Roderick Earle writes: When I put forward the idea of the choir singing several short recitals over one weekend, I would not have been surprised if everyone had thrown up their arms in horror. I knew it would be a challenge – organisationally, vocally and in making further demands on choir member’s precious time – but our choir chairman Peter and the committee were enthusiastic and jumped at developing the idea and so A Glimpse of Heaven, a weekend of short sacred recitals, was born.
By repeating a programme drawn from our first six programmes in six different churches I knew we would gain valuable performing experience, and consolidate the core of our repertoire. We would also learn how to cope with different acoustics and most importantly we would be going out into the communities around Colchester and singing to new audiences.
Well, I think we can say that although it was hard work we gained all that I had hoped for and much more. I was thrilled that each concert consolidated the achievements of the previous one and that the ensemble and sensitivity to direction improved all the way along. Different acoustics require slightly different choices of tempo and dynamics and the choir responded to these issues like real professionals. And most impressively they kept up their energy levels selling each programme with passion and commitment. Perhaps the two best concerts were those at the end of Saturday and Sunday.
In three days we travelled from Harwich to the east to Henny and Bures to the north, singing in widely different churches and to widely different communities.
We arrived in a damp and misty Harwich to sing in the magnificent St. Nicholas’ Church, a grand Victorian building full of reminders of former maritime splendour. Here the audience was led by the Mayor, wearing his chain of office, and the friends, patrons and sponsors of the Harwich Festival, in which we will be singing later in the year. Boxted on Saturday afternoon could not have offered a bigger contrast. Bathed in spring sunshine and surrounded by snowdrops and daffodils, this exquisite little church was packed with an enthusiastic audience of all ages.
We then moved into Colchester to give two more recitals, the first at St. Leonard’s, Lexden, the church where we gave our first three concerts and then to the Catholic church of St. James the Less and St. Helen, right in the town. The choir was now on a roll.
On the Sunday we started in the tiny hilltop church at Gt. Henny where the audience cheered and stamped their feet with appreciation and treated us to wonderful refreshments. It was a surprise to come out of the warm church into pouring rain and a gale of a wind. Many of our cars were quite stuck in the field that served as the church car park. With local help we did all get away for the last concert down in the valley at Bures, where not only the altitude but the temperature dropped bringing flurries of snow. St. Mary’s Bures, beautifully restored and with dramatic new lighting, was the perfect setting for our last concert where I think the choir reached the peak of its form. Drinks and canapés, provided by the parish, before a relaxing meal and a pint in the Swan rounded off a fabulous weekend.
We sang to about 600 hundred people and helped churches to raise nearly £2,500.