Nine months of planning came to joyful fruition on 9th November as we welcomed 160 eager singers to St Mary & St Giles Church for a day of choral singing. As a prelude to Remembrance Sunday we had chosen the Requiem by John Rutter as an appropriate piece for the Organ Fund’s largest ever choral workshop to date. We had representatives from nearly 50 local choirs, with one couple travelling all the way from their home in Vienna for the event!

Name labels and scores collected as they arrived, the singers found their seats (labelled for choral parts) in the nave. The workshop wasn’t an intensive note bashing exercise; though we knew that some singers had never seen the score before and some people (including me) hadn’t heard the whole piece. It was an extended rehearsal; with the more difficult passages given time and attention (with Geoff playing individual parts on the piano to help us). However before we started the Rutter, Jane Sturmheit led us through a series of warm-up exercises to get the vocal chords working and reminded us that we were all capable of more than we realised.

Late morning tea break was followed by another session of singing. At lunchtime we encouraged people to find places to eat in Stony Stratford (some businesses were offering discounts because of the large number of people the event brought to the town). Others ate their own sandwiches in the church and hall. We did something about the visibility of the conductor by raising her box a bit, as some singers near the back couldn’t see her so well when we stood to sing, especially as the men were standing at the front. Next time we’ll have a bigger and higher rostrum box for the conductor to stand on so that everyone can see clearly. The pillars in the nave created poor sight lines from some seats (we had marked these chairs), however there was still some singer repositioning during the day. A third singing session after lunch with the cello and oboe soloists was followed by a short break before a final run through. Everyone needed tea/coffee and homemade cake when we stopped at 3:45 pm. The Parish family did us proud with a great supply of cakes; there was more than enough cake for everyone. The audience started arriving at 4:00 pm and sat in the gallery and side aisles to listen as we had decided (when the bookings poured in) to keep the singers in the nave for the performance at 4:30 pm. It was good to welcome so many people and to explain about the organ, the pipe sponsorship scheme and our music making at St Mary & St Giles Church.

Highlights of the day included the wonderful soprano and instrumental solos, the warm rounded sound of many voices raised together in choral harmony, lots of laughter as we got to grips with the music and chatting with people about their impressions of the event. The other highlight was the teamwork from the organ fund group and many others who helped with serving refreshments, setting up and tidying away afterwards.  Although we were all very tired by the end it was exhilarating to be part of such an uplifting event with such a lovely group of people.

We raised a magnificent £2,668.90 for the organ fund. I would especially like to thank the following people:

  • David Scrutton, Jane Wolfson, Lesley Smart for their brilliant organisation and planning
  • Lesley Salter, Kath Hindley, Jean Hulley, Lydia Jones, Nina May, Jane Wolfson, David Wolfson, Lesley Smart, Marian Wright, Dave King, Dai Evans, Jan Evans, Craig Smart, Ed Sturmheit and David Scrutton for handing out music, serving refreshments, selling audience tickets and tidying up.
  • Geoff Long for accompanying us all day on the piano and Fiona Collins for turning the pages
  • Gabriella Polcino (Pie Jesu) and Joyce Taylor (Lux aeterna) for their wonderful soprano solos
  • Emma Miller (oboe) and Margaret Woodward (cello) for their lovely instrumental solos
  • Jane Sturmheit for her patience and humour as she guided us through our discovery of John Rutter’s Requiem and teased a memorable performance out of so many singers of all abilities in one day.

Some feedback comments received by email from singers:

Thank you so much for a lovely afternoon! :))

Hello and good evening. Just time to say thank you for a splendid day. It was a wonderful experience and we from the Orpheans enjoyed it enormously. We are looking forward to the next one! Many thanks and take care.

Thank you very much for yesterday. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am already looking forward to next year's event!

Thank you for a wonderful day’s singing. It was a new piece to me and I found it challenging singing from scratch but made it with the help of singers around me who had sung it before. It was difficult not being able to see the conductor for most of the time. But the whole day was organised so well and it was great that it was so popular. Feedback from audience members who really enjoyed it was very rewarding. Look forward to next year’s day.

Thanks to you and all the army of helpful people who were involved in today's workshop / concert. It was a great day and I don't for a minute underestimate the amount of clearing up we left, even if we are largely well-behaved tidy people!

I had a wonderful day on Saturday, loved being part of such a huge choir and singing such lovely music.  Thank you so much to you and your team for all your hard work organising such a great event. I want to do it all over again now! Looking forward to the next one.

A well organised and enjoyable Come and Sing day, thank you.

It was a GREAT day on Saturday. Most enjoyable and well organised!

Just a note to thank you and your team for a fabulous day! I look forward to the next one.

Cake from Jude

Cake from Jude

Handing out music copies

Handing out music copies

Singers gather in the nave

Singers gather in the nave

Lesley welcomes everyone

Lesley welcomes everyone

Jane leads the warm up

Jane leads the warm up

David talks about the organ

David talks about the organ

Jane conducts the workshop

Jane conducts the workshop

Jane conducts amidst the poppies

Jane conducts amidst the poppies

First run through with Gabriella

First run through with Gabriella

Singers of all ages

Singers of all ages

Jane, Geoff and the singers

Jane, Geoff and the singers

Jane Sturmheit conducts Rutter

Jane Sturmheit conducts Rutter

Gabriella sings Pie Jesu

Gabriella sings Pie Jesu

Gabriella sings Pie Jesu

Gabriella sings Pie Jesu

Geoff and Fiona during rehearsal

Geoff and Fiona during rehearsal

Local sopranos!

Sopranos

Sopranos

Sopranos

Closeup of Sopranos

Closeup of Sopranos

Singers at the back

Sopranos and Altos at the back

During the afternoon rehearsal

During the afternoon rehearsal

David found time to sing too

David found time to sing too

Emma's oboe solo

Emma's oboe solo

Close up of singers during rehearsal

Close up of singers during rehearsal

Joyce's soprano solo

Joyce's soprano solo

Margaret's cello solo

Margaret's cello solo

Anna welcomes everyone to the concert

Anna welcomes everyone to the concert

Singers during the performance

Singers during the performance

Jane receives her flowers

Jane receives her flowers

Dave presents Geoff with his gift

Dave presents Geoff with his gift

Lesley receives her thank you card

Lesley receives her thank you card