Season 53 is Go!Season 53 is beginning for Reading Phoenix Choir, and our excitement is building. We are delighted to be returning to full-length indoor rehearsals after such a long break. While we were happy in our outdoor rehearsal space during the summer term, the prospect of singing outside on dark and rainy Autumn evenings is not so inviting. We will start the season in the spacious hall at St Joseph’s College, where we will be comfortable singing whatever the weather, and we hope to get back ‘home’ to South Lake School later in the season.
Even more exciting than being able to rehearse indoors is the prospect of returning to performing live after an 18-month break. We have all missed singing to an audience and can’t wait to start again at our informal morning concert on Saturday 25 September at Reading’s Abbey Baptist Church. Our first live audience since our Town Hall concert in March 2020 can expect a short but varied programme followed by coffee and cake. Later in the term, we will be performing in Old Coulsdon and Old Basing in concerts organised by former members of the choir. In December, we will have our traditional Christmas Concert at Reading Minster.
As a choir that prides itself in performing almost entirely without music, we have some new repertoire to commit to memory. Online rehearsals have been fine to introduce the pieces, but to memorise music for our performances, we need to sing with the whole choir around us. We will be working hard this term, getting our new pieces performance-ready, as well as brushing up a few old favourites.
During our last season, the COVID restrictions did not allow us to invite prospective members to join us at rehearsals (even when we were meeting in person), so we are delighted to be opening our doors to potential newcomers once again this term. We hope to recruit some new singers, so we are holding an open rehearsal on 13 September at St Joseph’s College. Although we are particularly looking for new tenors and basses, we are very happy to meet singers of any voice part who are interested in singing with us. If you are unable to attend the open rehearsal, or are reading this after the event, and would be interested in joining the choir, please get in touch - we would still love to hear from you.
After a very long wait, we are thrilled to have held our first full-choir, in-person rehearsals this month! Rehearsing outdoors was not what we had planned, but we feel very fortunate to be able to use the space at Prospect School: we have shelter, lights, excellent ventilation and plenty of room for social distancing. It has been so exciting to sing together again after months of rehearsing online. We have all missed hearing each other’s voices, and now we can once more work on the finer details of the music. In our first few rehearsals we are returning to music most of us know well, but we are also very much looking forward to singing pieces that we started to learn during our online rehearsals and hearing how they sound with everyone together.|
Season 52 will go down in Reading Phoenix Choir’s history for being the only season (we hope!) in which we did not perform to an audience. However, restrictions permitting, we hope that next season will be a more normal one with a Come and Sing event, our ever popular Christmas Carol concert, the annual concert in at the Town Hall and many other performances, so there will be plenty of opportunities for you to hear us sing. Plans are also being made for the delayed announcement of the winner of last year’s Walter Hussey Composition Competition. We will be recording the winning piece next term and can’t wait to sing it to audiences in our concerts. Without giving too much away, its message of hope and optimism feels apt as we look forward to future music-making.
Please visit our website regularly for news of concerts and events and sign up to our mailing list to stay informed. If you think you might like to try singing with Reading Phoenix Choir, we would love to hear from you. We have vacancies for tenors and basses at the moment.
Walter Hussey Composition Competition
We would now like to introduce you to the sixth finalist in the 2020 competition:
|No more Zoom rehearsals at last! Our first proper Reading Phoenix Choir rehearsal in 15 months was held at the Prospect School in Reading.|
Conforming to the latest Covid safe rules on on outdoor singing , although the acoustics and spacing are not ideal ,we can now enjoy singing as a complete choir.
Zooming RehearsalsWe began our 52nd season back in September feeling optimistic. Having rehearsed over Zoom for the previous six months, we were nearly ready to return to in-person rehearsals and indeed the majority of our members were able to meet at South Lake School four times during the early autumn. Our rehearsals felt very different - we met in small socially-distanced groups for only half an hour per group each week- but we were hopeful that we could build on this as the term went on. It was just wonderful to be singing together again. Of course, the disappointment of the November lockdown was huge, and the worsening situation in December meant that we weren’t able to go ahead with our planned Christmas recording.
Now we are in lockdown again. Returning to online rehearsals is not what we hoped we’d be doing this term, but we are determined to maintain the optimism and enthusiasm we had at the beginning of the season. Our first Zoom rehearsal this term will be a sing-through of all the pieces we had been performing in concerts before Covid-19 struck. This will be a chance for us to revise music we may have forgotten, but also to remind ourselves of why we love singing together. We will continue meeting online every Monday and intend to keep the sessions as varied as possible: some revision, some new pieces, some work on vocal technique and perhaps one or two surprise visitors later in the term. There are many limitations to singing on Zoom, but we will do our best within these limitations so that we can keep Monday night as Choir night.
When will we next be performing? We can’t answer that yet. There are concerts pencilled in our diary for the summer and autumn, but these will have to stay in pencil for the time being. One thing is certain though: we will have our cleaning spray, hand gel and singers’ masks ready so that we can meet to rehearse and perform as soon as it is safe to do so.
Walter Hussey Composition Competition
We would now like to introduce you to the fifth finalist in the 2020 competition.
Alex Wallace (b. 2000)
Entry title: Gnìomh Gràidh
Walter Hussey Composition Competition
We would now like to introduce you to the fourth finalist in the 2020 competition.
Blake R Mitchell (b.1998)
We were lucky just before Christmas to have a wonderful virtual chat with the very talented Alison Willis who was runner up in the Walter Hussey Composition Competition 2018.
Read the interview on our Walter Hussey Composition Competition webage.
Making Music Awards
We are delighted to announce that the inaugural Walter Hussey Composition Competition has been shortlisted for the new Making Music Awards, which will form part of an online celebratory evening of musical creativity on Tuesday 8 September.
The awards celebrate leisure-time music groups and their activity, and the often unrecognised talent which helps the sector to flourish across the UK.
All awards will be announced by Debbie Wiseman OBE, one of the UK’s top film and television composers, following the Making Music annual general meeting.
The Walter Hussey Composition Competition was shortlisted in the category for best project involving new music along with
The judging panel comprised Carl Stevens, Arts Council England Senior Manager, Audience Insight & Innovation / Music; Peter Lawson, promoter and former Making Music Chair; conductor and producer Clare Edwards; and Dorothy Wilson MBE FRSA, Making Music Chair.
“It was a pleasure and privilege to review so many innovative and interesting projects from all over the UK,” said Making Music Chair Dorothy Wilson, “In the end, alongside quality, we considered innovation, diversity and community involvement when reaching our difficult decision.”
The world premiere of Gerson Batista’s Golden Day, the winning entry in the first Walter Hussey Composition Competition has already won Reading Phoenix Choir the Performance of the Year Award at the Reading Cultural Awards.