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Silver Jubilee for Singers



Hethersett Singers celebrated 50 years of existence with a special anniversary concert in St Remigius Church featuring Brahms German Requiem and Faure's Cantique de Jean Racine.

Below we delve into the history of the group with special thanks to Duncan Pigg for providing much of the information and the Singers for allowing it to be reproduced.

Hethersett Singers began life as Hethersett Musical Society in 1961. It originated from an ad hoc concert given by the Hethersett Church choir and some members of the Methodist Church. It was agreed that the group should meet again and be a little more ambitious.

Their next production was a concert version of the Mikado. The organisation of the society was left in the hands of the Rev D.J Turner - who was the conductor - and Vera Alborough who was the church organist. The Mikado was sung on April 19th, 1961 in Hethersett Village Hall (now the Social Club). Amongst the soloists were Bob Richardson, Duncan Pigg, Ray Alborough, Peter Salter, Roger Mapes, Laura Dann, Vera and Edna Alborough, Susan Cowell and Pat Newman.

In 1966 the organisation of the Society became more formal and the first AGM was held. The Rector of Hethersett, Rev L. R. Kingsbury, was elected president, Bob Richardson was elected chairman and George James was appointed Musical Director.

Over the years the choir has performed a wide variety of music and been accompanied on occasions by guest orchestras and soloists. The group has also joined forces on occasion with other Norwich choirs, sung at the wedding of a choir member, sung carols in Norwich shopping malls and for the past two years taken part in the charity fair held just before Christmas in the Methodist Church.

The Singers currently perform two concerts a year - one in Spring and one in Autumn. Membership is not restricted to residents of Hethersett and new members are always welcome.

A list of musical directors over the 50 years is as follows:

Rev D. J. Turner
George James
Ivan Cane
Thomas Corfield
Anthony Blyth
Charles Parsons
Judith Evans
Nicola Parslow
Phillip Bell
Neil Taylor
Chris Bell
Chris Duarte
Anthony Bussell
Jason Collins
Neil Ricketts

Choir members for the 50th anniversary concert were: Jilly Baines, Sue Banning, Paul Binney. Marion Blake, Susan Foster, Anna Groom, Jan Halford, John Halford, John Hobday, Margaret Hobday, Michael Hughes, Paula Hughes, June McKrell, Barbara Powell, Luciana Ravina, Julia de Salis, Helen Savelli, Ane Sesma, Elizabeth Skoda, Jean Smith, Rosemary Thompson, Tricia Townshend, Phil Walters, Hilary Watkins, Helen West, Chris Williams, Mary Youngs.

The choir was conducted by Neil Ricketts and featured Ed Ballard (Baritone) and June Harrison (Soprano). Guest organist was David Dunnett.

To find out more about Hethersett Singers ring Margaret on 01603 810449 or Susan on 07949 533253. The group can also be e-mailed by clicking here.

Below we reproduce the notes used by Duncan Pigg to introduce the evening. Once again grateful thanks to Duncan for allowing us to reproduce these:

"May I first thank the Hethersett Singers for inviting me to say a few words about the Hethersett Musical Society out of which came the Hethersett Singers. To ask a person of my age to be nostalgic and be given a captive audience is a bit dangerous, but I'll try not to go on too long.

In 1960 Rev Douglas Turner was Rector. He was a very talented musician and we also had Vera Alborough, an excellent and enthusiastic organist and choirmaster. It was a time for making music and so in May that year they decided to join the Church Choir with the Methodist Choir to give a concert in aid of the British and Foreign Bible Society. It was a great success and the participants asked if they could do something together again and it was agreed that we should perform a concert version of the Mikado in 1961.

Now 50 years ago the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company were very strict about their copyright. One way to avoid the difficulties was to form a Society and for some of its members to perform to the rest, only members of the Society could be present, of course there was a subscription to become a member and attend the meetings.

I quote from the church magazine:

"Concert performance of the Mikado given by members of the Hethersett Musical Society in the Village Hall on 19th April. One hundred and eight people have joined the Society."

The Village Hall was what is now the Social Club. How we packed 180 people in I don't know. The soloists, some of whom are here this evening, were Peter Salter, Michael Woolner, Susan Prutton (then Susan Cowell) and myself. Those no longer with us were Bob Richardson with his wonderful deep bass voice, Roger Mapes and Vera Alborough. The conductor was the Rector Douglas Turner and accompanist was Mrs Joan Singleton, a little lady dressed all in black with a black hat, she didn't look the part but she was a professional accompanist in the London Musical World and could make the piano talk and, because of connections, was prepared to come to Norfolk to play for us for many years.

In 1994 we changed the name to Hethersett Choral Society and in more recent years to Hethersett Singers.

During the last 50 years the Society has had 15 Musical Directors, too many to mention all of them, but here are a few. George James was the first after the rector. He was a lay clerk at the Cathedral and had operatic experience with G & S and D'Oyly Cart. Ivan Cane with his orchestral interest brought Orchestras into our performance and Tom Corfield, organ scholar at the Cathedral, cut his conducting teeth on us. Tom was an innocent youth in all but his music. The ladies of the chorus mothered him! Tom is now Assistant Organist in Derby Cathedral. Charles Parsons introduced us into Lehar - the Merry Widow and the early 1900 musicals.

Neil Taylor was with the Society longer than any other director while he was assistant organist and later acting organist at Norwich Cathedral. His "Come and Sing Messiah" at the week long Hethersett Music Festival, in which he played a full part, is remembered with much pleasure. Neil is now organist at Sheffield Cathedral.

The Society has always had a Cathedral connection and it is good to see David Dunnett here this evening.

I could name so many who have made significant contributions to the Society - Lorna Richardson, Brian Hartley, Vera Alborough, Don Powell, Philip Bell and countless others. It has always been well served by rehearsal accompanists, as with their present accompanist Rita Berchem.

Lastly, you'll be pleased to hear, some of the vanues at which performances have taken place. Here of course at St Remigius, at the Methodist Church where I remember a Bach Christmas Oratorio with an orchestra of 24 including 3 trumpets situated about six feet away from the front row of the audience. It was quite a squeeze.

Other venues included Old Hall School, the old and new Village Halls, the Church Hall, the Middle School and outside the village at both Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals, Wroxham Parish Church, Eaton Parish Church and in the 70s a performance of Yeoman of the Guard at Felthorpe where our fame must have gone before us for the audeince consisted of the two ladies who invited us, three ladies who were preparing the cups of tea for the interval and two ladies and one gentleman who paid to come to the performance. I make that an audience of eight!

Let me finish on a more cheerful note. Hethersett has always been a music making village and how grateful we are for the Hethersett Singers' continuing tradition.