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We were founded in 1975 and now have well over 100 members, of whom more than 100 are regular singers. The atmosphere at our weekly rehearsals is entirely friendly and informal.
We are a registered charity (Charity No. 510264) which, under its constitution, is to 'prepare music for performance and . . . to educate . . . through the presentation of a series of concerts throughout the season'. But that's putting it rather formally - we all have a common love of choral singing and our objective is simple - to sing and enjoy singing!
The ability to sight-read is useful but not essential. We are a community choir and no sight reading test or audition is required, but we do aim for high performance standards.
Under the enthusiastic direction of John Dunford, we have covered an enormous range of choral work over the last few years. As well as the 20th Century music mentioned below, these have included the Requiems by Mozart, Brahms, Fauré, Rutter and Duruflé, Haydn's Harmonie Messe, Maria Theresa Mass and Mass in Time of War ("Paukenmesse") and The Creation, Stainer's Crucifixion, Handel's Dixit Dominus, Judas Maccabaeus and Saul, Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, Mendelssohn's Elijah and Hymn of Praise, Vivaldi's Gloria, two Bach Cantatas, his Magnificat and St John Passion, half of his Mass in B Minor and part of his Christmas Oratorio, Rossini's Petite Messe Solenelle, Schubert's Mass in G, Rutter's Psalmfest and, of course, Handel's Messiah which has become a regular feature before Christmas.
We aim to put on four major concerts a year.
Our normal "home" is St James's Church, Wetherby (by kind permission of the vicar
and church wardens) but in March 2004 we joined with the Ashville College Choral Society in the Leeds Town Hall to sing Carl Orff's Carmina Burana and Finzi's
Intimations of Immortality.
Two years previously we sang Verdi's Requiem with them there, and in 2007 we again joined the school in the Town Hall to sing Puccini's 'Messa di Gloria' and a rousing 'Feel the Spirit' by John Rutter. We joined them there again in March 2012 to sing a memorable Verdi's Requiem.
The big event at the start of the 2012 - 2013 season was a once-in-a-lifetime joint performance with NORTH YORKSHIRE CHORUS of Elgar's Dream of Gerontius at Ripon Cathedral on Saturday 17 November 2012. You MUST read our PRESS COMMENT page on this.
As 'specials' we sang Mozart's Requiem at the Boston Spa Parish Church in April 2006, J.H.Maunder's 'Olivet to Calvary' on Good Friday, 2008 at Boston Spa Methodist Church and Stainer's Crucifixion at Wetherby in April 2011.
Many think our Judas Maccabaeus (Handel) in April 2008 was one of our better concerts. ( " a memorable performance which must rank as one of the best concerts this very fine choir has sung." - from a review in the Wetherby News) and we sang Mozart's Solemn Vespers and "Great Mass" in November 2008. In November 2009 we sang Handel's Israel in Egypt - an amazing piece, the choruses mainly sung by two separate choirs divided by the orchestra. In June 2010 we attempted (successfully, it seems) Stanford's "Magnificat for Eight-part Chorus", op. 164, which is also sung in two choirs.
The 2010 - 2011 season started with an interesting concert - Brahms German Requiem and a modern piece, sung in Middle English, Simfonia Sacra by David Steel - giving rise to a press review starting " Anybody who has attended a concert given by our Choral Society under its Conductor, John Dunford knows what a quite extraordinary experience it is." More information about Simfonia Sacra and a biographical note on Christopher Steel can be found on our
Press Comment page.
The March 2011 concert - Fauré's Requiem and Karl Jenkins's The Armed Man - turned out to be another record-breaker. The church was absolutely packed tight (standing room only and even the kitchen area had to be opened up to accomodate late arrivals - it would have been impossible to cram any more in) and it ended with a standing ovation! After paying for the orchestra, soloists etc, most concerts lose £1,000 to £2,000 but, for the first time ever, this concert broke even! " Those fortunate enough to be present were witness to quite a superb evening of choral and orchestral mastery. " (Wetherby News)
You can listen to extracts from some of these if you go to our " HEAR US IN ACTION " page.
On 11 November 2006 a remark was over-heard at the conclusion of a rather special rendition of Karl Jenkins's The Armed Man and Jonathan Wilcocks's Lux Perpetua; " Aren't we lucky to have such a wonderful choir in Wetherby?"
We finished the 2006 - 07 season with a Gala Concert at Wetherby, singing a mixture of different music and ending up with many of the Rutter pieces sung in the Leeds Town Hall three months earlier. Again another nice plaudit overheard leaving the church, " * The best thing I've ever heard them do".
Writing in the Yorkshire Post, John Denton said of our Puccini's Messa di Gloria;
Of course I have heard more technical, perfect performances from big time city choirs, but this one I found an absolute delight, the choir's enjoyment of the music so potent it would have been a stony heart that could have remained unmoved."
In the same vein, a member of the Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra said to one of our singers after our March 2010 performance of Mozart's Requiem, " That's the best Mozart Requiem by a choral society that I have ever heard." and one of the soloists at our June 2012 concert said " What a wonderful friendly chorus".
We do enjoy singing at weddings!
Photo: Tom Arber
We are often asked to provide a choir for special occasions, such as weddings (both in churches and at other venues) and are naturally delighted to do so.
In July 2009, for example, we sang at two weddings. First, a big wedding with four hymns and two anthems. Later in the same week we sang at a smaller wedding (three hymns but no anthems) where our 20-strong choir slightly outnumbered the wedding guests. We enjoyed them both. In 2010 we sang at 3 weddings and a memorial service, and sometimes provide just a few singers (not a full choir) to help the singing at funerals. Please contact our Secretary Anne Sweet - Tel: 0113 265 8348 - to discuss your wishes.
MUSIC DIRECTOR: John Dunford
ACCOMPANIST: Marjorie Hodlin
CHAIRMAN: Graham Reed - 01423 797988
SECRETARY: Anne Sweet - 0113 265 8348
TREASURER: John Visser - 01904 738488
OTHER COMMITTEE MEMBERS:
Stephen Clarke - 0113 393 5137
Kathy Hart - 0113 240 1445
Judith Hodgson - 0113 293 1689
Hilary Marsden - 0113 201 7144
Heather Marsh - 01937 584048
Enda McCarthy - 0113 268 4040
Charlotte Meek - 01937 574077
David Spoors - 01937 587200
Alison Telfer - 01423 531583
John began his musical career as a treble in Birmingham Parish Church Choir. He continued his musical training at Trinity College of Music studying organ, singing, piano, harpsichord and conducting where he won the Choral Conducting prize and was appointed Senior Student of the College in his final year.
Although John earns his living as a teacher he maintains an active professional musical career. He has played the organ for concerts and services in many English Cathedrals as well as several Cathedrals on the Continent, and for a short time co-directed the music at Sheffield Cathedral. He was for six years Choirmaster at St Wilfrid's Church, Harrogate and for a short while was Director of Music at Christ Church, High Harrogate.
One of John's trademarks is his vocal dexterity. While professionally he sings most frequently as a tenor soloist, he has also had engagements as a bass and a countertenor. He sings regularly with Sheffield Bach Society and Sheffield Oratorio Chorus as well as performances in Wakefield Cathedral with the Yorkshire Chamber Choir and other Choral Societies in the Yorkshire area. Among recent concerts he has sung Evangelist in Bach St John Passion, taken the title role in Britten St Nicolas, and sung the extraordinary swan solo in Carmina Burana in performances in Sheffield and Harrogate as well as performances of most of the Classical Masses and Requiems. As a bass he has sung Bach Magnificat, St Matthew Passion, and as a counter-tenor he has sung Haydn Nelson Mass, Bach St John Passion, Magnificat and Vivaldi Gloria for alto solo and choir. He deputises as a lay clerk at Ripon Cathedral singing as a tenor on a Ripon Cathedral CD and on broadcasts of Choral Evensong with the Cathedral Choir as an alto. He has also broadcast on Radio and Television as an organist and conductor.
John's career has moved through ambitions as an organist, to establishing a solo vocal career (much to his surprise), but currently, away from the classroom, devotes most of his energies to choral conducting. While a student at Trinity College of Music he formed and directed a Chamber Choir which won considerable acclaim. Among the choir's invitations was one to sing in Fairfield Hall, Croydon to sing the semichorus in Elgar The Dream of Gerontius. A professional group of ten singers which he created has made a recording in collaboration with the choir of Cork Cathedral, although, at the time, John was at an International Music Festival in Rome working with Arthur Oldham and Claudio Abbado.
John is Director of Music at Ashville College, Harrogate. He conducts both Wetherby Choral Society and Ripon Choral Society and was, until recently conductor of the St Oswald Singers, in Sowerby. He has held the position of Director of the New Westminster Chorus, Marlow Choral Society, and deputy and guest conductor of Sheffield Bach Society and Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra. Future singing engagements include Handel Israel in Egypt and Taylor I have a Dream in Sheffield Cathedral, and the Swan solo in Carmina Burana in Peterborough Cathedral.
Marjorie's first love has always been accompanying - she describes herself as "addicted to dots". She studied for 4 years at the Royal Accademy of Music, moving then into a Head of Music post at Pontefract and District Girls High School. After having her family, she pursued freelance work teaching piano and accompanying. She was a founder repetiteur with Opera North and has played for Leeds Festival Chorus for 25 years, working with many notable conductors and soloists. She has accompanied Wetherby Choral Society for over 20 years.
The Society wishes to express its sincere gratitude to our Sponsors for their
very kind and generous support. We list them below.
The economics of choral singing are such that, now that our government funding has been withdrawn, it would be hard indeed for us to maintain standards, let alone continue to put on four major concerts a year, without our Sponsors' support. As we lose between £1,000 and £2,000 on every concert we put on, it would actually pay us to put on only three concerts a year rather than four! But that is not what we are about.
We should very much welcome further Sponsors, both from individuals and from businesses and family or charitable trusts. If you would like to discuss this, please contact our Chairman Graham Reed on 01423 797988.
The Olav Arnold Charitable Trust
The Coulthurst Trust
An anonymous private trust.
The Society is also grateful for the continued support given by MAKING MUSIC and BRITISH CHOIRS ON THE NET.
WELCOME . . . to the Harrogate Festival Choral Course !
To find out more about HFCC please visit HARROGATE FESTIVAL CHORUS COURSE. The next Harrogate Festival Choral course will take place at Ampleforth Abbey from 20 to 25 August 2013
Gareth Green and Andrew Padmore (Director of Music, Harrogate Choral Society) and MUSIC MATTERS run "Come and Sing" weekends every year in the spring and autumn, and also other courses. From 4th to 6th October 2013 they will be studying Rutter's Requiem.
WETHERBY TOWN - INFORMATION
MAKING MUSIC in Yorkshire
RIPON CHORAL SOCIETY
HARROGATE CHORAL SOCIETY
KNARESBOROUGH CHORAL SOCIETY
THE MUSIC-ROOM - North East listings
WETHERBY COMMUNITY WEB SITE
ST JAMES'S CHURCH, WETHERBY
"GUIDESTAR" charity information web site
THE REALLY BIG CHORUS Concerts from Scratch
BRITISH CHOIRS ON THE NET
British Choirs on the net - COME AND SING page
SING FOR PLEASURE
NORTH YORKSHIRE CHORUS
Wetherby Choral Society provide links to other web sites as a convenience to you. We do not monitor or control the content of any other web site and assume no responsibility or liability of any kind for the material or communications available at such web sites. © Wetherby Choral Society 2016
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