Our members sing at Carnegie Hall

In February 2018 TCS took up the invitation to join choirs from around the world to perform MOZART’S REQUIEM in this world famous venue.  Alys Gunstone takes up the story.

In 2017 we received an invitation from the Distinguished Concerts International  New York organisation after their scouts heard us perform the Mozart requiem that April. A group of 13 choir members decided to accept the invitation, and in February 2018 we travelled to New York for four days of intense rehearsals held in the ballroom of a Manhattan hotel, and directed by Dr Jamie Meaders, the conductor. We rehearsed the Mozart Requiem together with choirs from Germany, Holland, the UK and with several from Canada and the USA, 174 people in total, creating a massed sound that brought great satisfaction to every singer.

The concert was performed at the prestigious Carnegie Hall with four soloists and full orchestra, and then followed by other choirs singing the Durufle Requiem to which we were able to listen from the highest seats in the gallery. Carnegie Hall suffers from a punishing superfluity of stairs, and as we emerged outside afterwards snowflakes whirled around our exhausted heads, but it was a tremendous experience which we would not have missed for the world.

50 Years of loyal membership

Barbara Hastilow reminisces with fellow Alto Gwyn Flitters on the occasion of her retirement in April 2017

When I joined the then Taunton Choral and Madrigal Society in September 1967, the choir was rather unbalanced. Not only was there a lack of tenors but there were only about nine altos. New sopranos were being auditioned, but altos were let in un-tested.  Having a dread of auditions I decided to take the easy way and that is how I became an alto!

That December we did a performance called “The Bible in Speech and Song”, with the speech provided by the well-known BBC announcer Stuart Hibberd. That brought in a big audience. We sang mostly excerpts from “The Messiah ”  but also Kalinnikov’s  “Beatitudes” A very young Linda Marshall was the soprano soloist, her first of many appearances with the society.

Entrance by programme:     2/6……what’s that …….12 p ?

In those early days we often got students from the Royal College of Music as soloists, some of whom have gone on to make their careers as singers. I remember Neil Jenkins, Neil Mackie, Della Jones and Brian Rayner-Cook and in February 1991 a majestic performance of Elijah from Bryn Terfel. The Gazette critic wrote, “ the finest I have heard. ”   The choir and orchestra rose to the occasion and that was a memorable and exciting evening.  After that we could not afford his fee, but he became our Patron.

Over these 50 years we have performed a wide variety of works.  For large ones such as Bach’s  Mass in B minor  and  Verdi’s Requiem, we sometimes joined with another choral society, such as Somerset Opera Group or Tiverton and West Somerset Singers.  We also sang smaller and more unusual pieces, on at least two occasions having the composer present.

With regard to the Directors I have sung under, John Cole stands out. I remember singing Dvorak’s Stabat Mater with a different conductor and enjoying it, but John somehow made it more beautiful. I had more memorable and exciting performances with him than with anyone else.

Over that 50 year period, the Choral Society has sung over 90 works,(some several times) not counting anthems. We have sung in Latin, Hebrew, German and pseudo-Russian, and in places other than Taunton, e.g. Wells Cathedral, Tiverton,  Milverton   and Wiveliscombe.    In one way or another, a very good mixture and lots of happy memories.