I was fortunate enough to attend a rehearsal of Take Note, Peterborough’s community choir, about three weeks ago. The occasion was a distinctly happy one and I was genuinely impressed by the warm and welcoming attitude of everyone I met.
One lady told me, ‘I come here for a complete change from my job, to chat to new friends I’ve made, and to sing my heart out.’ Surely an admirable summary of everything a community choir should be offering its members.
There are no auditions to join the 50-strong group, no one is ever turned away, and the choir contains people of all ages, including one or two in wheelchairs.
Conducting Take Note is Adam Wills Begley, a dynamic young musician from the States who’s currently doing a Master’s at Cambridge and who has a way of making rehearsals fun and getting results at the same time.
At the piano is James Bowstead, for several years organ scholar at Peterborough Cathedral, and half of a snappy and thoroughly professional team.
On Saturday at the Queen Katharine Academy we saw and heard the fruits of their labours in a varied concert entitled Love Songs Through the Ages.
At the end of each of the dozen short numbers the sizeable audience burst into thunderous applause, and no wonder. And that wasn’t a pun on Stevie Wonder’s ebullient hit Signed, Sealed, Delivered which ended the concert!
Other highlights were Carolina Pines, where sopranos and altos produced a rich, rounded tone, As Time Goes By, made famous in the classic film Casablanca, and I Will, one of the Beatles’ most lyrical songs.
As if all this wasn’t enough there was also a major contribution of six substantial songs by choirs from Ken Stimpson School under their conductor Robin Norman.
Robin is another musician who knows how to get results, and the most obvious feature of both the unaccompanied and full choirs was how well-prepared they were.
Singing from memory the girls, plus a sprinkling of boys, produced a mellifluous tone while confidently strutting around the stage in well-choreographed formations, clapping and finger-clicking as they went. The changing textures ranged from unison to four-parts in songs like Stand By Me, Somewhere, and How Far I’ll Go. Not to mention some pretty, pure-toned solos from Hollie Atkins, Sophie Hardy, and Steph Pullen.
Earlier in another solo James Bowstead played a groovy Street Tango by Astor Piazzolla. This rarely played piece which incorporates a waltz made an effective contrast to the songs and was played with relentless virtuosity.
REVIEW: JOE CONWAY