We Are Chester’s Paul Crofts went along to Storyhouse as three of Chester’s top choirs took part in a brand new event. Photos: Will Hay, W777 Photography.
I have always loved to listen to male voice choirs. There is just something so wonderful about the sound they make, they stir the soul.
It’s in my DNA, my genes I guess, my grandad having been in a couple of local choirs when my dad was growing up (that said, I can’t sing a note!). So I was absolutely delighted to be at Storyhouse recently when three of Chester’s top choirs took to the stage for the very first time.
All long established in the city and all of them widely regarded as amongst the finest of their peers, the choirs (two mixed choirs and one male voice), Chester Bach Singers and The Chester Music Society Choir came together with The City of Chester Male Voice Choir to stage Chester Sings.
Flourishing choral music
The idea was to showcase just how choral music is flourishing in the city.
Given the honour of opening the concert, which was attended by Her Grace The Duchess of Westminster, were Chester Bach Singers, under the baton of Martin Bussey. Their a capella programme included some beautiful classical pieces such as Eric Whitacre’s atmospheric Sleep. This took us through the stages of sleep including a nightmarish dream and finally waking. Other highlights included Elgar’s O Happy Eyes and Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm.
My own personal favourites from CBS were a gorgeous arrangement of Somewhere Over The Rainbow and Martin Bussey’s own arrangement of The Carnival is Over, some beautiful harmonies here which really showed off the choir’s talents under a very creative musical director.
Shedding a tear
I have had the pleasure of listening to and even performing alongside the next choir to take to the stage, The City of Chester Male Voice Choir and so I was delighted to see that their programme included some of their most popular pieces. These ranged from the powerful African Trilogy in which conductor Rodney T Jones got to show off his own fine voice to the moving Guardian Angel by Welsh composer Robat Arwyn which always makes me shed a tear or two.
The choir also included a medley of songs to commemorate the centenary of the end of WWI which got everyone joining in. The choir has the privilege of singing at the Menin Gate in Belgium later this year, such an honour which I know they will treasure. Assured accompaniment by Helen Jackson added greatly to the choir’s on the money performance.
Taking to the stage to round off the evening were The Chester Music Society Choir under the baton of Graham Jordan-Ellis with accompaniment by Graham Eccles at the organ. Their chosen pieces, Te Deum by Joseph Haydn and Sir Hubert Parry’s Blessed Pair of Eyes were both new to me but I was blown away by the choir’s impressive and assured performance. It was great to hear classical organ in the capable hands of the very accomplished Graham Eccles being used to accompany their pieces to great effect – another first for Storyhouse.
A fitting finale
The grand finale saw all three choirs coming together under the baton of Chester Music Society Choir’s director of music Graham Jordan-Ellis as the entire audience rose to join them in a rousing rendition of the patriotic favourite Jerusalem. It was a truly fitting finale to a great evening which highlighted just what a wealth of talent we have in Chester, from traditional choral and classical works to more modern and mainstream pieces, this was a concert with something for everyone. Congratulations to the three choirs and the team at Storyhouse, all those months of planning truly paid off. Bravo!
As a footnote, each choir is always looking to welcome new members and so if you have ever fancied being in a choir, it’s a great way to meet new people and singing is apparently good for your wellbeing.