2015-16 Musical Director’s Report

We have had another very quick, but busy and productive season. As is tradition I begin with a debrief of Friday’s concert.

From the opening sounds of the ladies voices in Look at the World, I knew the concert was going to be great. The sound throughout was focused and energetic, the audience was warm and generous with their applause and our soloists enhanced a beautiful and thought provoking programme of music. I was delighted with the sound and on the whole the overall quality. There are still areas for improvement including sharpening up of the consonants and the endings of words and phrases. But I was a very happy conductor on Friday. 17 members were missing from the choir on Friday, and whilst this, on the whole did not overly affect the quality of sound it did impact on the size of audience. Whilst not insignificant in size, it was, nonetheless smaller than we have come to expect for this concert and is something we must address for next year along with the timing of the concert. The proposal has been put that we should have a fixed date, say the first Friday in June, to avoid confusion. That is something we will discuss more fully. For the second time, we ran the concert straight through without an interval and this format has drawn very positive responses. However, we would like to hear your views on this and on the ‘e’ programme which has drawn mixed responses ranging from ‘great idea,’ to ‘it can only be seen if the lighting is right and is dependent on where you sit in the church,’ and ‘I like to read a little about the soloists and their achievements and have a souvenir of the event.’ Of course producing programmes is expensive and not everyone takes one away, resulting in a lot of waste. If we were producing programmes there would need to be a cost, but that is why we would like your feedback and that of your guests. For this concert we only sold around 30 tickets of the 300 we had printed, again resulting in a lot of wasted money, paper and effort. The committee is looking at several options including making this concert ticketless, but again your views would appreciated. The audience feedback from Friday’s concert has been hugely positive. One of our staunch supporters said on leaving on Friday – ‘just when I thought the concerts couldn’t get any better, once again you surpassed yourselves. One of the best yet.’ I would like to record my thanks to Father Doyle and his housekeeper for the support in facilitating access for the piano and the tuner over the course of Friday and for allowing access after the concert to collect the piano. Our thanks has been forwarded to them. This is a super venue, with  easy access, lots of parking and above all amazing acoustic. Thank you all for making it such a special evening.

Our season began in late August with a couple of rehearsals prior to our annual appearance at the Scarecrow Festival Concert, only to have to withdraw on the day due to illness within my family. This was a decision not reached lightly and we have taken steps to ensure that should we find ourselves in circumstances such as this again, we will be able to fulfil our obligation. To date we have not had an invitation to appear this year and so we must assume that invitation is late or will not come. Please keep an eye on the website over the holidays for updates on this.

Unfortunately, due to a number of people withdrawing from the trip, our intended concert tour to York had to be cancelled. Whilst this was disappointing, we are hopeful for a foreign trip during 2017 season.

In December we again took part in the rotary Christmas concert and from them accepted £200 donation to our funds. This amount was unsolicited and was in addition to them covering our accompanist’s cost.

Our annual main event at the RCS was another superb evening and once again sold out in a matter of a couple of weeks. This is a highlight of our calendar and once again we were supported by the Gorgie Band and John Picathley. This year we split the proceeds of the concert between the Salvation Army and the National Lymphoma Association in memory of my dad. We very much look forward to this year’s concert on 22 December.

In February we held a very successful and enjoyable choir dinner at Bothwell Castle Gold Club. Many thanks to Roisin for suggesting the venue and then organising the event so beautifully. I hope this can be an annual event in our calendar.

More recently we have supported Christian Aid at New Kilpatrick and whilst the small audience was disappointing for travelling that distance, they did raise a tremendous amount of money for the charity and we also heard a wonderful young tenor, Christian Shneeberger, while will join us at the RCS as our special guest.

During the year alto June Mair undertook to support the choir by taking part in a substantial sponsored bike ride. However, a serious injury in preparation for the ride resulted in her having to withdraw. We were delighted, though that members of June’s family cycled in her place and raised over £300 for choir funds.

A number of new  members joined us this year and have enhanced our ranks socially and vocally. A number of recruitment initiatives will be launched in the new season, but as always word of mouth and your recommendations to friends is the best way to attract new members.

Attendance at rehearsals is up on last year and more people have taken part in performances overall, with the exception of Friday’s concert. This is hugely encouraging as we were able to learn six new pieces for Christmas and five for our Spring concert. This is only possible when we have good regular attendance. Unlike most choirs we don’t audition and there are no strict rules about participation in concerts. However, I do reiterate that it is incumbent on members who miss a number of rehearsals to decide if they are are comfortable and confident enough to perform and to honestly ask themselves the question “by missing so many rehearsal can I really add anything to the concert?” As always, if in doubt or you need reassurance please come and speak to me.

A number of members have suffered Illness and bereavements during the season and these have been recorded and recognised appropriately. I feel it important and right to record our sadness that following Mary Crawford’s fall we have lost not only Mary from our ranks but also Jim. Jim and Mary are founding members of the choir and of course Jim as past president worked tirelessly and unstintingly to ensure the success of the choir. It is due in no small part, to Jim’s energy and commitment that the choir is in the strong position it is in today. We will miss them both and hope that Mary’s recovery will be such that they may be able to rejoin us at some point in the future.

We continue to support the musical development of our two local schools by sponsoring events within the school and in addition continue our sponsorship of Craigholme School’s Musician Of the Year Competition. Sophie Luc, who has performed with us on several occasions this season was this year’s winner.

I must offer my sincere and heartfelt thanks to your committee who work unstintingly in support of me and the development of the choir. Lots of work goes on behind the scenes to ensure our concerts, events and fundraising run smoothly and I am hugely grateful to them all for all they do to ensure the choirs continued success. I would like to give you a run down of some of the tasks undertaken:

Ann our secretary takes the minutes, writes thank you letters, liaise with venues and ensures flowers and cards are sent for illness and bereavement.

Isobel our treasurer does our accounts, writes cheques does the banking and makes our returns to OSCR the charity regulator

Jessie orders the music and runs the 100 club as well as updating members information

Flora, Sara and Joan organise the music, arrange hospitality, do the photocopying and distribute posters around the village

Bernadette our concert manager arranges and sells all the tickets, works back and front of house at venues and is the RCS liaison it Christmas.

Morven updates our social media and writes our press releases,

Hazel, our Vice President, is responsible for updating the website, our poster designs and generally keeping us upto date with news and rehearsal information.

Pete is the voice of clam and reason and undertakes a number of tasks ranging from phoning around members, finding out information and reporting back to committee assisting with set up and clear up and generally being on hand to do whatever is asked of him.

I have deliberately kept Fulton until the end as I want to pay tribute to him as our outgoing president. Fulton has decided to step down as president as he intends to spend more time in his beloved France, where he is at the moment. He is still committed to the choir and will remain a member of our bass section and as former president will retain an ex officio role on the committee. Many of us were shocked to learn that for most of this season Fulton was undergoing treatment for a serious health issue, such was his determination to carry on as normal. Fulton has been an energetic president and we owe him a debt of gratitude to all he brought and will continue to bring to the choir. On his return we will mark his contribution appropriately.

In absentia we record our esteem and thanks to Geoffrey for his inspirational playing as an accompanist and as a soloist. We are very lucky to be able to attract someone of this calibre, and as a musical director I appreciate his instinctive musicality and anticipation of my direction.

Finally, thank you to all of you for your dedication and commitment to Sunday night rehearsals, to the charities we support and the engagements we undertake. It is my privilege to lead this choir and to work with all of you. I think it’s incredible what we have achieved togther. A choir, who unauditioned, can still mange to produce a balanced sound, develop vocal technique and musicality and present professional quality performances. And remember the next time you feel I’m being to hard on you, I wouldn’t push you if you couldn’t do it. In addition to the music, I value your friendship and your support, never more so than this time last year when  I lost my dad. To watch friendships develop, see you rally in support of each other during difficult times and share the joy during happy events, gives the most satisfaction of all and was one of the main drivers to starting the choir 16 years ago.

I wish you all a Happy and safe summer and look forward to seeing you all in August.