Jubilee – Christopher Bowen – Kent Broadhead

Evelyne, Jill, Clare and Terry have spoken about the history of the choir, and formally about Chris’s contributions over the last two decades. Celia and I would like to speak about what it’s meant to be part of the choir with Chris.

I recall turning up to the Great Hall 20 years ago, after a work colleague had been suggesting for a while I join the choir he sang with. I watched for a while and – can you believe, given Chris must have been pretty stressed for his first performance conducting the choir! – that it would be OK to head along and join the Grads.

So I headed along to the Garrison Church Hall that first Monday night to find a young(ish) enthusiastic conductor working hard to get to know a largely older choir and challenge them to “loosen up”. It was great to come along, throw your $3 or $4 in the bucket and have a good sing before (for some of us) heading to the pub for a good natter, with regular newsletter envelope stuffing thrown in. Chris would always give his views on some of the great works we may be able to sing in the future, and I think many thought “yes Chris, will we ever reach that standard?” and “how will we ever afford these things?”

But Chris was announcing his determination, sowing the seeds for the choir’s artistic growth, and challenging an already venerable organisation to change to ensure it has a solid organisational and financial future.

I referred earlier to “loosening us up”. It has taken some, well, interesting turns. Just this rehearsal period we’ve pretended to be storks or cranes (I never quite worked out which) balanced on one foot posing with our hands – well, like that.

Silly voices.

Opening our chests.

Approaching people in supermarkets and shouting “wah” in their faces. And, as you were watching warily for security, trying to explain that you were just a poor, quiet chorister who didn’t mean any harm.

Chris has a lot of embarrassment to answer for!

Performance presents its challenges, and the final rehearsals are always stressful. “Just one more rehearsal” has been a constant refrain from Chris – he’s right, but look what we achieve with the time we have, especially at today’s dress rehearsal!!

But what of the events during our concerts that have been outside of Chris’s control?

Imagine a pencil. Imagine a pencil sitting the accompanist’s piano. Imagine that pencil falling into the piano. Imagine the piano jamming, the concert stopping and the piano being disassembled and reassembled before the concert can restart.

Imagine Chris’s reaction.

The sound of Christmas fireworks outside – they’ve been opportune at some moments, and a total frustration at others

And then Heavenly percussion support providing thunderous emphasis for critical passages of Bach and Faure!

And Chris challenging us through it all with, if not good humour, at least a resigned forbearance.

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