‘Tis (nearly) the season to be jolly!

Everyone loves Christmas and the Wessex Male Choir is no exception. Christmas trees, lights, presents, old films, presents, chocolates, presents, ugly Christmas jumpers, presents and of course, carols.

Most of us have grown up with fond memories of participating in school nativity plays and singing carols. Now, whilst we no longer get the chance to wear tea towels on our heads or pretend to be donkeys, cows and assorted animals in the manger, we can still sing carols – and occasionally wear silly hats….

Holyrood 2015 (17 of 20)

Let’s be honest, whilst presents are very important, nothing touches the soul like singing. Its ability to move you, to enchant, to captivate and to inspire is a gift like no other. Carols especially evoke the deepest, fondest memories, and if I hear Silent Night sung on Christmas Eve, I still surreptitiously steal a glance at the sky in case I can see Santa’s sleigh.

Christmas is a busy time for us and we eagerly look forward to preparing new concert material – usually beginning in late September. We are a fairly youthful choir, which has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, we are proud to have a blend and tone which is the envy of many of other choirs, allied with an appetite for taking on challenging new arrangements. However, as a young choir, many of us still work and have young families, which means that we are unable to fulfil each of the many requests we receive to perform at Christmas concerts. Our Christmas concerts are therefore relatively exclusive and this year, we are participating in just three events: with the Brize Norton Military Wives Choir at Carterton on the 15 December in aid of SSAFA: our own annual Wessex Christmas concert at the Multi Entertainment Cultural Arena (MECA) in Swindon on Thursday 21st December, and performing a set or two at the Swindon Wildcats game at the Link on the 9th December.

WMC Christmas 2017

Our festive repertoire for this year embraces sacred, traditional, and even Jewish pieces, so there is something for everyone! We have a blend of new pieces, and some old favourites, so if you want to listen to some beautiful new music and sing along with us too, our Christmas concerts are the place to be. Our course, there will be the opportunity to sing along to some of your favourite carols too.

Our concert programme includes:

The Gloucestershire Wassail (also known as the Cricklade Wassail), which has been specially arranged for the Choir by one of our choristers – Guy Edwards: Guy’s arrangement celebrates the traditional & cheerful Wassail whilst bringing a contemporary element, which will thrill all.

The vivacious “Hanukkah holiday” – a guaranteed crowd pleaser, accompanied by some lively “choralography:” Don’t forget your dreidels!

A rarely heard version of The First Noel which combines the traditional carol tune with the baroque favourite, Pachelbel’s Canon in D. This clever arrangement by Michael Clawson intertwines these two timeless works beautifully. It has been pronounced “a first-rate choral masterpiece, which has rapidly become a classic.” It features a three-hand piano accompaniment, but unless we can find a mutant accompanist; two hands will have to suffice.

We Three Kings was originally written by John Hopkins in 1857. Given its enduring its place in the canon of great tunes, I expect John was Welsh! We though, are singing an arrangement by Andy Beck, which has been described as..: “A dramatic choral introduction precedes a sizzling jazz waltz arranged with fresh contemporary chords, driving rhythmic intensity, and original, school-appropriate lyrics. Enjoy the new “star of wonder” melody, paired with an awesome descending chromatic line, and rejoice in the easy-on-the-voice, impressive-on-the-ears jazzy twists!” Beautiful. And that’s just the description!

And Can it Be is a Christian hymn originally written by Charles Wesley in the early 18th century to celebrate his conversion. The original tune was written in a traditional Methodist style similar to those written by his elder brother John Wesley. Dan Forrest has arranged a stunning contemporary interpretation of the tune containing subtle quotes from the original.

The Wessex Camerata (our chamber group) will be performing the beautiful Es Ist Ein Rose Entsprungen, a beautiful old German carol, traditionally associated with the start of Christmas and evoking the wonder and hope of Christ’s birth as prophesied by Isaiah.

PUK Christmas 2015 (13 of 16)

The Wessex Camerata will also be singing an arrangement by Ruth Schram of Personent Hodie,  a much-loved Christmas carol originally published in 1582 in the Finnish song book Piae Cantiones.

As Dylan Thomas wrote in from his poem A Child’s Christmas in Wales:

‘One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.’

If Christmas holds fond memories for you too, come and celebrate them with us.

-DL.

You can order tickets online now from www.ticketsource.co.uk/wessex-male-choir

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Do you need money?

Would you like a cheque for £1500? £1800? £2500?

Okay, it’s a daft question, we all need money, but specifically, do you need money for a special cause? Maybe the church roof needs repairing, or you support a major charity or health organization? Maybe you’ve held coffee mornings to fund a playgroup, or completed a sponsored event to raise money for a hospice or local food-bank? Maybe you knit woolly hats for llamas.   Whatever your favourite cause, the chances are it needs fundraisers like you to help it carry out the valuable work it does.  So would you like a cheque for £1500,  £1800, or £2500 for your cause?

WMC at Wembley Poppy Launch 2016Launching last year’s RBL Poppy Appeal at Wembley in front of 80,000 fans

Working with local promoters, our two most recent concerts raised about £1500 (for the Royal British Legion in Cirencester) and £1800 for the Lechlade Village Hall Fund.   At St Mary’s Church in Fairford a few years ago, our concert raised £2500 for the church appeal. So what’s the secret of their success?

The key to the success for such concerts is YOU. We can put on a fantastic show for you, but without YOUR network of contacts, friends, family, and supporters, we cannot generate an audience. The Wessex Male Choir is based in Swindon where we are well known and have an enthusiastic following, but in the towns and villages away from Swindon, we don’t have the same connections, so this is where you, as a local promoter, can make all the difference.   If you have got a good network or a popular cause, then selling enough tickets for a concert to make a handsome profit, should not be a problem.

We have organized countless concerts over the years and we have put together a handy Guide to Promoting a Concert which tells you all you need to know about organizing a successful event – and we offer it free to any potential concert promoter.  (Ask Stuart for a copy concerts@wessexmalechoir.co.uk).   We’re also happy to help out in other ways (for example, we can offer a free poster design service – and we have contacts with very reasonably priced local printers). We can even help you sell tickets online. We have our own staging, amplification, and lighting (if required) so you needn’t worry about any of that.

PUK Christmas 2015 (16 of 16)The Wessex Male Choir at a charity fundraiser for Parkinson’s UK in Southwark RC Cathedral, along with Jenni Murray, Jane Hill, and Jane Asher, and PUK Chief Executive, Steve Ford.

Successful promoters try hard to keep costs to a minimum, and in particular, if you have free use of a good venue, then that’s a huge advantage.   Most churches, schools, and community centres have reasonable hire rates, and may even provide the venue free of charge if the cause is one that is close to their hearts.

The Wessex Male Choir is one of the UK’s leading male choirs and has won numerous national and international singing competitions. We offer a very varied and professional programme. We even have our own chamber group, the Wessex Camerata, that helps us to widen the choice of songs on offer! We aspire to professional standards, but of course excellence comes at a cost: we have professional music staff, only use properly authorized arrangements and copyrighted music, and our ‘on-the-day’ concert management and staging is slick. We have to cover our costs by charging a charity fee, but one that is easily covered by selling just 50 tickets!   The income from another 50 tickets would almost always comfortably cover most venue hire costs and publicity, therefore we reckon anything over 100 tickets sold is pure profit for your cause. So the challenge is this: do you think that you and your network of friends, family, and supporters can sell more than 100 tickets? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you’re onto a winner!   We can help you raise funds for your favourite cause.

WessexMaleChoirWithAledJonesSheffieldThe Wessex with one of our patrons, Aled Jones, at a charity concert.

We occasionally raise funds directly for charitable causes. For example, back in 2007, a sizeable contingent from the Wessex Male Choir took part in the London Marathon to raise funds for the charity, Parkinson’s UK  Our completion time was dreadful, but then again, we kept stopping on the way around to sing to the crowds! We raised £32,000 on the day and, at subsequent events, have taken the total to over £65,000. One of our choristers, Jeff Hannath, who has been a stalwart supporter of the charity, saw that the first London Half Marathon – ‘The Big Half’ – is being held in March 2018, and so a group of us, along with a few former choristers and friends, will be participating once again to raise funds for Parkinson’s UK. Doubtless the temptation to sing to the crowds will be too great to resist!   (If you would like to sponsor us, then please visit our Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/wessexchoir)

LondonMarathon2007Crazy choristers!  Wessex choristers singing their way around the London Marathon to raise funds for Parkinson’s UK. 

They say that ‘charity begins at home’, and running (no pun intended) a choir as good as the Wessex costs money. We’re an arts charity in our own right, dedicated to spreading the joy of male choral music far and wide, and sometimes we have to raise funds for the Choir so that we can keep on doing the great work with others. Of course we’d love it if an individual or a company offered to sponsor us, or even if someone were to sponsor a concert in aid of their favourite charity. We’re always pleased to collaborate with other entertainers too, and have worked with youth groups such as MJ-UK Music & Arts, celebrity singers such Paul Potts, Hayley Westenra, and Juliette Pochin, and we have sung in front of capacity crowds at Wembley and Twickenham!   Please get in touch with us if you would like details of our sponsorship packages.   Our events diary can fill up quite quickly, so if you’re thinking about hiring the Choir, please don’t delay!

Our own Christmas Concert this year is on Thursday 21st December at the Multi Entertainment & Cultural Arena (MECA) in Regent’s Circus, Swindon.  Tickets cost £12.50 and are on sale online now from www.ticketsource.co.uk/wessex-male-choir.  (Reserved seating is only available to Friends of the Choir, but you can easily become a Friend for free, by sending your name and e-mail address to friends@wessexmalechoir.co.uk  This will add you to our mailing list and you’ll receive about three newsletters a year, be able to reserve seats at our concerts, and take part in occasional online feedback surveys.)

GE