Stithians St. Stythians Male Voice Choir Cornwall, UK


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Review of 2009......................BACK TO PRESENT

The period from the beginning of January to the end of March is usually a time when, to the outside world, it appears that the Choir is having a rest. This is an illusion. Some pretty serious practising, often twice a week and the Annual General Meeting involve quite a bit of work behind the scenes. Practising served two purposes this year - the learning of new pieces and the preparation for two festival competitions. The AGM was held on 24th January to the usual format and the Choir officers continued as last year with Frank Hugo as Chairman. We decided to review our honorary appointments list to recognise exceptional service to the Choir. This had not been done for many years. The result was the appointment of an Honorary President and seven Honorary Vice-Presidents. Ken Downing was made Honorary President for 45 years service to the Choir, including 10 years as Secretary and 22 years as Musical Director. In the latter role he has become known and respected throughout the County and has encouraged and led the Choir's participation in county, national and international events. New Honorary Vice-Presidents were: Kathryn Baldry, David Dower, John Dower, Peter Gould, Howard Jones, Garnet Martin and Stan Stephens. The awards were made at the Annual Dinner which was held at the Green Lawns Hotel in Falmouth on 21st February. Our guests of honour were the Reverend Danny Reed and his wife Sarah. Fred Cock and Chris Dunstan received certificates from the Cornwall Federation of Male Voice Choirs for 40 years service to singing in Cornwall. Several awards for long-service to our Choir were given, the longest being to David Dower for 30 years service.

Festivals and competitions
Encouraged by Ken Downing and supported by a substantial majority vote - we are democratic - we subjected ourselves to the rocky road to self-improvement. First came the County Music Festival in Truro on 13th March. We won the Male Voice Choir trophy in the senior class - but being the only male choir competing we shall not make a fuss about this. A very pleasing outcome, however, was our mark of 90 points. It was also a pleasure to compete with the delightful Mabe Ladies, our own Stithians Ladies and Dres Kernow Harmony Chorus, a Ladies Barbershop group. We were ranked second but lost to Dres Kernow in a sing-off for the Championship award. Our next engagement was a friendly concert at Edgecombe Chapel on 22nd March. This was another chance to unleash our competition pieces on an unsuspecting (but very appreciative) audience.
Then it was time to play with the big boys. The major event of the Male singing year in 2009 was the Fourth Cornwall International Male Choral Festival centred in Truro - almost 40 concerts from St. Just to Bude and some workshops and symposia. We hosted a Regional Gala Concert at Newquay Methodist Church on 30th April with the Hermitage Ensemble (St. Petersburg, Russia), Alcester MVC and The Men of Good Fortune (Cornwall) - with an afterglow at Newquay Sports Centre. Both went well and the latter gave us a chance to experience the superb Hermitage choir in informal vein (i.e. holding glasses of beer). Our major effort was the competition for choirs of 41 or more singers in the Hall for Cornwall on Saturday 2nd May. Following weeks of practice - the last one being a warm-up upstairs in the HfC - then, a few minutes later, we were bathed in flood-lights facing an audience of 600. We had 12 minutes to show a jury of four internationally respected professionals that we are worth listening to…… we were placed sixth. We congratulate Four Lanes MC on winning our class, Eight in a Bar for winning the 40 and under class, and the Boys Choir of Dubna (Moscow) - the Festival Champions. These boys came 2000 miles in a bus! It was a privilege to hear them when they reached All Saints' Church, Falmouth on 3rd May.

The Summer Season
We managed to find our way to Crowan on 17th May for a concert in this beautiful village and church. Susan Lancaster was our soloist and she gave her usual lovely performance, including a rendition of Little Jack Horner. This must have impressed our Musical Director. We have purchased a full set of copies of the male voice version. There followed on 31st May a concert at St. Elwyn's Church, Hayle. This is part of a regular series run by the local Lions Club. The violin/piano duo, John and Rosemary Heard, were our guests. They had not played there with us before and we were all surprised how their sound was enriched and amplified by the acoustics of St. Elwyn's. The first of our Monday evening Patio Concerts at the Princess Pavilion in Falmouth was held on 15th June with the ever-popular Angela Thomas as soloist. We were blessed with a run of fine weather and it continued for our concert at Gwennap Church - one of the Music for a Summer Evening series (24th June). This concert series is very well supported and we were delighted to have young soprano, Laura Nicholas, as our soloist. Laura has very impressive range, power and tone and she wowed the audience. We wish her well at Cardiff School of Music. Our Summer Fete was held at the Princess Pavilion, Falmouth on 27th June. This venue makes for a fete that is independent of weather. This year the weather was superb - but ironically a sharp shower of rain would have helped to drive some customers off the beaches! However, we did as well as usual.

Handstand - the Marshall Janson Appeal
We hosted the City of Truro Male Choir in a joint concert at St. Michael's Church, Helston on 5th July. We donated the proceeds to Handstand - the Marshall Janson Appeal (for the little boy who suffered a severe meningitis attack last winter). The concert was a resounding musical success with the choirs singing separately and also singing four 'big' songs and hymns together. Alison Harvey, one of our regular soprano soloists, sang as beautifully as ever. Bruce Taylor of Miller Countrywide was compère. Expenses were minimal because we were treated generously by the Church and by the Helston Cricket Club (for the Afterglow). We are also grateful for support from Miller Countrywide and J C Williams (Furnishers) of Helston. The total raised for the appeal was more than £1250.

Battling the weather
We waxed lyrical about the glorious weather of May and June - and then things changed! - and July delivered ten times more rain than we saw in June. The Cornwall Boys' Choir were unable to sing at the Stithians Show on 13th July through illness. We were pleased to stand in for them - and hope that they will be able to perform there in 2010. We arrived in glorious evening sunshine following about 2 inches of rain throughout the show. This was a good concert - with the St. Stythians Band. The Reverend Aubyn de Gruchy chaired the proceedings. Next the Choir ran a stall at the Camborne Show on 18th July. We were lucky to be able to raise our tent and keep it on site. Some were not so lucky, having marquees blown away. Despite the weather, our tombola, plants and CD sales made a reasonable financial return. Our next concert was at the Heylfest (in Hayle) on 30th July. The organisers had to counteract the effects of more rain by laying tons of sand at the entrance of the playing field to allow access. Again, we arrived in glorious evening sunshine. This concert, ably compèred by John Pollard, combined the talents of Praze Hayle, Treverva and St. Stythians MVCs and the Heyl Band. It was an enjoyable event and a good opportunity to meet with members of our fellow Cornish choirs. Having tussled with tents and marquees through the 'summer', we were relieved to return to our Princess Pavilion concert series in Falmouth on Monday 17th August. Our guest artistes were the dialect comedy duo, Ivy Curnow and Bernard Trembath (known to their close friends as Heather Thomas and Ivor Bray) of Falmouth.

Norwegian and Welsh Choirs visit Cornwall for
the Choir's Annual Gala Concert

The Choir held its Annual Gala Concert at All Saints' Church, Falmouth on 12th September singing to a capacity audience. Our two guest choirs were Beaufort Male Choir from Ebbw Vale, South Wales and a Norwegian male choir - the Fuglset Mannskor from Molde, a small town on the fjord coast of western Norway near Trondheim. The Norwegian choir was taking a short holiday in Cornwall staying in St. Ives. Happily the dates coincided with that of the St. Stythians Gala concert. The concert involved the three choirs singing their own programmes separately. We then combined to form a choir of 110 singers for two songs to close the concert. The compère was Andrew Lancaster. During the interval, Terry Hodge, Chairman of the Cornish Federation of Male Voice Choirs, presented certificates marking 45 years of service to Cornish choirs to Ken Downing and David Wilkin, our Musical Director and Treasurer, respectively. Some of the wives of the Norwegian singers appeared in National costume, adding a splash of colour to the ranks of singers. The choirs celebrated this international exchange with an afterglow at the Falmouth Rugby Club. We raised £200 for Cornwall Hospice Care in a retiring collection. The concert was sponsored by J. C. Williams (Furnishers) Ltd and Bowden's Hardware, both of Helston. The concert was a great success musically, socially and financially.
Two days later we performed the last of the season's Princess Pavilion Patio Concerts in Falmouth, where Susan Lancaster was our soloist. We made another visit to Trewoon Village Hall, near St. Austell, on 4th October. Clay Country always gives us a warm and enthusiastic audience. Many of you will know Karen Hurn who has been our soloist many times. We were pleased to welcome the new generation - 12-year old Bromley Hurn, Karen's daughter, as our soloist. She delighted the audience with her performance. She is 'a chip off the not-so-old block'.

Camborne Music Festival
The Choir competed in the senior choir class of the Camborne Music Festival on Saturday 14th November. This was the 40th anniversary of the festival and was held at Centenary Methodist Church. We failed by 2 points to knock Four Lanes Male Choir off their perch - a closer result than last year. Mabe Ladies Choir, singing on the Wednesday, took overall honours. We congratulate the choir and its MD, Amanda Ward - noting that the roles were reversed at the County festival in March!

Our annual Carol Concert with the Stithians Ladies Choir at Stithians Methodist Church was held on Sunday 6th December. The choirs sang separately and jointly and led the audience in a selection of carols, including of course some of Thomas Merritt's carols. We also sang Lewis Pascoe's version of While shepherds watched … a tradition in Stithians. Lewis Pascoe was the first accompanist of the male choir in Stithians in the period 1913 to 1926. John Bennallick of St. Wenn was the compère and he delighted the audience with a series of dialect yarns. The concert raised over £300 for the Camborne/Redruth Stroke Club. We were at Carleen Village Hall on Sunday 13th December. This hall is relatively new. It has excellent facilities and good acoustics. Linda Beynon was our soloist, accompanied by Erin Pascoe. Martin Matthews was an excellent compère, reminding us of 'Christmas Past' in stories. The traditional Stithians Village Hall carols with the Ladies choir and the Band followed a few days later on 15th December. Two days after that we had an informal gathering at the Inn for All Seasons, Redruth to complete our Christmas Draw.
Our last turnout of the year was to Culdrose Community Centre on 18th December. This is becoming something of a tradition and the children of our service families look forward to it. This year we had two budding conductors ready and waiting to have a go. I counted 14 children singing with us at one point in the concert. "Would you like to have the words?" "No thanks - I'm in the Junior Choir at St. Michael's School. I know them all."