The Angmering Chorale launches its 2014-15 season with a concert at Arundel Cathedral on November 22 at 7.30pm.
Musical director George Jones has confirmed a programme comprising Mass in C by Beethoven; Nelson Mass by Haydn; and The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams on a night featuring orchestra and soloists
From a small inaugural group in 1976, the Chorale has grown to more than 130 singers, and the current season finds them in good heart – though as George says, as ever, a few tenors wouldn’t go amiss.
For George it’s been a long and happy association – and one which happened quite by chance: “We had moved to East Preston, which is where we live now, and I was still conducting at Billingshurst. One morning I was going up to Billingshurst for some reason, and I went out of my house carrying my container of conductor’s batons. My neighbour across the road came across and said ‘Are you a conductor?’ I said ‘Yes’, and he said ‘My wife is in a choral society, the Angmering Chorale, and their conductor is retiring, Leslie Harverson.’ He asked if I would like his wife to mention me to the chairman. I said ‘Alright’. I was not particularly looking for another choir there, but to cut a long story short, I met Les in a pub with the chairman, and they thought that I was just the person to drive the choir. The choir had originally been an evening class at Angmering School where Les was head of music for many years. I was taken on to develop the choir in the way that we were running Billingshurst at that time. It needed to be formalised, to have more of a committee structure. The choir was expanding and continues to do so from Les’ time, but with expansion, you need more organisation. It had been a bit of a one-man band. Les did all the work himself. It was his life. When he found that he was no longer able to cope physically, he decided that it was time to retire.
“His last concert was at Arundel, and it was rather sad. We were thinking that he might not make it through to the end of the concert he was so frail. But he did manage it, though sadly he died quite soon after that. In the choir, there are a lot of extremely-efficient musicians, and the standard of performance has gone up considerably since I took over because of the hard work of everybody in the choir. The most important thing I have done is to establish a really strong committee of all talents.”
And it’s this that underpins the choir as it contemplates a new season: “We try to do a wide variety of composers because we have a duty to sing the great works, but we also have a duty to sing the music of living composers. But we do have to educate the choir with the great works from the past, and Handel and Beethoven are two of the great choral composers. It is fascinating to compare the two. The choir members have their own views about which one they prefer, and I say to them ‘Give them some weeks before you make up your minds.’ But I suppose if I had to choose, I would go for Haydn, but that’s heresy really to say that because Beethoven is also fantastic!”
Tickets at £15 on www.theangmeringchorale.org.uk.