January 2024, the start of a new year for the Mid Wessex Singers, but not any old year.  The choir was formed 25 years ago in September and preparations begin for our Silver Anniversary celebrations with our concert in May.

Our Musical Director, Alice Dicker, had researched and trawled through the Choir’s repertoire over the last quarter of a century and put together a programme comprising past favourites and completely new pieces, reflecting the range of the Choir’s considerable abilities.

Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’ is chosen as the main offering which will  fill the second half of the programme.  The words in Latin, of course, set some alarm bells ringing, but with care and guidance from Alice, even the most ‘green’ amongst us manage to look like we know what we are singing about! Such uplifting music can’t help but inspire us to put our heart and soul into it.

Then more good news! Another piece is introduced, ‘Canticle of Jean Racine’ by Faure. Oh, the words are in French, but wait a minute the English translation is printed below, whew! Then Alice announces that we will be singing it in French. Hopes fade, briefly. We are carefully taken through the pronunciation, hope returns! The music is so moving, the whole thing sounding beautiful and so ‘right’ in the original language.

Next up is the Easter Hymn ‘O rejoice that the Lord has arisen’ from ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ by Mascagni.  Oh hang on, the original is in Italian – but relief we are singing the English translation (no Italian lessons needed). This is a joy to sing, soul stirring and heart lifting.

Now for something completely different. Three motets by contemporary composer Karl Jenkins. ‘Cantata Domino’ proving for some of us to be quite a Latin tongue twister.  Alice had us chanting the word slowly at first, then kicked us up to speed with the aid of some percussion. ‘Pie Jesu’ and ‘Ave Verum Corpus’ bring us down to a less excitable level. Lovely calming effect on all.

Now for a first. A piece called ‘My Beloved Spake’ by Matthew Coleridge, a local composer who lives in Dorset, will be having its first public airing at our May concert.  And the good news is he hopes to attend our dress rehearsal to hear us sing it. No pressure then! We will give it our all.

Finally, a most beautiful rendering of the hymn ‘For the Beauty of the Earth’ by Phillip Stopford.  Sung unaccompanied and unconducted! Alice puts great faith in us and gives us confidence, which we accept because of her brilliant musical directorship of the choir. Thank you Alice.

Concert day dawns and we gather for the afternoon dress rehearsal.  

We meet, for the first time, to rehearse with our guest organist, Malcolm Archer, whose professional career has taken him all over the world along with positions of Musical Director of three English Cathedrals, namely Bristol, Wells and St Paul’s.  

If that’s not enough we also have our first rehearsal with our two guest soloists, soprano Eloise Routledge and mezzo-soprano Louise Innes, both with distinguished professional careers in teaching and the operatic world.

Then suddenly appearing before us is Matthew Coleridge to hear our rendition of My Beloved Spake.  Alice takes us through the piece initially.  

A brief conversation between Matthew, Malcolm Archer and Alice  ensues.  We literally hold our breath. Have we done it justice? He doesn’t seem disappointed.  Then he takes to the podium, and with a smile says he would like to take us through the piece himself  as it would be his first time conducting it in public! An absolute honour for the choir.

And so for our 25th Anniversary Concert.  It’s a sellout, over 200 people and guests attend, including three past Musical Directors of the Mid West Singers and former members of the choir.  

We concentrate, look at Alice, sing our hearts out.  Malcolm’s organ solo and Eloise and Louise’s solos and duets are magnificent.  

We hope we have done Alice and Sheena Smith (our rehearsal accompanist) proud.  Our wonderful audience have enjoyed it and with their appreciative applause ringing in our ears we depart for home tired, happy and possibly to a stiff drink to calm our nerves and to celebrate!

Images courtesy of Dunroamin Photography