HARLESTON CHORAL SOCIETY
MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
held on Monday 25 September 2017
at 8.30 pm in St John's Church, Harleston
Jo welcomed choir members and HCS Patron Nathaniel Gee to the AGM and declared the meeting open.
1. Apologies for absence
Apologies were received from John Awty and Pat Holtom.
2. Minutes of the last AGM (26 September 2016)
On the proposal of Richard Thomas, seconded by Ruth Cawcutt, the Minutes were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
3. Report by Musical Director
Chris said that he finds it difficult to find new things to say each year – last year the choir had another good year, and one which corresponded with his longterm view for the choir, ie a good mixture, with a jolly Christmas concert in 2016, and then the Haydn/Mozart Summer concert, which he considered to be the most polished the choir has ever done, possibly because both are 'singable' works. Will Fergusson posted on FaceBook how amazing he thought the Mozart was, which was a big compliment.
Chris then went on to say that this AGM is going to be his last one, and the Christmas concert will be his last concert. By this time next year he will be fully retired and he wants to free up his time. He feels and hopes that he may be leaving on a high. The Committee has been aware of his plans for some time and has advertised for a replacement Musical Director. Chris urged choir members to think positively about the future – some things may be better, some worse, and it is always the same when you have a change. He promised to make sure that he will be around to help in any way that he can, especially if a solution [to his replacement] has not been found by Christmas. He reminded the choir that by Christmas he will have been with HCS for thirteen years, and he wished everyone the very best for the future.
In conclusion he urged choir members to give Jo positive feedback when they complete the questionnaire which she is working on at the moment.
4. Chair's Report
Jo began by saying that Chris conducted his first concert with us in December 2004, when we sang the Schubert ‘Magnificat’, choruses from ‘The Messiah’ and a selection of carols. Since then we have enjoyed thirteen years under his baton, going from strength to strength, eventually tackling such challenging works as Brahms ‘German Requiem’ and Bach’s ‘St John Passion’. We have gone through many changes during those years and have developed hugely as a choir, largely due to Chris’s vision, musicality and hard work. I would like at this point to propose a vote of thanks to Chris for all he has done for us and wish him all the very best for what, I’m sure, will be a very busy retirement.
I would also like to thank all those other people, who have contributed and continue to contribute to our successful existence. I will only mention a few at this point. First of all, the Committee, who organise the running of the choir from practices to concerts and other events. Thank you all, Julia, Joanna, Heather, Malcolm, Carol, Jenny, Caroline, Don and Richard for your unstinting support and hard work. Very good wishes for the future must go to Don and Winsome who are retiring and have given so much to the choir. Thanks to Sheena and Pat for organising our orchestras, no easy task. Margaret for always efficient front of house. John Awty, John Formston, Jim Austin, Malcolm Butcher and their team of helpers who put up and dismantle the staging for concerts. Sheila for doing the bonus ball, Fiona for organising the raffles. Lynda and Chris for doing the refreshments. Elsie for providing the juice. Paul for doing the website. From that list alone you can see how much is involved in organising and running the choir, and there are so many others of you who do so much more than just turn up and sing, and your energy and commitment make the choir the vibrant organisation it is. Thank you all.
With Chris retiring, we are entering a period of change. The committee have advertised the position and will be interviewing candidates and we will keep you informed of progress on that. Another change that we have been investigating is that of our practice venue. The church has served us well and we will continue to do our concerts here, but it is not ideal for practices. Julia has suggested the possibility of moving to the newly refurbished London Road Church and several committee members have been to view it. It is very likely that the move will go ahead. Again, I will keep you informed. There are also other issues we need to consider such as finances and recruitment, which Malcolm will expand on in his report. This is your choir and I would very much like to have your views and ideas on how we go forward. To this end, I am working on a questionnaire, which I hope to have ready for next practice but I would be very happy if you would prefer to phone me or email me with your views. The committee will be meeting on 9November, in part to discuss the results of the questionnaire.
Last AGM, I said that this would be my last year as Chair. However, in view of the amount of change that we are about to incur, I have agreed to stay on for one more year. It will be my last and the choir will need to consider a replacement by this time next year. I have enjoyed it very much and feel we have a good team in place and that we will continue to thrive.
Lastly, one person whom I would like to thank very much is our patron, Nathaniel Gee, son of our founder, Ann Gee. He has been very supportive of the choir, indeed has sung with us at some of our concerts, and now I will call upon him to give his report.
5. Report by Nathaniel Gee, HCS Patron
Nathaniel said that it has been a great pleasure for him to be 'kept on' as HCS Patron, and that it has been wonderful to come and sing at our concerts, the standard for which goes up and up. Chris is leaving the choir in such a good state, and recent concerts have been fantastic. It will be a great challenge when a new Musical Director comes along, and he thanked Jo for staying on [as Chair]. Nathaniel noted that at last year's AGM, 22 people were thanked, and he thanked us all this year. He went on to say that with regard to the future of the choir, he has some ideas of his own: he might commission a short piece for the choir and will talk to the Committee about this; he would like to see the choir performing in London again; and would also like to see HCS with a higher profile on the musical map. He appreciated that finances are an issue but feels there may be ways round this. He congratulated the choir, and expressed his thanks to Chris.
6. Treasurer's Report
Copies of the annual accounts were distributed (a copy of these will be filed with the Minutes).
Malcolm reported that during the year we staged two very enjoyable and successful concerts, with professional musicians and soloists. Ticket sales for the two concerts came to £1,960 but the concert deficit overall came to £4,015. The previous year the net deficit for the concerts came to £5,218. Income from subscriptions for the year came to £4,765 and gift aid was £796. The bonus ball produced £277 and refreshments £178. Subscriptions and the bonus ball income are slightly up from the previous year. We held a very enjoyable quiz evening, with lots of good food, in March at St James South Elmham Village Hall and made a net income of £180.
We have not had any exceptional expenditure this year and so the income less running costs for the year, excluding concert income and expenditure, came to £2,000. It is important that this figure is identified but the whole financial result for the financial year is a net deficit of £2,007. Last year the net deficit was £3,406. Consequently the bank balance is down from £9,738 and now stands at £7,730.
I reported last year that it would be desirable to maintain a healthy financial position, and increased choir membership is one way of achieving that. However, member numbers fell in the Spring and Summer terms and at the end of the Summer term were down to 43 compared to 50 at the beginning of the year. The numbers are now down to 38. As mentioned at the beginning, the sum of the two year's deficit results from concerts came to £9,233. The subscription income projected forward on current choir numbers is now down to £4,000. There is a proposal to put the membership subscriptions up by £5 per term. This would add £380 in this financial year and a further £190 in a full year.
In spite of this negativity there will just about be enough money to see us through for the next two years, with concerts at our current level. We can improve the situation if we decide to produce much less expensive concerts. If we were to produce one concert a year with an orchestra and soloists and one without, these additional costs then might enable us to be able to extend beyond this period. If we put up the membership subscription to £40 per term, or £120 per year, that would help a lot, but what we really want to try and do is recruit more members, but this is not an easy thing to do.
Our subs need to be compared with Eye Bach Choir's annual subs at £150; Beccles' at £100; Bungay's at £72 (but this is the 2015 figure); and Halesworth's at £90. With the exception of Eye Bach Choir, which produces a number of concerts each year, the other choirs have tailored their costs to fit their income, or they wouldn't exist. We need to do the same. Our concerts have been really enjoyable events but we must now address the problem. I hope I am being realistic with regard to the future funding of our choral society. We all thoroughly enjoy singing and produce good concerts, and with care we can continue to do so.
On the proposal of Lynda Austin, seconded by Pat Green, it was agreed to accept the accounts.
7. Appointment of Auditor
On the proposal of Pat Green, seconded by Ruth Cawcutt, Mr Robin Farrar was appointed as Auditor for the year.
8. Election of Officers and Committee for the year 2017/2018
It was noted that Don Rogers has resigned from the Committee and there is therefore one vacancy to be filled on the Committee.
It was also noted that those Committee members who were re-elected for three years at the 2015 AGM do not need to be re-elected until 2018. This includes Jo Curry (Chair), Caroline Rodbourne (Vice Chair), Julia Awty (Music Librarian), Malcolm Butcher (Treasurer), Heather Butcher (Publicity), Jenny Hyams (Publicity and Minutes Secretary) and Richard Thomas. Carol Hammond and Joanna Barfield were elected to the Committee at the 2016 AGM and therefore do not require re-election until 2019.
On the proposal of Jenny Hyams, seconded by Jo Curry, it was agreed to elect John Awty to the Committee.
9. Friends of Harleston Choral Society
Carol Hammond reported that last year she was elected on to the Committee with responsibility for the HCS Friends; this is mainly a clerical/communication role. At the 2016 AGM it was announced that we would not be recruiting new Friends, as it was not seen to be cost-effective. Whilst she fully understands and wholly agrees with this decision, she felt that it might be appropriate to mention that there are benefits as well as costs associated with the scheme.
Our group of Friends consists of 13 members. They support us because they are attracted by the fact that we are a community and mixed ability choir. They enjoy being able to attend a concert with orchestra and soloists, in their own locality. They provide us with a guaranteed and interested audience – where would we be without people to come and listen to us ? Many have a singing background and quite a few have sung with us in the past, so they are sympathetic towards our efforts, and celebrate our triumphs. We have one Honorary Member, Tommy Gee, who is an appreciative and encouraging Friend, and along with Nathaniel Gee, our Patron, is a wonderful link to our founder, Anne Gee, whom we remember with great affection.
We have Friends who help front of house, and who sell raffle tickets at our concerts, and have done so for many years. Others help at the bar at these events. As Jo has already mentioned, Elsie White provides the soft drinks for our Monday evening practices. We are most grateful for all that they do for us, and I hope that you, like me, will value the many ways in which our Friends support us.
10. Any Other Business
The future of the choir
A discussion followed on ways in which the choir might be able to produce more income. This included;
- applying for grants (Jo is in the process of applying for an Aviva grant, the deadline for which is the end of November)
- going back to Harleston Town Council, asking it to re-consider our earlier request for a grant, which was turned down on the grounds that HCS has too much reserve money to qualify; Chris suggested showing the Town Council the trend in HCS finances over the last few years
- sponsorship from local organisations
- choir members producing ideas for raising income within the choir
Jo urged choir members to make their views known to her when responding to the questionnaire which she will send out in the near future.
11. Dates of next meetings:
- Thursday 9 November: Committee meeting, 7.00 pm, venue TBC
- Monday 4 December: pre-concert checklist Committee meeting, 7.00 pm in the church
- Monday 11 December: post-concert coffee morning, time and venue TBC
- Monday 11 December: Committee meeting, time and venue TBC
Jo thanked everyone for attending the AGM, and declared the meeting closed.
Signed …................................................................................. Date …..............................................