A Special 'Thank-You' from Richard

A Big Thank You

Very many thanks to you all for the superb presents you gave Chris and me on 11 December. There were in fact three gifts – tickets [and lunch] for a performance of Cirque du Soleil in the Royal Albert Hall, a marvellous photo of the whole choir which was taken last June, and a large cheque! Any one of those would have been well received, but THREE?!!

Of course as you can imagine it started me thinking about my time in the role of chairman and I slept very little on Tuesday night as a result. I was searching my mind for the highlights and lowlights during those intervening 15 years, as well as the fun and frolics.

The Music

Early memories include a real change of gear into the fast lane when we decided that our audience levels were becoming more and more secure giving us the confidence in the year 2000 to take a leap of faith and hope they would support us in a venture as far away as Dewsbury when we were to perform Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the mighty Willard White as soloist. We needn’t have worried because with a good deal of moneyraising specifically for this event together with a very appreciative audience we made a profit!!

Following this we decided we were good enough to take the challenge to Huddersfield Choral Society when messages came through that ordinary folk couldn’t get tickets for their performances of Messiah in Huddersfield Town Hall. We had conquered Dewsbury Town Hall – could we compete and give the people of North Kirklees [and our own supporters] something to shout about? Yes we could and for five years until 2005 it was looking good, then one committee member said “if we keep on losing £5000 on Messiah every year we’ll be bankrupt by 2008” – what a prophetic statement to make as we now know it. And with that ringing in our ears we had to pull back from the brink – it was good while it lasted - although it wasn’t the last of our performances in Dewsbury!!

A change of tack was fast approaching, and other influencing factors were;

  • Classic FM had by this time really taken hold, changing the face of music where sound bites were more important rather than whole works.

  • The habits of the populous in North Kirklees were also changing and Western Classical Music was not exactly flavour of the month.

  • Our Wakefield audience were beginning to buck the trend.

So where did we place our energies, well we had been successful with an early performance of Fanshawe’s African Sanctus in 2001, and again in 2004, so maybe there might be a niche market elsewhere?!! We hooked on to Karl Jenkins’ music and in 2005 performed his Armed Man and Carol Orff’s Carmina Burana in Huddersfield Town Hall – there we were again right under the noses of HCS and we almost filled the hall. Of course we did the right thing by inviting the HCS President as one of our guests and their Junior Choir performed with us on stage. That reminds me of a very funny incident when, with 57 members of the orchestra on stage one of the percussionists [the pretty one] couldn’t find a way from the front of the stage to her pitch. She was called over by the front row of hefty basses [‘coz they like pretty ones] sitting behind the percussion section, and they gently lowered her into position as if going down a manhole to inspect the sewers!!!

This was the beginning of a love affair with Jenkins and I think we have performed all his major works as they have hit the market place culminating of course with The Peacemakers this coming June.

All the while we were still dipping in and out of Dewsbury, we were still performing the traditional music of Faure, Elgar, Haydn, Bach, Handel, Stainer, Rutter et al, but the YPC began to look outside the box a little bit more.

  • We decided to institute an annual July concert of brass and voices with music to suit a summer’s evening

  • In November 2007 we promoted our first ‘Last Night of the Proms’ – well everyone else was doing it!

  • In 2008 we stumbled across a jazz mass by Will Todd

  • In June of that year we collaborated with Harrogate Choral Society and the Manchester Camerata in a magnificent performance of Verdi’s Requiem in Leeds Town Hall – and made a profit!

Elgar, Handel, Fanshawe, Haydn, Vivaldi and Poulenc kept popping up but then in March 2010 we really pushed the boat out and sang the 1610 Vespers [Monteverdi] with authentic instruments and Her Majesty’s Sackbuts and Cornetts. Then in complete contrast we gave the world premiere of Jonathan Bielby’s ‘This Precious Earth’, a somewhat eclectic piece with one section being devoted to 5 minutes worth of improvisation on a didgeridoo!! These two concerts thrilled our audiences and the cathedral was bursting at the seams on both occasions.

There was another ‘Last Night of the Proms’ in November 2010 and then suddenly ‘Rio Grande’ found its way into the programme planning, together with another jazz mass – this time by Bob Chilcott.