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Church choirs gather for fifth annual choral music festival
Published 13/01/14

THE fifth annual choir festival takes place in two weeks’ time and participating choirs have been busy rehearsing the “big” number for this year — Vivaldi’s Gloria, writes Lesley Potter.

So far, 10 church choirs have signed up to take part, and the festival organisers are encouraging singers who know the piece to join in, and are also hoping that even more people will come along to St Mary the Virgin Church to listen to the music.

The festival was revived in 2009 by former Henley mayor, Elizabeth Hodgkin, who has been singing soprano since the age of 12.

She said: “Last year we had about 100 in the audience, but this year we would love more to come along. It’s a great experience.”

Participants and audience members pay 5. Last year the event raised 1,800 for Camp Mohawk, and this year the designated charity is Macmillan Nurses.

The day starts at 2.30pm for singers, who assemble in the church for rehearsal. Each choir practises their individual pieces, then at 4.30pm there is a rehearsal of Gloria. Ms Hodgkin said: “If anyone out there loves singing, and knows the piece, they are very welcome to come along at 4.30pm for the rehearsal, and then to take part in the festival later on in the evening. Lots of people do this, including members of the Henley Choral Society who already know the piece, and just loving singing it.”

The evening event starts at 7pm, and the first half consists of each choir singing their own individual songs. After an interval, the choirs reassemble and sing the Gloria.

Ms Hodgkin said: “We sing from the pews and the audience goes around us and it actually works.

“It’s actually a very sociable event. The choirs all meet at various events but we thought it would be nice to sing together. This year there will also be a children’s choir from Peppard. It’s a great opportunity for young children to sing and be part of something like Vivaldi’s Gloria.”

This year, the two professional soloists singing alongside the choirs are soprano Rebecca Bell and contralto Marion Olsen.

Rebecca, from Peppard, studied singing at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and now teaches at St Andrew’s School in Pangbourne. Marion was born in New Zealand and studied in Britain. She has performed at the Barbican and the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

The participating choirs this year are St Mary’s Henley, All Saints’ Rotherfield Peppard, St John’s Kidmore End, St Mary’s Hambleden, St Margaret’s Harpsden, St Peter and St Paul’s Shiplake, All Saints’ Dunsden, St Nicholas’ Rotherfield Greys, Christ Church Henley and Sorores, a branch of Aliquando.

The festival, at St Mary the Virgin Church on Saturday, January 25 at 7pm, will be conducted by Jonathan White, and accompanied by organist David Old. Tickets are 5 on the door.

PUBLISHED 13/01/14

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