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________________________________________________________________ Issue 3 December 2007


Welcome to the third issue of St Hugh News

This last issue for 2007 arrives just in time for the committee to wish all members a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year. Along with it comes the invitation to sing with St Hugh Singers at Rochester at the end of March 2008. This will be the first time St Hugh has sung at Rochester Cathedral so it will be an extra special occasion, and we hope as many of you as possible will be able to attend. The invitation letter provides all the practical detail you need about the weekend but here is a little additional information about the Cathedral itself and our Director.

Rochester Cathedral, Kent

Rochester Cathedral is England’s second oldest and dates back to 1080. It boasts glorious Norman architecture in the nave, one of the finest Romanesque facades in England and, hidden from view, one of the oldest doors in England. The first real fresco in an English cathedral for over 800 years – a narrative painting by Sergei Fyodorov – was dedicated in 2004 and is on view in the north nave transept. The Cathedral has gone through a number of restoration processes, but its present day appearance is the work of Gilbert Scott. Percy Whitlock, who was born down the road in Chatham, was the assistant organist at Rochester 1921–30. Photo courtesy of "EyeBee"

The Director for the weekend is Julie Burt. She was born and brought up in Kent (in the Rochester Diocese, in fact!) and became involved in music from an early age, studying the cello and piano and playing in the Kent Youth Orchestra. She studied Music at Bristol University, where she was appointed the first female conductor of the University Chamber Choir. After gaining her teaching qualifications she moved to Rugby where she has lived ever since. Singing plays a large part in Julie‘s life. She has been a member of Saint Michael’s Singers, Coventry for twenty years and recently joined the Cathedral Chamber Choir. In September she was appointed an Alto Choral Clerk in Coventry Cathedral Choir. She has conducted Saint Michael’s Singers on several occasions, most memorably in Worcester Cathedral last April, when they performed ‘Zadok the Priest’ with the English String Orchestra. She is currently Director of Music at Crescent School, Rugby.

Reflections on Worcester 2007

For those of you that weren’t able to sing at Worcester in September you missed a real treat, as Anne Wilkening (soprano) describes:

As a fairly new girl I felt a little nervous when I first arrived, a feeling which was exacerbated by a less than optimal journey from Truro to Worcester courtesy of Virgin Trains and First Great Western. Would my processing still be 'ragged', would I totally lose my place in the Eucharist and drop all my music on the floor to the consternation of choir, clergy and congregation, would I perform any ad hoc solo entries? Happily none of these events came to pass and the warm welcome from other choir members soon put me at ease.

What followed was a weekend full of wonderful music my enjoyment of which was enhanced by our inspirational Director, Peter Leech, who did so much more than the role of Director normally encompasses; information about singing technique, music theory, Italian pronunciation, history and context all came as an added bonus as well as his vignettes of esteemed musicians using his excellent acting and mimicry skills. Peter's encouraging style was much appreciated; the phrase 'we'll come back to that later' achieves so much more than 'we'll do that phrase over and over again until you get it right' and we enjoyed being thanked for our efforts.

We hope that we did justice to Peter's beautiful Versicles & Responses as he so rarely hears them sung. We also hope that we indulged Peter's passion for the Venetian 'B Team' member Marini, he did look pleased at the end of the Magnificat and we like to think he wasn't just being kind to us.

We were very well accommodated at Worcester University; the fodder was good and plentiful. Some of us also indulged ourselves by going out to dinner on Sunday evening - photos of chocolate puddings to follow. We will probably have to accept that the beds young student bodies find comfortable might not be so for our less youthful frames!’ 

Ann wasn’t alone in her appreciation for Peter’s directorial skills. In the feedback that Ann Readman has collated (and can be found on the St Hugh website) there are comments such as: ‘One of the best Directors we have had; He must come again; Informative, committed, stimulating; Extremely sound musically; Enthusiasm and insight; Inspirational; Workshop approach; Sensitivity’. Other high points of the weekend include the number of new singers – 6 in total and all have expressed an interest in coming again; the quality of the singing – members thought the choir was sounding much better than it has done for a while; and the friendliness of the choir. Despite the lack of a bar on site, we managed to socialise very successfully.

A gift from the Worcester clergy

Gerald Burton (tenor and co-founder of St Hugh Singers)

When the St Hugh Singers started out, cathedral deans and chapters were not used to receiving visiting choirs. In fact at the summer meetings it was sometimes hard to find any canon at all who would admit to taking responsibility for what was going on. Not so at Worcester at the beginning of September, when the members of the chapter were very friendly, expressed their thanks to us and meant it.

Even so, it was a pleasant surprise when to mark our contribution we were presented, in the cloisters after Sunday evensong, with a reproduction of folio 11r of the Worcester Antiphoner of c. 1230. It shows the last part of the Advent Antiphons and is also part of the modern-day carol O come, O come Emmanuel. As St Hugh does not have a physical headquarters, I have custody of the gift at present – even though I had taken care to be at the far end of the visiting choir and could barely see it being handed to Joyce.

In due course someone else can take a turn in looking after it. I am reminded of the actress Dame Edith Evans who, decades ago when it was possible for someone not outrageously rich still to do such a thing, bought a small painting by Renoir. When she had some friends round, she showed it to them. She had hung it very close to the floor. Why, asked one of the friends, was it hanging in this odd position? She replied, ‘There was a hook …’

Last meeting of the St Hugh administration committee

The St Hugh administration committee met at the end of the Worcester weekend and the following points were agreed:

  • Name badges are to be used on future weekends especially now that we are welcoming so many new singers.

  • We will run through procedures (spoken parts of the service, standing, sitting, lining up, carrying folders and processing) at the start of the weekend, again to help new singers.

  • We would relax our over-50s policy but with certain restrictions. New applicants over fifty will still be welcomed but they must be prepared to demonstrate their vocal ability, and anyone recommending a new member over the age of fifty must be able to vouch for them.

  • We would also relax our restriction on under-18s therefore be able to invite children of many of our current singers and so nurture the future St Hugh Singers. This change will, however, mean that all parties must sign the Child Protection Self-Declaration form every three years. This was begun at Worcester and a list of signatories is now being kept securely. Any under-18s must be accompanied by a guardian who is also singing. Trebles won’t be accepted for musical reasons. Invitations will continue to be sent to adult members only but they can add any children to their registration form.

  • Our list of Directors would be expanded and recent recommendations were added.

  • We would try to book the August bank holiday in 2009 so that we can include a special celebratory dinner for the St Hugh Singer’s 30th anniversary on the Sunday evening. Salisbury Cathedral was our first choice followed by York Minister then Exeter. [Editor’s note: York has been booked but unfortunately we were unable to secure the Bank Holiday weekend. We hope however that this won’t stop a large number of past and present members coming together on the Sunday evening to celebrate this impressive landmark.]

Members’ news

From Ian Walker – ‘It may be of interest for the newsletter to know that my daughter, Jenny, who sang with St Hugh on a number of occasions, was married in July 2004 and is now Jenny Chamberlain. She and Anthony live in Sydney (Australia!) and have a baby daughter, Rachael. Jenny hasn’t had time for singing. She has been studying for around 3 years and has just qualified as a Chartered Certified Accountant (as has Anthony), which has kept her busy! Once Rachael is a little older I suspect that she might take it up again.’

From Fiona Care – ‘I can now add the letters DipABRSM to my name! It was a performer’s diploma (flute) and the first of three diploma levels, but I'm not sure I want to go through another exam! I also get a hood with the diploma, so you might see that at the next St Hugh weekend!’

Malcolm Hollis became a grandfather for the first time on 11 November. His eldest daughter had a boy weighing 8lb 2oz so as you can imagine, Malcolm has been busy taking lots of photographs.

Rachel Rodrigo (soprano) gave birth to her second son in the autumn. He has been named Arian and we’re pleased to report that both mother and baby are doing well.

And finally …

If you know of any good singers – especially tenors and altos – experienced in singing church choral music who would like to join us at Rochester please ask them to contact either Joyce Martin or Hilary Spurgeon to discuss joining arrangements (see invitation letter for contact details).
Please send news items to Joyce Martin, tel: 02476 715355 or email:

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