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HCS Summer term rehearsal schedule for May

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible for the start of the summer term on Monday 25th April. As so many of you are paying subs online now for which we are grateful and Julia has distributed all the music last term, there is no need for a 7.00 p.m. start, we will hope to be all ready for a 7.30 prompt start to singing.














Available as a printable pdf file here

Notes for New Members

Welcome to Harleston Choral Society

Welcome! We are delighted that you have come along to our choir practice today. We do hope that you will enjoy singing with us and that you will become a permanent member.
Along with these notes, you should also have received a list of diary dates and a GDPR form.
GDPR form
Please keep the top sheet of information for yourself, fill in the consent form as clearly as possible with your personal details and then return it to John Awty, Acting Membership Secretary. Thank you.


Harleston Choral Society was founded in 2000 by Anne Gee, an experienced singing teacher and pioneer in developing amateur choirs. She especially believed in encouraging people who were unaware that they could actually sing! Anne quickly introduced members to a varied and demanding repertoire. We were fortunate to have her son Nathaniel as our patron for many years.

Chris Bracewell was our Musical Director from 2004 – 2017. Chris was a very experienced choral conductor and inspired the choir to new heights for example in performances of Brahms’ Requiem and Bach’s St John Passion.

From 2018 – 2021, our Musical Director was Janette Ruocco. In that time, we had great success performing a wide variety of music from Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, to Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, to Chilcott’s The Twelve Days of Christmas.

In March 2022, we were delighted to appoint Justin Bindley as our new Musical Director. Justin has a wealth of singing and conducting experience. Our first concert with Justin will be in June 2022 and we look forward to exciting times ahead.

We are very fortunate to have Karen Smith as our regular accompanist at our practices. Karen is a professional musician who also works with Eye Bach Choir.


We meet on Monday evenings during school term time from 7.30 pm till 9.30 pm in the London Road Church, Harleston. We perform our concerts in St John’s Church, Harleston. There is a short break for refreshments at approximately 8.30 pm. For new members, the first three practice sessions are free. If you then wish to continue singing with us, a termly fee is due, currently £40.00 per term, (there are some concessions).

There are no auditions for our friendly community choir and we welcome everyone. Although it’s an advantage to be able to read music, it’s not essential.  Music is provided free and – if available – we provide practice CDs for each voice part: soprano, alto, tenor and bass.  The first CDs are free to new members and thereafter there is a small charge. More experienced members are always happy to help and support with musical challenges and sometimes small groups meet in between scheduled practices.

Choir practices can often involve hard work, but the emphasis is on relaxation and enjoyment. Regular attendance is important and, to get full advantage, it is advisable to practise with the CDs at home during the week. It is useful to bring water, a pencil and reading glasses to practices! 


We perform two evening concerts a year: a Christmas Concert, which normally includes a substantial choral work and sometimes includes Christmas Carols, some with audience participation; and a Summer Concert in June, when we usually perform a longer choral work. For some concerts, we also have professional soloists and an orchestra.

There are rehearsals on the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon before a concert in St John’s Church. Concert dress is black tie for gentlemen and black for ladies.

Our summer concert will be on 25 June 2022 and will include Fauré’s Requiem and some shorter, more contemporary pieces.

We have a committee of up to 12 choir members who are elected during our autumn term AGM. The committee meets regularly to help with running the choir and organising our concerts. Many other members take on further important and essential tasks throughout the season.
Further information
If you would like any further information, please contact our Chair, Stella Brownsea, or our Acting Membership Secretary, John Awty, either during a practice session or as below:


Stella Brownsea 01379 854720                

John Awty 01986 782302
Or please visit our website:

These notes can be downloaded as a printable pdf file here.


Members’ Area Archive

September 2021 Newsletter
February 2021 Newsletter
HCS Annual Report 2020
HCS Treasurer’s Report 2020
Summer newsletter for HCS 2020
Report on Minutes of Committee Meeting. Thursday, 6th February 2020
New Year Newsletter 2020
2019 Christmas concert thank you letter from Janette
Report of Committee Meeting 16 October 2019
AGM Minutes 23 September 2019
Report of Committee Meeting 12 September 2019
Report of Committee Meeting 19 June 2019
Programme Notes for Dido and Aeneas by Janette
Report of the Committee Meeting 23 May 2019
Report of the Committee Meeting 7 March 2019
Welcome to the new autumn term
A thank you letter from Janette Ruocco to the members of the choir June 2018
Rossini photographed by Étienne Carjat, 1865

Rossini photographed by Étienne Carjat, 186

Click here to see the Programme Notes
by Janette Ruocco for Petite Messe Solennelle
Programme notes for the Christmas concert 2018 from Janette
Christmas 2018 Newsletter from Jo Curry
September 2018 Newsletter
Minutes of the Annual General Meeting on Monday 24th September 2018


Held on Monday 18th October 2021 at 7.30 at the London Road Church, Harleston

Stella welcomed Karen (Accompanist) and choir members and declared the meeting open.

  • Apologies for absence

Apologies were received from Nathaniel Gee, Ann Plested, Carol Hammond, Pat Green, Bryan Green and Joanna Barfield.

  • Minutes of the last AGM (September 2019)

On the proposal of Jo Curry, seconded by John Awty, the minutes were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

  • Chair’s Report

Stella began her report by saying how different things have been since she became Chair in September 2019.  Although we were able to present a Christmas concert in December of that year, entitled ‘The twelve days of Christmas’, by the following March, we were into lockdown and rehearsals came to a halt.  After a while, when we realised just how long this might go on for, a small Zoom choir, led by Karen, was started and we worked on various items from ‘Choral Classics’.

At last, by the summer, restrictions had relaxed enough for some of us to enjoy a Garden Party hosted by John and Julia Awty.  We sang items from the Zoom rehearsals and Julia gave a very interesting quiz on words from musicals, operas and other compositions.

Stella feels very proud that we’re still here 2 years later as many other groups are not.  She thanked the following people:

  • The whole committee for their willingness to join in the many Zoom meetings
  • Joanna, for being such a caring and efficient Membership Secretary.
  • Paul Cope, Joanna’s partner, for all his technical help with Zoom and with re-organising the website.
  • John Awty, for arranging the Zoom sessions and producing the online music.  He has also taken on the post of Assistant Memberships Secretary, available to all at rehearsals.
  • Julia for her pristine organisation as Librarian and handholding when needed.
  • Malcolm for managing the money so efficiently through this tricky time.
  • John Formston and Caroline for their input in difficult situations.
  • Amanda, who joined as Minutes Secretary this year, for producing accurate minutes in a short time.
  • Nathaniel for supporting the choir in his role as Patron.
  • Karen, for her expert advice and knowledge that has helped to rebuild the society as well as her invaluable sense of humour.
  • The members who continued to pay their subscriptions, seeing us through the last months.

Stella finished by saying we have a great concert to prepare for over the next few weeks and have shown how we are learning from experiences and adapting.  She is proud to be our Chairman.

On the proposal of John Awty, seconded by Peter Heard, the report was accepted.

  • Treasurer’s Report

Malcolm had distributed copies of the annual accounts (a copy of these will be filed with the Minutes).  His report follows.

‘Because of Covid 19 the choir has not operated as such since March 2020.   However, since then the committee has continued to meet and a number of financial changes and strategic changes have taken place.   So I will summarise the events as they occurred, starting with the beginning of the 2019/2020 year.

October 2019  –  Supporter donation made to the choir  –  £2,000

December 2019 – Christmas Concert.  Funds broke even, thanks to donation from our Patron.

March 2020 – National Lockdown.  We had enjoyed 9 weeks of rehearsals up until then, balance of rent carried forward to 29th November 2021.

March/April 2020  –  Gift Aid £980.

September 2020 – Halesworth Festival of Voices granted us £767 following our bid for funds following their closure.

August 2020 – Payments made to Conductor and Accompanist for retention of services £1,400

February 2021  –  Conductor Janette Ruocco resigned from choir.

March – April 2021   –  Further payment made to Accompanist for retention of services to the choir.  –  £1,080.

March 2021 –  Members made donations to the choir funds. – £1,455.

May 2021  –  Donation from the family of Jethro.

Since the beginning of the 2019/20 financial year, largely thanks to some very generous donations we have managed to show a positive financial position, which will enable us to have some flexibility with future workshops/concerts etc.  The bank balance as at 31st August 2021 is a healthy £7,768.’

 On the proposal of Julia Awty, seconded by Caroline Rodbourne, it was agreed to accept the accounts.

  • Re-appointment of Auditor

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

  • Friends of Harleston Choral Society’s Report

Fiona reported that, after a good start in the early 2000’s, numbers of friends have gradually decreased, despite various methods used to recruit.  The Covid restrictions have meant that she hasn’t contacted the remaining friends to ask them for their subscriptions so no money has been coming in.  In any case, the subscriptions didn’t cover the cost of the 2 free tickets and drinks at concerts so it was decided that the Friends should be disbanded.  Fiona has notified those remaining and a few of them have said they will still support the choir.

She finished by saying she had enjoyed her years as Friends’ Secretary but is still happy to help in other ways.

      6A   Patron’s Report

Nathaniel apologized for being unable to attend the meeting but sent his good wishes.  There was nothing for him to report but said he was grateful to all the Committee and pleased to hear that we are again in existence.

  • Changes to the Constitution

On the proposal of Stella Brownsea, seconded by John Formston, the following changes were agreed:

  • The title of Conductor should be changed to Musical Director.
  • The AGM will be held in the autumn term (as opposed to the specified month of September), thus allowing time for new members to settle into the choir.
  • The Musical Director will be responsible for selecting the music to be performed, in agreement with the Committee.
  • Election of Committee members for the year 2021/22

Members were reminded that Kate Peacher, Publicity Secretary, is resigning, thus creating a vacancy.  There are three other vacancies making four in all as the Constitution allows for a maximum of twelve.

  • On the proposal of Heather Butcher, seconded by Malcolm Butcher, it was agreed to elect Fiona Bartlett to the Committee.
  • On the proposal of John Awty, seconded by Malcolm Butcher, it was agreed to elect Jo Curry to the Committee
  • On the proposal of Fiona Bartlett, seconded by Julia Awty, it was agreed to elect Heather Butcher to the Committee.

Amanda Fletcher had been co-opted as Minutes Secretary during the Covid restrictions earlier in the year.  Amanda confirmed to Stella that she would like to remain on the Committee in this capacity.

There were other members of the Committee who would have been due for re-election this year.  However, the choir did not meet in person for nearly eighteen months so the year 2020/21 will not be counted so their re-election has been deferred until next year.

  • Date of next AGM: Autumn term 2022

Constitution Document

Document can be viewed here as a printable pdf file

October 2021 

Constitution Document 

The Group’s Name 

The group shall be called ‘Harleston Choral Society’ of Harleston  Norfolk. 

The Aims of the Society are: 

To promote, improve, develop and maintain public education in, and appreciation of, the art and science of choral music in all its aspects by the presentation of public choral concerts; and for the general purposes of such charitable bodies, or such other purposes as shall be exclusively charitable, as the Committee may from time to time decide. 


Membership is open to all. Registration at the start of term, with attendance, recorded weekly. Members to pay, at the start of term, the agreed amount, with some concessions to be available as required.  The charges will be agreed by a quorum representative of the Society. 

General Business 

The affairs of the group are controlled by a Committee consisting of a  Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer, with a maximum of twelve members at any one time. The Musical Director will be an ex-officio member and will be responsible for selecting the music to be performed, in agreement with the Committee. The Committee will be elected at the  AGM from and by the members of the group, on a democratic basis, for three years in the first instance, but with the opportunity to continue for a  further three years. The Committee will meet no less than four times per year. 

There shall be a quorum at Committee meetings of one-third of the  Committee membership. 

There shall be a Patron, invited by the Choir to hold office.

Payment or benefit 

The Musical Director and Accompanist shall be paid an honorarium every term. 

The income and property of the Society whencesoever derived shall be applied solely towards promoting the objects of the Society as set forth above and no portion thereof shall be paid or transferred either directly or indirectly to any member or members of the Society except in payment of legitimate expenses incurred on behalf of the Society. 

The Society shall receive donations, grants in aid and financial guarantees. Tickets for any or all of its concerts and other events shall be offered for sale to the public. 


The Committee will undertake: 

a) To control the affairs of the Choir 

b) To keep accurate accounts of the Society by the Treasurer,  which should be available for inspection by any member, and  inspected by an independent examiner before the AGM 

c) To maintain a bank account in the Society’s name, requiring  two signatures from Chair, Treasurer and two other Committee members 

d) To make decisions on the basis of a single majority vote; in the event of a tied result, the Chair shall be entitled to a casting vote. 

General Meetings 

The AGM will take place in the autumn term each year. An agenda of the business of the AGM will be circulated to all members 14 days before a meeting. 

Alterations to the Constitution 

Any alteration to the Constitution will need to be agreed at the AGM and notice of 14 days must be given. 

Possible dissolution of the Society

In the event of the necessity for the dissolution of the Society or the inability of an available Committee to function effectively, the leadership of the Society shall be assumed by the Patron, with full powers to mediate as necessary. Any assets remaining upon dissolution, after the payment of proper debts and liabilities, shall be transferred to a charitable institution or institutions having similar objectives to those of the Society. 

Amended by AGM October 2021

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.