ACF 2018 Report

107 singers attended the Area Choirs Festival at St Albans Cathedral on 13th October. Numbers being rather fewer than in previous years, the event was moved to the Quire, though this made for a much more cohesive and relaxed atmosphere.

Under the expert direction of Andrew Lucas, with Tom Winpenny at the organ, repertoire was drawn from this year’s RSCM King of Glory, King of Peace service book, covering a wide range from Renaissance to near-contemporary. Singers were provided with a copy of this excellent 186 page resource as part of the modest attendance fee and were enabled to purchase further copies for their choir libraries at cost price via the Area Committee, which represents a considerable saving for participating choirs. The Cathedral Choir, which led the event, also sang The Lord is my Shepherd by Lennox Berkeley.

During the service, certificates were presented to recent successful candidates in the Dean’s Award and Bishop’s Award. Hugh Morris, the new Director of the RSCM, came to present two Gold Medals to choristers from All Saints, Leighton Buzzard, and a Certificate of Special Service to Chris Muhley.

A selection of photographs from the event is reproduced below.

Your Committee was heartened by the generally positive response of the feedback forms which were received, though deeply disappointed at numbers attending, which were less than half the usual footfall (the more so as these included ten singers from choirs outside our area in Essex and Bristol, attracted by the notice in The Network). We had attempted to respond to previous comments that the spring or early summer are not favoured for the occasion, yet this change of date (constrained to some extent by the availability of the Cathedral during the autumn) did not generate any reaction from those who had expressed a previous preference for this time of the year, and seems to have put others off. As a result, a very substantial financial deficit was incurred, which severely constrains our financial resources for events in 2019.

Feedback about the service book and repertoire was almost entirely favourable; the only significant downside was from younger singers about encountering an item in Latin.

We noticed from the feedback forms that hardly any choirs had rehearsed the repertoire in their own churches, nor used it in their routine work. As the footfall for the regional rehearsals had only been just over half of those participating on the day, this meant that a large proportion of singers came without any prior preparation. This is a factor which we shall ponder in discussing any future Festival.

Comment was passed by some respondents that award recipients should not need to wait two years to receive their certificates at a Festival, and that we should arrange presentations at interim events. However, it is very unlikely that the Bishop or Dean could attend such occasions, even if recipients did (which on the evidence of the past two years is very questionable), and this step would only reduce even further the numbers attending to receive certificates from them at the Festival (there were only eight in each category present this year).

Given these issues, which reinforce disappointing numbers and financial losses at all other events during 2018, your Committee is anxious to hold conversations which will guide our future planning. We are therefore holding an open meeting early in the New Year to discuss a way forward for future events which will attract better support. This will take the form of an informal meeting at The Harpenden Arms in Harpenden on Tuesday 8th January from 8pm. The Harpenden Arms is on the corner of the High Street and Station Road, and within easy walking distance of Harpenden station.

We should be delighted to see RSCM members, choir directors and other interested people there for a get-together and a New Year drink.