wheels a very important Community Transport organisation and we hope to contribute in a wider sense to our community along with many other bodies helping to sustain and develop services in our city

How is the Choir marking its 30th Anniversary?

Having already started the year off with a St.David’s Day Concert at Cradley, we are going to continue to mark our 30th Anniversary by putting on further high profile concerts, the next one taking place on St George’s Day at St.Martins Church,London Road,Worcester. The Annual Concert in September at College Hall,Worcester and then Christmas concerts once again at Pershore Abbey will once again be events to look forward to holding, as well as performing for many other organisations throughout the year.

However this special year had to be marked by another tour and we will be going on a four day visit to Devon. The highlights will be singing on our own in Exeter Cathedral and then with the excellent Budleigh Salterton MVC at their Annual concert. After that concert the tradition is to have an afterglow where there will be much celebration, much singing and a lot of the local brew!

The next 30 years

Male voice choirs are facing a challenging time in one sense or another as there is an increasing number of community, mixed and rock choirs-good in itself but more competition-and in traditional areas of male voice singing in the valleys of Wales and elsewhere in the UK, changes to the economic and social structure has seen a serious decline in the number of choirs and in the membership. Some choirs like WMVC have bucked that trend improving their number of members. The future is positive in Worcester and there are opportunities to be grasped, planned for and managed. Unfortunately in 2018 Nicolas Wright our MD stands down-though hopefully he will continue in a new role. Rather than looking at this in a negative way we intend to turn it into an opportunity to go upwards and onwards and build on the  great achievements of Nicolas. We will soon be advertising for a new MD and that person male or female will be crucial to building on the past 30 years and taking us forward. If anyone reading this is keen to find out more about this vacancy please don’t hesitate to contact us.

What do you enjoy so much about being part of the Choir?

Comradeship, fun, commitment, achievement, friendship, performing, access to more social events. All of these terms help express the inclusive nature of the Choir and that is without directly mentioning the enjoyment and challenge of the music and singing. One chorister recently said how much they enjoy rehearsals each week never mind the concerts. This is all promoted by the fun and talent brought to the Choir by the experienced and dedicated musical team. Nic, Sheila Leatherland the Accompanist, Haydn Thomas Deputy Conductor and Scott Wolfendon Assistant Accompanist.

In addition to the singing and performing if you wish you can enjoy the other activities the Choir organises -golf, walking, bowls, themed lunches, picnics, dinners and the traditional party style afterglow after a concert. All part of the WMVC experience !

Are new choristers welcome? What level of musicianship do you need to join?

Absolutely! We welcome potential choristers any time. We do not put a limit on choir membership numbers. The Choirs commitments are many and varied and the more choristers we have the more we can respond to demands for our services. We have at the very least one formal concert each month plus a variety of other engagements so the more choristers we have the more who will be available on each occasion we have a booking. Also as in any organisation we need to have a succession policy so as people retire from singing we need to replace them to keep healthy numbers. Having said all that we have more than a few choristers who have been members for over 25 years.

We do not require a chorister to be able to read music. The real requirement is to enjoy music, enjoy singing, , be prepared to learn the pieces we sing and above all be committed.

You can simply come along to a rehearsal at the Angel Centre on a Monday or Wednesday evening at 7.15pm and see what we get up to. Don’t be afraid to come you will get a really warm welcome.

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