Report of the Trustees of the Strathchamber Trust, January 2019
Summary of the year
In addition to the usual round of concerts and church services, the 2017-18 season also saw the choir singing and recording new work and increasing our fundraising efforts.
In October we were asked to record ‘We love the place’ by Glasgow composer, Alan Craig, for inclusion on his website; Alan also composed a new piece for us, of which we gave the world première at our Christmas concert (see below).
We sang mass at St Columbkille’s in Rutherglen in November, our now regular Evensong in St Bride’s, Hyndland in March and were in residence at Durham Cathedral in April. We gave a Christmas concert in St Charles’ Borromeo in December, together with the church school’s children’s choir, where we premiered and recorded ‘A refugee’s lament’ for both Alan Craig’s and our websites. We also gave concerts in Cathcart Trinity and at St Bride’s (as part of the West End festival) in February and June, respectively. Our programme at the latter included a rare performance of contemporary Scottish composer Ken Johnston’s ‘O Columba’. In our church services we premiered choir member Margaret Miller’s Preces and Responses.
In December we again sang carols at Ikea, Braehead over one weekend; on the evening of the Saturday we also entertained revellers at the Citation Bar in Glasgow city centre, in both cases raising some much needed funds.
Our ABCD apprentice conductor, Michael Graham’s term came to an end but he has decided to stay with us, and is now acting as associate conductor. We were also pleased to welcome some new younger members to the choir. Our ongoing vocal-training sessions with Michael and Alan Tavener, our Musical Director, continue to enhance members’ health and performance.
Through our fundraising efforts and by increasing our subscription fees we managed to reduce our deficit to £289.18 in 2017-18, with the balance standing at £4168.10; frugality regarding music, etc purchases also helped. A further rise in subs for the following season, plus a number of extra fundraising events mean there is hope that we can do away with the deficit altogether.
We thank the University of Strathclyde for allowing us to use rehearsal and music storage space, and Alan Tavener and our occasional organist, David Hamilton, for their commitment.
We’ve had several lucrative fundraisers already, with more to come, plus a very successful remembrance concert. We’ll be premiering more new work (including responses by a choir member) at our services and cathedral residency in Newcastle – a new venue for us – and will be performing as usual at the West End Festival.
Musical Director’s Report, 29 January 2019
We ended the 2017-18 season with a Membership of 31 – 9S, 11A, 6T, 5B. Of these, 25 have carried forward to the present moment, representing a high level of continuity – that is 7S, 9A, 5T, 4B, ie, a loss of 6 – 2S, 2A, 1T, 1B. Whilst there have been fewer applications for Membership between September and the present moment compared with some recent years,on balance the quality has been maintained. We now stand at a Membership of 10S, 9A, 7T, 5B, a total of 31, so level with the end of last Season, although still somewhat lower than in some previous years.
As a result of this, the past year has seen many musical high points. Following our annual Choral Evensong in St Bride’s Church in March, we undertook a very successful weekend residency at Durham Cathedral in April, very warmly received by our hosts. Two musically and financially successful concerts followed in June at St Bride’s Church (Saints and Singers), and in November at Cathcart Old Church (Farewell to Arms) – where a promising ongoing relationship has also been instigated. Interleaved with those concerts were a number of choir fundraisers: two weddings, a liturgy and carolling. It has been very gratifying that Members have responded so well to our fund-raisers, which have made them not only financially rewarding, but also satisfying as musical events.
Speaking personally, it’s been particularly rewarding to have an emphasis on new music, often specially written for the Choir. Our relationship with Alan Craig is ongoing, and we have enjoyed performing new work by one of our Members, Margaret Miller, and are looking forward to doing the same for new work by another of our Members, James Duddridge. The opportunity to premiere more music by Sir James MacMillan, as well as the invitation to première Gemma McGregor’s Psalms for Rosemary, were both an honour. And Members all threw themselves with characteristic commitment and enthusiasm into workshopping four new settings of Dona nobis Pacem, before choosing to rehearse and première the setting by Anna Bychkova.
Last year, I reported that I had been carrying out a number of ‘reassessments’ of Members arising from concerns about commitment: since I am always loath to lose Members of musical and vocal capability, I’m so glad to report that these reassessments have invariably resulted in greater focus and commitment on the part of those concerned, which has had a positive effect on the choir’s teamwork and overall strength. Furthermore, I’m indebted to those in the choir who take their singing seriously enough to go for personal singing lessons. But it’s worth remembering that we can all at least do some daily posture rehearsal and vocal warm-ups, as well as spending personal time singing the music in order to keep up to speed in rehearsals. It is also worth recording a choir warm-up from time to time, and playing it back to steer oneself through those processes at home!
In conclusion, I’d like to thank all our Members for their loyalty, commitment and hard work – but to emphasise that a choir can never afford to get complacent; we always need to be on the look-out for ‘new blood’, so please keep your ear to the ground and point potential Members in my direction. This is also true of people who ‘work for’ the Choir, and we are hugely grateful to those Members who take the formal roles as Trustees and informal roles as volunteers. In addition, in case your President goes unappreciated tonight, I’d like to thank Frances (and her team of Trustees), and others who take ongoing roles (librarian, room bookings, robes, cathedral weekend travel/accommodation, publicity, website, social media, etc).