Songs for the Soul
PUBLISHED: 15:00 04 April 2016 | UPDATED: 15:10 04 April 2016
© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2016
As the Mid Norfolk Singers celebrates its 70th birthday, chairman Jane Fanners reveals why everyone should sing along
SINCE THE end of the Second World War, Mid Norfolk Singers has brought friendship, support and confidence to its members, and all through the joy of song.
This month the 80-strong choir based in Dereham is preparing for one of its most high profile concerts yet – a 70th birthday performance at St Andrew’s Hall in Norwich – and it promises to be a fitting celebration.
The choir began life as the Elmham Choral Society, which was founded in 1946 by Edwin Kennedy as an adult evening class. It gradually began to attract more members and in 1974, when evening class fees went up, it became independent and changed its name to the Mid Norfolk Singers.
Chairman Jane Fannon says all these years later it remains very close to its original ethos.
“I think we have stayed very true to our roots and the ethos of those early days. It was always there to offer friendship as well as the chance to sing and we have always performed concerts. We have got members who have been with us since the 1970s.
“A friend actually encouraged me to join when I moved back to Norfolk a few years ago. It is a wonderful group of people and for me personally it has been the most wonderful thing, I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. I would love to encourage all sorts of people to join a choir, as singing makes you feel so fantastic.”
Initially the choir performed lighter music but they soon began including more challenging, longer works, such as Handel’s Messiah and Haydn’s Creation – which they are performing for their 70th anniversary.
“We are always preparing for a concert, but this Easter we have taken the plunge and booked St Andrew’s Hall for our anniversary. It is frightening and exciting all at the same time,” she says. “We also hope it will be a fitting finale for our musical director Duncan Barlow who is leaving us in the summer after four years. He has been fantastic for our choir and will be greatly missed and hopefully he will be able to help him go out on a high.”
The choir performs a variety of pieces, from classics such as Vivaldi and Messiah to songs from the shows.
“We try to appeal to all sorts of people and I think it is great to get the chance to sing completely different styles. Duncan is always open to ideas and suggestions from members, so we feel very much part of the process,” she says. “Although we are a more formal choir and it is useful to have some knowledge of being able to read music, we really want to be open to everyone and are always looking for new members.”
In 1985, the choir became a charity with the objectives of “promoting, improving, developing and maintaining public education in and appreciation of the art and science of choral music in all its aspects by presentations of public choral concerts” - something which Jane believes still has a strong resonance today.
As well as the rehearsals and performances, social activities have always been an important part of the choir’s programme – from dances, garden parties and annual dinners to more ambitious events such as exchange visits with a German choir in Rüthen, the town with which Dereham is twinned.
She says that as well as the joy of singing and the new musical skills to be learned, the choir offers so much more to its members.
“We are like an extended family, and over the years I like to think we have always been there for our members. There are occasions when someone might be ill or going through a tough time and we always stay in touch, offer support and welcome them back whenever they feel ready. The social side and the friendship is so important,” she says.
Mid Norfolk Singers meets every week between 7.30pm and 9.30pm at the Salvation Army Hall in Dereham. For more information and for tickets to the St Andrew’s Hall concert in Norwich on Saturday, April 23, see www.midnorfolksingers.org.uk.