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