In 1997 a music colleague of Richard asked him: ‘Could you get a choir together for a liturgical performance of Byrd’s Mass for four voices?’ Richard asked the most experienced members of his choir Stour Singers to select themselves, which they duly did, and with the aid of a further tenor we sang the Mass in St. Edmund’s Church, Shipston.
We were very keen to continue singing, so we formed a madrigal group, rehearsing in Richard’s home. This soon led to concerts, but most audiences find a diet of just renaissance madrigals and motets somewhat indigestible, so we leavened the diet with Victorian and Edwardian partsongs and anthems by composers such as Elgar and Stanford, and readings from Anne Hume and Three’s Company. The audiences demanded yet more ‘lightness’, so we turned joyfully to songs by Cole Porter, Jerome Kern et al – and it set Richard to work arranging them. As new and yet more experienced members joined, they brought their own enthusiasms, so Finzi and MacMillan became part of the ever-broadening mix.
The need for a good rehearsal room loomed large for several years. For instance, at the otherwise lovely and welcoming Long Compton Junior School we sat with knees under our chins on chairs designed for 7-year-olds. Eventually we found a real home at the Catholic Parish Centre in Shipston.
We have sung for Stratford and Shipston Music Societies, at Compton Verney Art Gallery – and Shipston Proms of course; but we mostly find ourselves singing in rural churches, some of which have wonderful acoustics. We have chains of events like the Mass in Stow-on-the Wold that led to a concert in Icomb that led to one in Bledington.
Most venues ask for a ‘light’ concert, but occasionally Richard gets a treat when someone asks for a lots of madrigals and motets!