A Message from the Chair
Thank you for your interest in Chiltern Choir. We are group of 50 or so singers, with members from Chorleywood, Rickmansworth, and the wider Chilterns area. We rehearse every term-time Tuesday at the Hillside Centre in Chorleywood.
The Choir performs three or four concerts each year, usually at a church or other local venue. We have a varied repertoire, singing works not only from the traditional choral repertoire but also more-contemporary compositions and arrangements. Some of our most exciting challenges have been performances of Will Todd’s Mass in Blue with accompaniment from the Will Todd trio and Bethany Halliday, and, in contrast, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem in St Alban’s Cathedral, when we joined with Harrow Choral Society.
The choir aims to go on tour in alternate years and, in the years when there is no tour, to plan an option to sing the weekend services at a British cathedral.
We are a friendly bunch and social events, which also have a fund-raising element, are an important part of our year – guided walks, quiz suppers, and summer barbeques are all part of our calendar.
If you would like to try singing with us you are most welcome to attend rehearsals for a few weeks, without any commitment. If you then want to join, there is a short audition with our musical director.
We hope to see you at one of our concerts soon.Lyndsay Ward – Chair
The Chiltern Choir was formed in 1980, from a nucleus of singers who had sung as a small madrigal group since 1968, under the umbrella of Chorleywood Community Arts Centre. A detailed list of concerts to 2020 (compiled by Michael Currey) is available, with additional details of events since 2004 listed here.
Our Musical DirectorsWe have attracted a series of talented musical directors:
- Peter Dodd, Chief Assistant Controller of BBC Radio 3.
- Stephen Jackson, who became Chorus Master of the BBC Symphony Chorus.
- Simon Williams, who moved on to concentrate on his appointment as Director of Music at St George's, Hanover Square.
- Mark Hindley, who left us to take advantage of a prestigious job offer in Scotland.
- Michael Cayton, our current director, joined us in 2003. Since then has also taken on the posts of Director of Music at St John’s Wood Church and organist at Belsize Square Synagogue. He has been Musical Director of the Watford Philharmonic Society since 2014.
Our founding musical director, Peter Dodd (1930–2015) conducted the first performance of the St Matthew Passion at Watersmeet using authentic instruments – well in advance of the subsequent popular interest in early music. He never missed a rehearsal (and was frustrated when others did!), and never received any payment, with Choir members expressing their gratitude with gifts of book tokens.
In 2019, Helen Heenan approached Michael Cayton about writing a substantial piece of music for the Chiltern Choir. Helen, a Choir member, was looking for a piece of music that was secular in nature with an environmental message. The Way Through the Woods presents the four seasons using texts from poems by Houseman, Emily Brontë, Coleridge, and Swinburne, interspersed with first-hand accounts of real environmental events such as Storm Sandy, and the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster. Each movement uses a short passage taken from an anthem by Extinction Rebellion, warning the listener of environmental catastrophe. However, the piece ends with Kipling’s poem ‘The Way Through the Woods’, from which it borrows the title, which speaks of nature's ability to reassert itself and to heal. The piece is scheduled to receive its World Premiere in March 2024.
Like many choirs, we met the challenges of the covid pandemic with on-line rehearsals and virtual concerts, returning to live performances in late 2021. A postponed visit to Tewkesbury Abbey was finally undertaken in August 2022 – our first 'expedition' since our 2019 tour of Bratislava and Vienna. It was followed by an outing to St. Chad's, Shrewsbury in 2023.
The Choir celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2018. To mark the occasion, our President, Patricia Parkes, commissioned Michael Cayton to compose Missa Beatae Mariae Virginis, a sacred choral work, which received its world premier at our concert in November 2017. The season finished with a sell-out gala performance of cinema classics, 'A Golden Night at the Movies'.
The Choir released its first professional recording in 2017 (May). Prozone Music Recordings set up its studio in St Mary’s Church Hall, Rickmansworth, the previous November, when we recorded Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem, accompanied by four hands on piano instead of an orchestra. The pianists were Anna Le Hair (our accompanist at the time) and John Byron, with soloists Emily Rowley Jones (soprano) and Benjamin Seifert (baritone). The sleeve artwork 'The Long Journey' was gifted to the Choir by Neil Wax, a loyal supporter and Honorary Member of the Choir.
In March 2014 the Will Todd trio, together with Bethany Halliday, accompanied us throughout the evening as we performed Will's flagship jazz mass Mass in Blue, and gave the first performance in this country of his Songs of Love.
Our Christmas 2013 concert saw us give the world premiere of Malcolm Archer's setting of Awake my Soul and with the Sun, commissioned in memory of former chairman Jim Darby. This concert also marked the 10th anniversary of Michael Cayton's musical directorship of the Choir, and was also the last concert in which a founding member of the Choir performed; Patricia Parkes convened the original 'singing group' from 1968. Following her retirement from singing, she was appointed President of the Choir.
For our 2013 Summer Concert we took on the challenge of David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus, an unconventional version of the traditional Latin Mass, which incorporates African rhythms and sounds. It was especially gratifying that David’s widow, Jane, was able to join us on the evening.
In 2005, we performed The Kestrel Road, composed by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. This was commissioned by 47 member societies of Making Music, the National Federation of Music Societies.
In 1993/94, we celebrated our Silver Jubilee with a performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor, and commissioned and performed Bryan Kelly's Crucifixion.
We have commissioned other works by Bryan Kelly and Anthony Le Fleming.
In 1992, we received the Performing Rights Society's Enterprise Award.
We enjoy collaborating with other choirs on a regular basis. Collaborations have included joining with other Hertfordshire choirs to sing Mahler's 8th Symphony at the Royal Albert Hall, in aid of the British Council for Prevention of Blindness (October 1999), and joint performances with Harrow Choral Society at St Alban's Abbey: Verdi's Requiem in March 2001, and Bach's B Minor Mass in March 2012.
In 2015 the Choir traveled to Dardilly, Chorleywood’s twin town in France, to sing with the local choir, Ensemble Dodecaphonia. In 2016 the Ensemble made a return visit to Chorleywood for a joint concert.
We also joined forces with Harrow Choral Society in May 2005, to perform Brahms's German Requiem under the baton of Simon Williams. This was prefaced by Stanfords's Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in A, under our own Michael Cayton.
We have enjoyed a number of overseas trips, to perform in collaboration with choirs in Honfleur, Amsterdam, Copenhagen (2012) and, on especially memorable occasions, at Chartres and Vienna Cathedrals.
In 2001, we were fortunate in having the opportunity to sing Evensong at Norwich Cathedral, and in 2005, we were invited to sing the Eucharist and Evensong at St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, as one of the teams of choirs that give the local choristers August off – St Patrick's giving two sung services a day, 365 days a year. It was wonderful to sing a mass as part of a service, instead of as a performance.
The following have been made Honorary Members in recognition of their extended service to the Choir:
|Mrs Patrica Parkes (President)
|Mrs K. Darby
|Mrs S. Lawman
|Mr D. Treanor
|Mr M. Gaudie
|Mr D. Lloyd
|Mr N. Wax
|Prof. I. Howarth
|Dame G. Pugh