Author: Paul Cope

September 2021 Newsletter to members

Click here for downloadable, printable pdf version

Hi everyone

I do hope you are all safe and well and your loved ones also.

It is good to be able to write this newsletter to you all with so much positive news for a change. You may know some of the news but this is to ensure we are all up to date. I should think by now all our membership has had both Covid injections, which in itself helps us to think a little more positively.

A full page advert and a further smaller one have recently been put in the “Grapevine” (Harleston’s local magazine). We are delighted to report we had 7 prospective members reply to them and I am sure we look forward to welcoming them when term starts.

Speaking of which, the date is Monday 13th September at 7pm (to accommodate collecting new music ready for a 7.30pm start). 

We are delighted the members of London Road Church are able to welcome us back but there are a few conditions:

1. We bring our own drinks.

2. We may move any chairs (which are in a certain arrangement for church members) but must replace them at the end.

3. We are undertaking to wipe any surfaces we have touched, (backs of chairs, any surface in the loos, tables etc) but the Committee are considering the best way to do this.

Prospective MDs During the last few months the Committee has been actively searching for a new MD for the Society. We have made great progress and will hopefully be asking candidates to come along and take some of the rehearsal in early October when we have all settled down into singing again.

Repertoire Karen would like to conduct us for the Christmas concert with a small ensemble. The programme will consist of some of the music we have studied on Zoom from “Choral Classics”, some Christmas choruses from “The Messiah”, Christmas carols from just the choir and further ones for audience participation. If you have any of the following books please bring them on 13th:

“Choral Classics”, “Messiah” Prout version, “Carols for Choirs” books 1 & 2. Library copies will be available of the first two. 

The concert date is Saturday 18th December with rehearsals on Friday 17th, evening and Saturday 18th, afternoon in St John’s Church, Harleston.

On a sad note: we were sorry to learn of the death of Jethro Free during the lockdown. Most of you will know of this already but we felt we ought to record the loss of this well-loved, wonderfully outgoing member of the choir. Jethro made the little dais for our previous MD to stand on and it has been agreed to put some sort of inscription on the dais in his memory.

Further information: The Committee were pleased that Amanda Fletcher agreed to be co-opted as Secretary. Indeed, she has been keeping brilliant notes of our many Zoom meetings during lockdown.

The website is having a facelift and the Members’ area has a new password:


It is already in place and the capital letters are important.

The prospective date for the AGM is 18th October and subscriptions will be due on that date. 

Garden Party: A really lovely afternoon was had by all who attended the garden party at John and Julia’s on 1st August. We attempted to sing some of the items we had been practising on Zoom during the previous few months and apparently it sounded quite good! We all took our own picnic and Julia presented us with a very interesting quiz of “First Lines” from classical, pop and show music. Thank you John and Julia for allowing us to use “Awty Manor” as Karen called it.

I hope I’ve remembered everything and you are all still concentrating. I’m sure we are all looking forward to next Monday and singing together again. 

Best wishes

Stella (Chair)

Newsletter for February 2021

Dear Members,

I hope you are all well and keeping safe and warm.

It does seem aeons since we last met and spoke but, with the increased positivity that the vaccine roll-outs are having, the Committee has been considering our future on Zoom – it does seem our only social life now!

We are determined, not only for the choir to continue but also our commitment to Janette and Karen. We have continued to keep in touch with them over the last difficult months and they have expressed a desire to stay with us.

The Committee is proposing supporting them for another 2 terms ( i.e until September) when, hopefully, we will be able to resume some sort of “normal” rehearsal. We are able to finance some of this from our current funds. However, we need another source, so we are asking those in the choir who can to make a contribution. We recognise that circumstances may have changed for some of you in the pandemic so don’t want any member to feel under obligation.

If you would like to, please send cheques to Malcolm Butcher, our Treasurer, at The Dell, Billingford, Diss, Norfolk, IP21 4HL. Cheques should be made payable to Harleston Choral Society For those of you who do their banking online the details are as follows:- Sort Code 10-12-51 Account No. 51366033. We are asking for all transactions to be done by the end of February.

Meanwhile, Janette and Karen are “getting their heads together” to
prepare possible Zoom rehearsals. Early stages at the moment but we will fill you in when we know more. I hope this is exciting for you all and re-lights your musical fire.

Stay safe and we hope to hear from you soon. Stella

Download here in printable form

Annual report for Sept. 2019 to July 2020

Harleston Choral Society

It is rather fortunate we don’t know what is over the horizon and in store for us. Whoever would have thought this time last year it would be necessary to postpone the AGM and have only 2 reports in lieu, to have no rehearsals since March and not have the joy of seeing each other and singing together? We haven’t experienced the excitement of preparing for and performing our Summer concert.

However, to go back to the beginning of the Society’s year, we started rehearsing for the Christmas concert and the offerings from the choir of Vaughan Williams’ “The First Nowell”, Peter Hunt’s “I Saw Three Ships”, Rutter’s “Nativity Carol and two Chilcott pieces- “Behold That Star” and “The 12 Days Of Christmas”. The hard work was very obvious and Janette’s encouragement also.

We had been invited to take part in the Harleston Town Christmas Concert and 14 members had the pleasure of doing so on 14th December. We performed “I Saw Three Ships” and loved the Primary School’s rendition of “All I want for Christmas is a Hippopotamus”!

The Christmas concert was a great experience with an enthusiastic and very appreciative audience. Our 2 soloists together with Janette’s encouraging smiles gave us the confidence we needed. Our grateful thanks to all the people helping behind the scenes.

On to the New Year. Term started on January 13th when we had hoped to study Rutter’s “Feel the Spirit”, Bob Chilcott’s “Songs and Cries” (where we would be joined by the Primary School) and George Shearing’s “Songs and Sonnets”. We were also planning a fund-raising Quiz Evening in March. At this point, Covid-19 arrived and the best-laid plans of mice and men went slightly astray. Everything was cancelled, including a fundraising a capella concert planned by another group of Janette’s for May.

The Committee have been trying to stay sane ever since, staying in touch with members and constantly re-organising and changing plans to fit directions from the Government.

Membership We held an Open rehearsal evening to encourage new members in January and it was very successful as 6 people joined us. However, others had decided not to rejoin for the year in September. As a result, our membership before Covid was fairly stable – 45 members at present compared with 46 at September 2019.

My thanks are due to a great many people for their support and hard work during the year – Nathaniel, for being a very supportive Patron, Heather for all the printing, Paul for managing the website and our Zoom meeting. The Committee have been so supportive in sorting out the many problems during the year, we couldn’t survive without them. Thank you to Karen for bringing expertise, fun and Liverpool to rehearsals, and lastly to Janette. The Christmas concert is in our memories and will encourage us to work towards starting again as soon as we are allowed.

I look forward to 2021 and seeing you all again to continue our musical journey.

Stella Brownsea (Chair)

September 2020



This is my financial report to cover the finances for Harleston Choral Society for the financial year ending on 31st August 2020.

We have had income from subscriptions for two-term sessions, totalling £3500 in all.

We have also received gift aid of £980 which includes £250 relating to Nathaniel’s donation.   Total donations this year were £3851, which includes £750 from Halesworth Festival of Voices which we were granted from the remaining funds now that they have ceased operating.

It was agreed that we pay Janette and Karen up to the concert date in June and then a further fee through to December 2020.   These are referred to as retaining fees in the accounts.  The payment for the hire of London Road Church is for a full year but I have agreed with Neil Irvine that the money paid from Easter to June can be carried forward to when we re-start rehearsals.   This equates to 12 weeks which is £324.

The December concert brought in an income of £1709 and the costs incurred came to £2475.   We have made a payment of £100 towards the hire of a grand piano, but instead of Giller Pianos returning the funds, they decided to give us a credit note as they are having severe financial problems, like a lot of firms.

The bank balance for the Society is now £7,295.


Summer Newsletter 2020

Dear members of Harleston Choral Society,

It has been such a long time since we met that I suppose, like me, you all feel HCS has gone into liquidation and the wonderful concerts and enjoyable rehearsals are just a dream. Far from it!

Your committee and Janette are doing all they can to keep things ticking over so that, when we can start again, we are more than ready. We have met twice since lockdown, once on Zoom in May and last Tuesday we met in glorious sunshine in Malcolm and Heather’s garden – socially distancing of course. I will endeavour to tell you in a nutshell of the progress.

Money At our first meeting we agreed we should pay Janette and Karen until the end of the term and then at our last meeting we agreed to go even further and “retain” them until December. They are both very grateful for our help and support.

Hall availability Both London Road and St. John’s Churches are currently unavailable for rehearsals as no singing is allowed. There are due to be meetings in the next few weeks and we are investigating other possibilities.

Current guidance Wherever we sing there are potential risks, hazards and regulations, one of which is singing in a mask. Janette has provided the Committee with a precis of these regs. and suggests we practise at home initially in a mask every day to acclimatise. It was proposed at the meeting we just think about practising together when we start for perhaps an hour, not have a concert in mind (at least to start with) just to get back to enjoying singing together.

Music Hold on to your music for now until there are more definite plans.

Contact details Obviously these will be very important in the future so if any of yours have changed please let Joanna (Membership secretary) know asap.

Secretary We really do need a Secretary so if any member would like to know more please contact us.

AGM We have investigated the legalities of postponing it and, as long as a Treasurer’s report and an Annual report are produced we are fine. Also, all of the committee are prepared to carry on serving so we are very fortunate.

We will meet again, (I’m trying not to sound like Vera Lynn!) When we have any more information we’ll let you know. At some point we will be asking you all your views and feelings on returning to rehearsals. but not until the news is more definite.

Meanwhile, stay safe and well.


Report on Minutes of Committee Meeting Thursday, 6 February 2020

Harleston Choral Society, Report on Minutes of Committee Meeting

Thursday, 6th February, 2020

The Committee discussed the success of the Christmas Concert 2019, where more tickets were sold than ever before; the feedback from audience members was more than enthusiastic; and Janette’s praise and appreciation of our singing was very positive indeed.  In addition to this we raised £115 funds from the raffle thanks to Fiona Bartlett’s organization.

The ‘Sing With Us’ rehearsal in January had attracted seven new participants with six people remaining to stay to sing with us – for those newbies we are pleased and grateful that you felt welcomed and confident to come back and we are pleased you are now singing with Harleston Choral Society.

Whilst it is very pleasing to note that we have some new members, we would like more, particularly bass voices and tenors.  Janette is chasing up possible singers to join us. Do you have any partners or friends you could persuade?

Our annual Quiz Social Evening will be on Saturday, 21st March this year – it is a fun night with teams of six pitting their wits against each other on a variety of question topics.  Food is provided in the cost of the ticket – baked potatoes with a variety of fillings and a selection of stunningly tempting desserts!  Ask Caroline Rodbourne (Altos) if you need to know more.

We discussed the a cappella concert featuring Janette’s group of singers, 8 Voices, to raise funds for the choir.  This will be at St Mary’s Church, Redenhall on Sunday, 10th May, 2020 at 4pm – tickets £10. We hope as many of our choir members, their partners and friends will be able to fill the church. “Soul Music” will be a treat for the ears and spirit so please do come. 

It is H.C.S.’s 20th Anniversary this year so we hope to make a display of some of our archive photos, posters, programmes, reviews and concert lists at our Summer Concert at the back of St John’s Church.

We would like to thank Malcolm Butcher for following up the submission to Festival Voices, in a bid to secure some of their funding, as they seek to disband and re-distribute their funds to worthy recipients.  The Committee is investigating how to make submissions to Music for All for funding future projects and expenses. 

HCS has now taken over total management of our website and, whilst there were some glitches during the handover, we hope these have now been ironed out. We will continue to develop it and would be grateful for your feedback. (see note in bold at the end)

Fiona Bartlett is now administering H.C.S. Friends.  Thanks to Carol Hammond for her past commitment to this role. 

Future Dates for Your Diary:

  • Quiz Evening 2020 – Saturday, 21st March at St James Village Hall 
  • End of Spring Term 2020 – Monday, 30th March
  • Start of Summer Term 2020 – Monday, 20th April – (begin at 7pm for payment of subscriptions please) 
  • Fundraising concert with 8 Voices – Sunday 10 May, Redenhall Church
  • Summer concert Rehearsal – Friday, 26th June at 7pm
  • Summer Concert and end of term 2020 – Saturday, 27th June

Next Committee Meeting is: 

Thursday, 14th May, 2020.  If you have any suggestions or concerns you would like raised and discussed please speak to a committee member. We are also intending to have a ‘suggestions box’ at the back of the church, near our registration sheets for this purpose.

Sue Foster (Feb 2020)

Harleston Choral Society – New year Letter 2020

Downloadable here as a printable pdf

Dear Fellow Choir Members,

I hope it is not too late to hope you all had a good Christmas and to wish you all a Happy and Musical New Year.

We have another challenging and interesting year ahead of us and, with Janette encouraging and quietly pushing us, we will attain even higher levels of enjoyment and musicality. I know I continually feel amazed at Janette’s ability to enable choir members to overcome a difficult passage of music without realising they have done so! Thank you also to Karen for bringing her sense of humour and musical ability to assist Janette, even when she wasn’t feeling 100%.

Our year started with the initial rehearsals for “Dido and Aeneas”. Janette so helpfully put the story on our website, otherwise I think those of us who had never come across the piece before would not have had a clue what was going on! The anthems gave us so much training in correct breathing.

We held another really enjoyable quiz evening in March at St. James’ Village Hall and, just for once, it wasn’t raining. The food was wonderful and our brain cells worked overtime. Thank you to everyone who helped in any way, the teamwork was amazing. (Sorry, I’ve used that word again!)

We continued with D & A until our wonderful concert in June. Everyone seemed to give of their very best; the anthems were so moving and I don’t think anyone present that night will forget the support and encouragement we had from our solo witches and sailor!

Our next event was a wonderful garden party held in the garden of Julia and John Awty. The weather was sunny, some people even wore hats, and the food provided by members resulted in quite a few recipes being swapped. Once again, our grateful thanks go to Julia and John for lending us their garden for the afternoon.

Autumn term started on September 9th and we were being introduced to Bob Chilcott’s extraordinary “Twelve days of Christmas” and “Behold that Star”. Vaughan Williams’ “The First Nowell” almost seemed a rest after tackling the “12 days”. However, it really grew on everyone and we all got familiar with the condition of “earworms”.

The AGM intervened on 23rd September with 4 members standing down from the committee. Jo Curry (chair) was handing over to me, Jenny Hyams (secretary) to both Kate Peacher (publicity secretary) and Sue Foster (minutes secretary), and Carol Hammond (friends’ secretary) to Fiona Bartlett. John Formston also joined the committee as a member. I know we thanked all the leaving members at the time, but the Society owes them so much for their selfless contribution behind the scenes over the last few years. I would also like to thank the present committee for all their support during these last 3 months. We are certainly learning to work together. We have also been saddened by the death of Kate’s husband, Joanna’s mother and her partner’s father.

We were invited to take part in the Harleston Town Christmas Concert and 14 members had the great pleasure of doing so on 10th December. It had been decided to sing “I saw three ships” unaccompanied, as it was going to be one of our contributions in our Christmas concert. Little did we know that 400 miniature paper ships had been made and hung from inside the church roof to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing to America. I did try to point out to Canon Nigel that we could try to sing “I saw 400 ships come sailing in” but it wouldn’t scan properly. It was a lovely evening with contributions from several societies in the town. We were treated to a performance from the Primary School, with whom we hope to sing in our Summer Concert, telling us that “All we want for Christmas is a Hippopotamus”.

Finally, the Christmas concert was upon us. We had an enthusiastic and very appreciative audience – and quite a large one at that. I always feel it is a pity that Choral Societies only have the one performance; there is always something one would sing differently if given a second chance!

Our two soloists, Jo Westaway and Gary Griffiths, together with Janette’s encouraging smiles, gave us the confidence we needed to pull it off. Well done everyone and thank you to all the people helping behind the scenes.

Some of us even had enough energy to get together for a coffee and eats at “The Broken Egg” just outside Harleston on the following Monday morning. Joanna had arranged this and it was such a warm and relaxed way of winding down and finishing of the Choral year.

During the year we were delighted to welcome several new members – Ron Dekker, Dorothy Frost, Nicola Hadingham, Susan Hall, Judy Jenkins, Gordon Lindsay, Jan Long and Ros Webster.
John Buckmaster was also with us from January to June.

So, on to the New Year. Term starts 13th January, with a 7.00pm start to enable members to return their sparkly clean copies from the Christmas concert and pay subs. There is a wonderful new programme prepared by Janette and not a “gold ring” in sight!

Then on 20th January there is the Open Evening for prospective new members also starting at 7.00pm (to enable us to welcome them and settle in before we start singing)

Do look at the website for dates for your diary and I look forward to a fantastic year with you all in 2020.


2019 Christmas concert thank you letter from Janette

Dear Harleston Choral Society

Congratulations on a first class concert on Saturday night at St John’s!

It was terrific to have such an enthusiastic audience who were in such good voice in the audience carols and were so warm in their appreciation of your musical offerings. I thought that you did very well in all of the items, particularly so when letting your hair down in the Twelve Days of Christmas. You did well in the carols that you sang on your own – and our two soloists, Sue and John, shone in Behold that Star. Perhaps we need to add an S to the title??

The First Nowell was always going to be a challenge as there were not that many numbers where you had any substantial singing and the bits that you did have were interspersed with instrumental or solo items, or items just for upper or lower voices. I thought that the men did a great job in the lower voices only passages, but I was full of admiration for how well the sopranos and altos did in the four-verse item with the soprano soloist – the parts were tricky but the sopranos and altos brought the whole thing off very well indeed. Well done!

Our two soloists for the evening, Jo Westaway and Gary Griffiths, brought a lot of stylish singing to the Vaughan Williams, which I felt helped to bind the performance. I hope that finally hearing the whole thing in the concert helped to make sense of it from the choir’s point of view.

I know that the soloists and the instrumentalists felt that they had been treated like royalty during the concert tea – so many thanks to Julia and her team for making and serving that. Thanks also to John Awty’s team of stage assemblers and dismantlers – as always, the operation was so efficient that it appeared effortless, which is no mean feat with all of the items that need to be transported in and out of the trailer.

The concert was a lovely occasion and many of the audience came up to tell me exactly that at the end. I hope that you also received positive feedback from your own audience members.

Finally, I would like to thank each and every one of you for putting so much effort into learning the pieces both outside and in rehearsals, and for being such a rewarding group of people to work with. Since January 2018 we have embarked upon an amazing musical journey together and I am really looking forward to starting the summer concert repertoire with you in January 2020.

With all good wishes to you and your families for Christmas and the New Year.


Concert Day Arrangements Saturday, December 14 2019

Venue:  St John’s Church, 6 Broad Street, Harleston IP20 9AZ

Here available as a pdf for printing if required

Dress Rehearsal Schedule 

13.30 – 13.40Choir logistics and warm–up
13.40 – 14.00Choir & piano items: Nativity Carol – Rutter (HCS) pp62-67 100 Carols for ChoirsI saw three ships – arr. Peter Hunt photocopy from VoiceworksBehold that star – Chilcott photocopy from Voiceworks
14.00 Strings ready to play
14.00 – 14.20Audience carols:  Choir, Strings, Keyboard:O little town of Bethlehem  – arr. Vaughan Williams pp234-235 100 Carols for ChoirsHark! the herald-angels sing  – Mendelssohn pp107-109 100 Carols for ChoirsGood King Wenceslas – arr. Willcocks pp102-106 100 Carols for Choirs 
14.20 – 14.50Choir, Strings, ContinuoTwelve Days of Christmas – Chilcott
14.50-15.00Quick comfort break : 
15.00Soprano & Bass soloists ready to sing
15.00-16.00Choir, Strings, Keyboard, Soprano & Bass Soloists: The First Nowell – Vaughan Williams
          16.00Choir dismiss  
16.00-16.15String players & soloists tea / coffee break
16.15-16.30Any corners from Vaughan Williams / Chilcott
16.30-17.30Locatelli Concerto Grosso in F minor Op1 No8
17.30 18.30Concert tea for soloists, instrumentalists and guest choral singers

Choir returns for concert: 19.00


Suggested start time: 19.30

Interval Refreshments: 20.30 -20.45

Estimated finish time: 21.30

19.30-20.00The First Nowell – Vaughan Williams
20.25-20.45Concerto Grosso Op1 No8 in F minor (strings only)
20.45-21.10 Carols for choir and Carols for audience and choir I saw three ships – Peter Hunt photocopy from VoiceworksO little town of Bethlehem – Vaughan Williams (Audience & HCSNativity Carol – Rutter Hark! the herald-angels sing  – Mendelssohn (Audience & HCSBehold that star – Chilcott photocopy from Voiceworks Good King Wenceslas – Willcocks (Audience & HCS)
21.15-21.30The Twelve Days of Christmas – Chilcott 


                                      HARLESTON CHORAL SOCIETY


Held on Monday 23 September 2019 at 8.45 pm in The Church at London Road, Harleston

Jo (Chair) welcomed Janette (Musical Director), Karen (Accompanist), Nathaniel Gee (Patron) and choir members, and declared the meeting open.

1.         Apologies for absence

Received from Joanna Barfield, Heather and Malcolm Butcher, Tom Crisp and Caroline Rodbourne.

2.         Minutes of the last AGM (24 September 2018)

On the proposal of Peter Heard, seconded by John Awty, the Minutes were approved and signed by the Chair

3.         Report by Musical Director
Rather unusually, I am going to begin my report by looking to the future with our current season before I look back at the achievements of 2018-19.

The concert on December 14th combines seasonal choral music with some Christmas carols for choir and audience; the string accompaniment will be provided by The Dargason Ensemble.  The main works will be Vaughan Williams’ The First Nowell and Bob Chilcott’s Twelve Days of Christmas. The concert on June 20th 2020 is a collection of some lighter repertoire, John Rutter’s collection of spirituals Feel the Spirit and Bob Chilcott’s Songs and Cries of London Town.  The concert will be accompanied by a piano duet and we plan to include a local children’s choir to sing with us in the Chilcott piece and to present some of their own items.

Both of these concerts will take us into what will be, for most of you, new choral singing territory.  I very much hope that you will grow to love, enjoy and understand these pieces – they are yet another part of our choral journey together as a choir, and they will lay more blocks in the firm foundation for our future development.

The major works in our first concert of the 2018-19 season included the first part of Handel’s Messiah  and Telemann’sMagnificat.  The Dargason Ensemble accompanied us – with the modest forces of a string quartet, two oboes and Karen on the keyboard (who conjured some excellent harpsichord and organ sounds from our rehearsal piano).  Our professional soloists for the evening were Beverley Lockyer, Christine Petch, Mitesh Khatri and Gary Griffiths.  We included two audience carols, the world premiere of my carol, That blessed babe complete with solos from Sue Foster and John Layton.

When you step back and look at the range of musical styles in that single concert it was an audacious selection. But I had every confidence that you could all pull it off.  On the day you all came together musically, and you gave exciting and stylistically appropriate performances in each genre.

If we all thought that moving in June to a programme of music by one 17th century composer would maybe simpler than the December programme that covered from the 18th to the 21st centuries, then we could not have been more wrong !  Yes, all of the works were by Henry Purcell, but the genres included an a cappella anthem, three accompanied verse anthems and an opera, in which the chorus was required to sing in different accents to depict courtiers, sailors, witches . . . the list goes on.  There were musical and vocal challenges galore, but everyone worked very hard in rehearsals and at home so that, in the end, we gave memorable performances of all the pieces.

The Dargason Ensemble accompanied us with the modest forces of a string quartet and Karen on the keyboard.  The strings played what is possibly the most famous of all Purcell’s works for strings, the Chaconne in G minor.  Our professional soloists for the evening were Carole Bowerman (Dido), Gary Griffiths (Aeneas), Christine Petch (Sorceress), Beverley Lockyer (Belinda), Jo Westaway (Second Woman), Tracey Rayner (First Witch), Shirley Smith (Second Witch) and Mitesh Khatri (Sailor).   We also had our own semi-chorus from the choir who sung the Echo Chorus – Sue Foster, Julia Awty, Tom Crisp and John Awty.  I was delighted at how well the evening went musically and very proud of your achievements.

At last year’s AGM I said that learning your names would be an ongoing process for at least the rest of the 2018-019 season.  I still have some way to go on the name learning front, so maybe the end of 2019-20 would have been more realistic?

Our Monday night rehearsals have continued to be great fun, even if we are all, at times taken outside of our own individual comfort zones.  That said, you have all worked extremely hard to learn complicated new repertoire, which some of you admitted was ‘not your cup of tea’.  I have enjoyed going on that journey with you and felt that, by the time that we got to the concert, we all finally understood what we were meant to be doing!

During the entire 2018-19 seasons it’s been a pleasure to be working with all of you and with our excellent accompanist, Karen Smith, and I am really looking forward to this season’s concerts and to those that will follow in the years to come.

Finally, I would like to thank Jo Curry for her excellent chairmanship of the choir.  As most of you are not members of the committee you will not be aware how skilfully she has undertaken that role, how supportive she has been of me as the group’s new musical director or how empowering she has been of others.  Thanks, Jo, you’ve done a great deal to support the choir’s continuing musical journey and I hope that you will enjoy being able to focus just on the music and your singing in the future.

4.         Chair’s Report

I would like to thank Janette for her kind words and say how lucky we are to have her as our Musical Director. We have had a very successful year under her baton, starting with our Christmas concert, one of the highlights of which was ‘That Blessed Babe’, a carol specially composed for us by Janette and which I hope we shall get another opportunity to sing. Our concert in the summer, ‘An Evening with Henry Purcell’ was challenging, but with Janette’s sure leadership it was a terrific evening with many comments from the audience that it was our best concert yet. So, many thanks to Janette for continuing to be inspirational and energising; and also to Karen for expert and humorous accompanying.

As well as our concerts and the really enjoyable Monday evening practices, we have continued to put on social and fundraising events, as members requested in the survey we did the year before last. Our Quiz evening at St James was very well attended, great fun and raised a good amount more than in the previous year. In July we had a delightful garden party at Julia and John Awty’s lovely home – many thanks to them for hosting us again, to Stella and Fiona for devising the quiz, and to all who helped.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who work behind the scenes to make the choir the well run, welcoming and thriving organisation that it is. The Committee has changed during the year and I would like to thank Heather, who though she stood down last year has continued to print the programme, and design the posters and tickets, for which we are very grateful; also Richard, who has now moved away from Harleston but who was an invaluable support in his time with us. Thank you, Sheena and Pat, for helping organise the musicians; Margaret and her team for the ever-efficient front of house; John, Malcolm and the team of helpers who erect and dismantle the staging; Julia for her role as Librarian and for producing delicious food for the musicians’ teas, Joanna for being a welcoming Membership Secretary, Paul for managing the website; Sheila and Carol for doing the Bonus Ball; Fiona for running the raffles; Lynda and Chris for providing refreshments during our breaks. There will be others and do forgive me if I have missed you out, but the biggest thanks this year must go to Jenny who is standing down after five years of being the most efficient, untiring Publicity and Minutes Secretary. I could not have managed my role without her huge help and encouragement.

I would also like to thank Malcolm, our Treasurer, who is not here this evening but who has provided us with the audited accounts, of which you should all have a copy. We were unfortunate in not getting the grant that we applied for from the Garfield Weston Foundation, but other avenues are being explored. Thanks to some generous donations we are in a reasonably healthy state to move into the next year.

Finally, I would like to thank Nathaniel for continuing to be our Patron and for making a generous donation to our funds. He will be speaking to you next but before that, I would like to say how much I have valued and learned these past five years of chairing the choir. It has at times been challenging as well as a privilege and I wish the next Chair, Stella, all the very best in her new role.

5.         Report by HCS Patron

Nathaniel said what a privilege it has been to be HCS’s Patron, and to continue to support the choir which Anne Gee (Nathaniel’s mother) founded nearly twenty years ago.  He hoped to be able to pass on soon a donation from Tommy (Gee) – which Nathaniel said would have to be ‘soon’, given that Tommy is now 94 !  Nathaniel expressed his thanks to all those choir members who work so hard behind the scenes, especially to Jo and to Jenny for the last few years and for stepping up to take on one more year at the 2018 AGM.  He also congratulated Janette on her truly inspirational leadership. Finally, Nathaniel said that he hopes to sing with HCS in the Christmas concert 2019, for which he has the music, and to support the dwindling number of Basses in the choir.

6.         Treasurer’s Report

During the year we produced two very good concerts and on both occasions we sold over £1000 worth of tickets.   However, as always, the expenditure relating to concerts is always much greater than the income and this year the excess of expenditure to income was just under £3000.  

Because the average choir numbers were greater than the previous year the income from subscriptions was up by £1420 which was very encouraging.   At the end of the year though the numbers were down to 47 whereas we had started the year with 59.   Let us hope that the numbers come up again for the new choir year.   Because of increased subscriptions we were able to claim back an increased sum from gift aid.  We had a very successful quiz evening in March where we made a surplus of £530 and sales of CDs and weekly refreshments and bonus ball income was higher because more people attended choir practices.  During the year we applied for a grant from Garfield Weston, but regrettably we were unsuccessful.   We haven’t given up looking for external funding though and maybe we will be luckier in the future.  

The closing cash balance this year is £5917.  This has gone up from the previous year by £1500 and this is mainly due to a very welcome donation from our Patron, Nathaniel Gee, and additional gift aid that was applied for on his behalf.   The projection for the next twelve months is a further shortfall of over £2000, unless we can increase the numbers of singers.

However difficult it sometimes is to maintain a positive cash position it is always good to come to rehearsals and have a good sing and to meet up with each other and enjoy the music we are learning, and it isn’t always just about concerts, although we have had some good ones and I am sure we will continue to enjoy them.

On the proposal of Carol Hammond, seconded by Julia Awty, the Treasurer’s Report was approved.

The audited accounts for the year ended 31 August 2019, Income & Expenditure for the years ended 31 August 2018 and 2019, the Cash Budget 1 September 2018 – 31August 2020, and the Cash Forecast 1 September 2018 – 31 August 2020 will be filed with the Minutes.  Any queries should be directed to Malcolm Butcher on his return to choir on 7 October.

7.         Re-Appointment of Auditor

On the proposal of John Awty, seconded by Peter Heard, Robin Farrar was re-appointed as Auditor.

8.         Friends of Harleston Choral Society

Carol Hammond reminded choir members that HCS Friends have supported HCS loyally for the best part of twenty years.  The Committee is currently investigating the possibility of recruiting new Friends and perhaps making changes to the terms of membership, in order to reflect our increasing costs.  Carol said that it is her hope that new Friends will join the scheme and continue to grow with HCS.  She concluded by saying that she would like to take this opportunity to record HCS’s thanks to HCS Friends for the sustained warmth of their generosity and lively interest in the choir over many years.

9.         Election of Committee members for the year 2019/20

Jo explained that she, Jenny Hyams and Carol Hammond are resigning from the Committee, and that there are therefore four vacancies to be filled on the Committee caused by these resignations and by one historically unfilled vacancy.  As from [this] AGM Stella Brownsea will replace Jo as Chair; Kate Peacher will replace Jenny as Publicity Secretary and may be responsible for the compilation of the concert programmes; John Layton will be a Committee member.

John Formston has indicated that he is willing to stand as a Committee member; and Sue Foster has agreed to stand as Minutes Secretary, thus bringing the total number of Committee members to ten.

Joanna Barfield (Membership Secretary) was elected for three years at the 2016 AGM and therefore seeks re-election.

Therefore, on the proposal of Carol Hammond, seconded by John Layton, John Formston and Sue Foster were elected to the Committee.

And, on the proposal of Sue Foster, seconded by John Awty,                     Joanna Barfield was re-elected to the Committee.

Fiona Bartlett pointed out that although she is not a Committee Member, she is taking on the role of Friends Co-ordinator.  Jo and Jenny apologised for omitting Fiona from the new appointments and thanked her very much for taking on this role.

10.       AOB

Julia Awty, on behalf of the choir, thanked Jo and Jenny for all their hard work and commitment to HCS over the last five+ years, and the choir presented them with bouquets of beautiful flowers and a bottle each of Adnams pink fizz, which rendered them both speechless . . .

11.       Date of next AGM:  Monday 28 September 2020