An anniversary year for an Exeter Choir and its conductor

Exeter Choral Society is celebrating its 75th anniversary year in 2018, but it’s also a landmark year in my association with the choir as it’s Musical Director.

In 1943 a singing group was founded in Whipton, on the outskirts of Exeter. The Whipton Choral Society (as it became known) was renamed the Exeter Choral Society in 2005, and now in 2018 is celebrating its 75th birthday. You can find out more about the choir and its concerts in Exeter (a Handel/Haydn/Mozart affair in May 2018, and Mendelssohn’s dramatic “Elijah” in December 2018) on their website.

Spring 2018 also marked the 10th anniversary of my own beginnings with the society, and as I reflect on those years (and how quickly they’ve flown by) I have come to realise that I have a lot to be thankful for.

A cup of tea, a piece of cake, and a deal done

I can’t recall exactly how it all came about, but I remember a telephone conversation with David, a trustee of the Exeter Choral Society, and the beginnings of discussions about whether I might be interested in taking the choir on from September, with their own Musical Director due to step down.

Graduation from the University of Exeter was the previous summer, and I was keen to continue to develop the skills learned from working with the University Singers, so we arranged to meet up over a cup of tea (how very English) at the splendid Tea on the Green by Exeter Cathedral.

I really don’t remember much about the conversation, other than it being supported by caffeine and nice cake. I had virtually no experience working with adult choirs, there was really no need for talk of budget (there wasn’t much money anyway), and no requirement for any further action, other than the sign-off from the choir’s committee and a chance to meet everyone at a rehearsal. I did manage to end up committing myself to singing tenor in the choir’s May concert that year (coincidentally the performance included Mozart’s “Coronation Mass”which featured on the May 2018 programme), and my time with Exeter Choral Society had begun.

There have been some really wonderful experiences over the years, with the choir giving valuable experience of conducting so many wonderful works for the first time, including Handel “Messiah”, Mendelssohn “St Paul”, Brahms “Requiem”, Mozart “Mass in C minor” and so many more.

Here’s to the future, and to many more years of music making.