Chichester’s Shopwyke Singers celebrate their quarter of a century

Alex Dichmont
Alex Dichmont

Chichester’s Shopwyke Singers celebrate their quarter of a century with a special concert at Boxgrove Priory on Sunday, November 24 at 7pm.

They will be joined by The Little London Ensemble – formed specially for the occasion – for a programme featuring Monteverdi – Beatus Vir; Handel – Zadok the Priest; and Schubert – Mass in G.

A chamber choir based at Westbourne House School, the choir was founded by Alex Dichmont, the school’s director of music, initially as a group for parents and staff. It has since welcomed numerous singers from outside the school community.

Currently numbering some forty singers, the choir’s repertoire spans from the Renaissance to the present day.

“It started really as a mixture of staff and parents at the school, and then some grandparents and uncles and friends joined so and gradually it became not exclusively the school community,” Alex says.

“There was a very big take-up right from the start, maybe 30 to 40 people, and the first concert, if I remember rightly, was the Faure Requiem and Mozart Coronation Mass.

“We did that concert at the school, and then some of the children of some of the parents left the school but the parents stayed on with the choir. I think we have probably got half a dozen of the originals that still come along. People started to bring friends and then the friends started to bring friends, and so it expanded in that way, but sizewise, the choir has never really changed. It has just been self-perpetuating.

“They are a friendly bunch and very supportive. And they are very hard-working. Some of the music we do is really quite tricky, but they don’t like to be patronised in any way. They work hard on quite ambitious stuff, particularly when some of them don’t necessarily have much of a musical background. There is a whole range of people, from people who are quite experienced to people who don’t have that background but can hold a part.

“We do two main concerts a year, in May and November and then something in June and something at Christmas. The May and November concerts tend to be at Boxgrove Priory. In June we do something more social like a come and sing, something more light-hearted.

“Our singers have been very loyal. I think the key to it is that singing is a very good way to end the day, to come along and have a good sing and to feel that you have achieved something and to feel that sense of community between the choir members. It is more than just coming along to sing really. Sometimes at the end of a long day, it is the last thing I want to do, but you wouldn’t believe how quickly it is energising and how quickly it picks you up and is so enjoyable.”

For the concert, the programme has been created with the string players in mind: “The Little London Ensemble are an ad hoc group, called that because one of them lives in Little London.

“We have got the Handel and the lovely Monteverdi, and the Schubert has always been one of my favourites.”

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