HARLESTON CHORAL SOCIETY
MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
held on Monday 24 September 2018
at 8.30 pm in The Church at London Road, Harleston
Jo welcomed Janette, Karen and choir members and declared the meeting open.
- Apologies for absence
Apologies were received from Nathaniel Gee, Tom Crisp and Kate Peacher.
- Minutes of the last AGM (25 September 2017)
On the proposal of Richard Thomas, seconded by Julia Awty,
the Minutes were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
- Report by Musical Director
Janette began by saying how much she has enjoyed working with us. She said that although she only started working with the choir in January 2018, she came along to the December 2017 Christmas Oratorio concert as a member of the audience, and quickly learnt a lot about the way this choir presents itself musically and socially. Sitting at least two-thirds of the way back from the choir she was delighted to hear every word that we all sang – no mean achievement with an orchestra accompanying the choir in a relatively large church building. Chris had obviously trained us well and had set the standard for future concerts! Janette was also rather overwhelmed by the warmth of the welcome from the many choir members to whom she was introduced. She said that learning our names is going to be an ongoing process for at least the rest of the 2018-19 season, but she still remembers how welcome she was made to feel at that very first concert.
In January 2018 we began our long and somewhat arduous journey with our newly appointed accompanist Karen Smith, on the single work for our June concert, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle. It is one of Janette’s all-time favourite choral works and she loves the quirky humour in it and the many, many singable melodies. However, there were times when she wondered how we all felt being herded through pages of ‘amens’, being subjected to microscopic scrutiny regarding intonation and Italianate Latin pronunciation, the mini-lectures about stylistically appropriate singing, and being required to sit in a range of different, preordained arrangements.
Whatever it was we thought about what Janette was doing we went along with it, and that planning and preparation paid dividends in performance. Janette doesn’t know how many of us realised it, but in the concert, the Palestrina-like a cappella section in the first movement that we had rehearsed so very hard week after week to sort the intonation and the musical understanding of exactly how and why things had to be sung in a specific way, actually came off brilliantly; and it stayed at pitch! From that bold opening we went on to do a great job on the rest of the piece. Of course the quality of the soloists and the star-studded trio of keyboard players helped us to raise our game, but no one else sang the choruses for us! Janette was very proud of the performance and enjoyed it immensely, and hopes that we did too.
We are now looking forward to two concerts for the 2018-19 season. The first combines traditional seasonal choral music with some Christmas carols for choir and audience. The second is a foray into a range of different works by Henry Purcell; the first half includes several anthems for choir, soloists and strings and the second half is a concert performance of his opera, Dido & Aeneas.
Janette feels that our Monday night rehearsals are great fun and said that it’s been a pleasure to be working with all of us and with our excellent accompanist, Karen Smith. The musical relationship between the choral conductor and the accompanist is key to the success of every choir. If the chemistry is wrong, the musical outcomes for the choir will always be hard won. Harleston Choral Society has an excellent musician who is sensitive to and supportive of the choir’s needs. Janette thanked Karen, and said that we couldn’t have done any of it without her.
- Chair’s Report
Jo began by thanking Janette for her kind words. She continued by saying that in her newsletter just before term started, she said that it has been a year of great change for the choir with the departure of Chris after a very successful Christmas concert performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and the arrival of Janette and Karen and the equally successful performance of Rossini’s Petite Messe Solonelle in the summer. The committee was worried about filling Chris’s shoes but need not have been. Janette, ably accompanied by Karen, has brought a refreshing and energising approach to our music making and we feel very confident that we are in the best of hands.
Though undoubtedly, our concerts are the highlight of our year and much of what we do is working towards making them the best we can, much else goes on in the life of the choir. Jo hoped that we will all agree that the move to The London Road Church for our practices has made them more comfortable and enjoyable occasions. We have also put on several successful social events: a coffee get-together after the Christmas concert; the quiz evening in March; the trip to St Andrews Hall to hear the UEA choir; the finger buffet after the summer concert and the garden party in July. Jo hoped that we have enjoyed these occasions and feel that the committee has responded to requests in last year’s questionnaire for more social events
Jo went on to say that all of these events and the day to day running of the choir are planned and organised by an enthusiastic and dedicated team of people whom she would like to thank hugely for all the work they put into making the choir the thriving organisation it is. Firstly, Janette, who has put so much time and thought into conducting and leading us and creating our future concert programmes; and Karen for her terrific, good-humoured accompanying. Then Jo’s fellow committee members: Jenny, Caroline, Malcolm, Heather, Joanna, Richard, Julia, John and Carol for making our meetings a pleasure and for all the hard work we have put in and continue to do so.
There are many other people who contribute greatly to us in so many ways: Sheena and Pat for organising the musicians for our concerts; Margaret and her team for the ever efficient running of the front of house; John, Richard, Malcolm and their team of helpers who erect and dismantle the staging; Heather for designing and printing the programmes, posters and tickets; Julia in her role as music librarian and for organising the famed musicians’ teas; Paul for the fabulous transformation of our website; Joanna for organising outings and being a welcoming membership secretary; Sheila for running the Bonus Ball; Fiona for organising the raffles; Lynda and Chris for doing refreshments during our breaks; The Friends of the choir; and, of course, our very supportive patron, Nathaniel, who cannot be here today but has sent a report which will be included in this AGM. Jo said that she wanted to give special thanks to Heather, who is standing down, after many years of being a committee member and Jo is very pleased to say that Heather will continue to design and produce the tickets, programmes and posters.
Malcolm will be talking to us about our financial situation in his report. This is something that we need to be thinking about for our future existence. It is very pleasing that we have had so many new and returning members, which will certainly help our funds. To that end, we will also be applying for grants and considering other fundraising ideas. Jo then thanked Malcolm very much for his unstinting work as Treasurer
Jo continued by saying that we have approved the minutes of last year’s AGM, which contained in her report her intention for the second year running to step down as Chair. In fact both Jenny, our untiring and incredibly efficient publicity & minutes secretary, and Jo were planning to step down from the committee this year, but despite ample notice, so far no possible replacements have stepped up. HCS is a very well run organisation and we hope will continue to be so but it cannot legally exist without a chair and so, after discussion, we have decided that, we are prepared to continue, in order to consolidate the progress the choir has made under Janette’s leadership. However, Jo said that she has to ask choir members to look for replacements for her and Jenny’s posts by the end of 2018 so that we will have plenty of time to mentor them by next year’s AGM. Other members of the committee have agreed to take on some of their tasks to ease the transition process.
Looking forward, we are already working on an exciting Christmas concert which will include a first, our very own carol, Blessed be that babe, specially written for us by Janette. An honour indeed. Then in the summer ‘An Evening with Henry Purcell’ including Dido and Aeneas, also a first for us and which Jo is really looking forward to. All in all it has been an amazing year in which we have taken on board a great deal of change and developed enormously, and Jo thanked all of us for the warmth, enthusiasm and commitment which has made that possible and which makes singing with HCS such a treat.
Finally, Jo paid tribute to Brian Fisher, who died a week ago last Saturday and who was a dedicated and supportive member of our bass section until very recently. His sense of humour, as well as his wonderful voice will be much missed and his family are pleased that members of the choir will be performing one of his favourite pieces, Danny Boy, at his funeral service this coming Thursday.
- Report by Nathaniel Gee, HCS Patron
For the benefit of new members, Jo explained that Nathaniel is the son of Anne Gee, who founded HCS in 2000. She said how fortunate we are to have Nathaniel as our Patron. Nathaniel is unable to be here this evening and has sent in his report, as follows:
I am sorry that I am not able to be with you this evening in person. It has certainly been an eventful year. Following Chris’s departure, Janette conducting of her first concert with the Choir in the summer, Rossini’s the Petite Messe Solonelle, with that lovely chamber organ accompaniment, was a triumph. As a member of the audience and not singing with the Choir on that occasion, the sound coming from the Choir was of a high quality. It was obvious that much hard work and attention to detail by Janette had gone into the rehearsals.
I was very pleased to learn that Jo and Jenny have offered to stay on the committee for another year, if no-one steps up to replace them. This will provide some much needed continuity at this stage of transition.
I really want to thank the Committee members for their hard work this past year. Last year I noted that there were 22 people to be thanked. That number has probably not changed very much, and I do know how much hard work goes into providing the wonderful concerts we have by all those concerned.
Last year I spoke about commissioning a piece of music for the Choir, and I can report that this is moving ahead.
- 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. The first one
in December was the final one under the conductorship of Chris, and the second one, which was in June, under the conductorship of Janette. Income from the two concerts came to £2800. The expenditure for the Christmas concert came to £4,747 and for the June concert it was £3,387. So the overall deficit from the two concerts was £5135. The previous year the net deficit for the two concerts was £4,016. So the costs this year were 25% higher than the previous year. Two very different events, with an orchestra of 26 instrumentalists and 4 soloists for Chris’s final concert, so it was a big show, good fun, and a big cost. The June concert, completely different in style, with a successful buffet after the concert, was not so expensive and it was also very enjoyable.
We had very low choir membership numbers last year. We numbered 35 for the Christmas concert and it improved to 42 for the June concert. At the moment I am very pleased to announce that if everybody remains in the choir we will be up to 59 members. This makes such a difference to the financial well-being of the choir.
Income from subscriptions for the year just ended was £4920. With the extra choristers for a full year the subscriptions will be just short of £7000. This would be really marvellous and it gives us more flexibility with regard to planning concerts and selection of orchestra and soloists. Add additional gift aid collections to this income of around £400, plus enhanced refreshments and bonus ball income on practice evenings, it gives a different, much more healthy look to the choir’s funding.
We held a very enjoyable quiz evening, with lots of good food, in March at St James Village Hall and made a much improved net income of just over £300, compared to the previous year of £180. Additionally, we also received a very generous anonymous donation in the summer. All these extra pieces of income help.
We have not had any exceptional expenditure this year, but the deficit from the two concerts have been enough to reduce our bank balance down from £7,730 to £4,360. We now need to work hard to maintain and hopefully increase this amount of money in our funds. You can see what two concerts will cost. At present we can’t afford another year of high concert costs, but we can maintain the balance by keeping up choir numbers and this is why Malcolm is so pleased and relieved to see the numbers rise. We, the committee, need to make sure that when we plan our concerts we ensure that our expenditure is going to be realistic. We can’t guarantee selling tickets and generating much greater income but we can control our costs.
Malcolm added that he is in the process of producing a two year forecast so that we can more clearly predict what the cash flows are going to be. This is a vital piece of work and should in future form part of the accounts for the Society. Last year he was very concerned that falling numbers and higher costs were going to put extra strain on the choir’s funding and its future. He is a lot more optimistic about our future now and this is largely due to being able to maintain choir membership numbers. So he looks forward to the year ahead which he hopes will be a huge success.
On the proposal of Helen Smith, seconded by Pat Green,
it was agreed to accept the accounts.
- Appointment of Auditor
On the proposal of Jenny Hyams, seconded by Jo Curry,
Mr Robin Farrar was appointed as Auditor for the year.
- Election of Officers and Committee for the year 2017/2018
It was noted that Heather Butcher has resigned from the Committee and there is therefore one vacancy to be filled on the Committee caused by this resignation. However, the HCS Constitution allows for a maximum of twelve members, so there are an additional two vacancies to be filled, or left vacant.
It was further noted that those Committee members who were re-elected for three years at the 2015 AGM, and who wish to continue on the Committee, need to be re-elected, preferably en bloc, at this 2018 AGM. This includes Jo Curry (Chair), Caroline Rodbourne (Vice Chair), Julia Awty (Music Librarian), Malcolm Butcher (Treasurer), 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. John Awty was elected to the Committee at the 2017 AGM and therefore does not require re-election until 2020.
In the absence of any nominations to fill the three Committee vacancies, or to replace those Committee members due for re-election, on the proposal of John Awty, seconded by Joanna Barfield, Jo Curry, Jenny Hyams, Julia Awty, Caroline Rodbourne, Malcolm Butcher and Richard Thomas were re-elected en bloc for a further three years.
- Friends of Harleston Choral Society
Carol Hammond said that there are no changes to report. The Friends of Harleston Choral Society remain supportive and committed to our choir, although one or two people have let her know that they no longer feel able to attend our concerts, but continue to support us.
The Friends receive a copy of our Newsletter as well as the AGM Agenda and the Minutes of last year’s AGM. They are a well-informed group. Carol also lets them know when we are holding fundraising events, so that they may join us if they wish to do so.
They have been coming to our concerts for many years. It is always interesting and usually encouraging to receive their comments. As most of you know, the Harleston Choral Society was born in the year 2000 under the direction of our founder Anne Gee. The Friends Scheme began the following year.
Carol said that she would like to record our thanks to our Friends for their sustained loyalty and enthusiasm.
- Any Other Business
Dido & Aeneas at Snape: Joanna reported that ETO will be performing this as part of a triple bill, on Saturday 3 November at 7.30 pm.
As there was no further business, Jo thanked everyone for attending the AGM, and declared the meeting closed, at 9.05 pm.
Signed ………………………………………………………………………… Date ………………………………………….