How often in life are we given the opportunity to just sit and reflect? Perhaps for some of us in the last two years we have reflected more than we ever have before. I know I have. However, it isn’t until I sit here now, almost two years since I last performed with the Huddersfield Choral Society, that I truly begin to reflect on the impact that this beloved society has had on me. As a musician, as a student, and as the person I am today.
I registered my interest to sing with the Huddersfield Choral Society, rather eagerly, twelve months prior to beginning my studies in Huddersfield. Having grown up a boy chorister in Lancaster, I knew that on moving to Huddersfield I wished to continue my choral singing in some capacity, owing to it being something I had come to love from an early age. I hadn’t quite realised what I was signing myself up for. On telling my teachers and colleagues that I had registered an interest to sing with HCS the responses were always the same. ‘Ahh the famous Huddersfield Choral Society. You do realise you are joining one of the most prestigious choral establishments in the country?’ I soon came to realise, for many reasons, they were quite right.
I couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome.
On arriving at Greenhead College for the first time, I was greeted with smiling faces and a very welcoming response by many people I can today call friends. At the time I joined the society, I was one of very few students. I struggled to understand why this was the case and why students weren’t jumping at the opportunity to sing with such an establishment. However, by the following week, I had had the opportunity to spread the word, and returned to rehearsals with an entourage of other students willing to get involved and sing with the society; we all became great friends.
A short while ago, I was sitting in the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Hall listening to its new Principal Conductor Domingo Hindoyan conducting Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. In recent months I have had the pleasure of spending many an hour in this famous hall, owing to my partner now working in the orchestra’s education department. On sitting in the hall, I was pleasantly reminded of my first concert with the society, Johannes Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45. Singing this beautiful work with the RLPO and under the baton of one of my musical heroes, Vasily Petrenko, is something I remember very fondly and will do for the rest of my life. It reminded me of how grateful I am for the opportunities that HCS bestowed on me.
In 2019, I met with a number of other members of the society and looked at how we can make the society more accessible to students. Between us, we agreed that one way forward would be to introduce a choral scholarship for students at the university, giving a donation of financial support to those who show particular skill in choral singing. We also agreed to scrap the membership fee for students at the university, not just for the first year but for the whole time they are a student. I am very proud that this is something we were able to agree together and am thankful that this is the legacy I leave behind for other students.
Now, a short vote of thanks. Firstly to Greg. Gregory Batsleer is like no other chorus master I have previously met. His attention to detail and commitment to a choir is beyond anything I have witnessed, and I am so grateful to him for all he has taught me since I joined the society. Unbeknown to Greg, he has become a true inspiration of mine, and is someone I truly look up to in the musical world. Anyone who has the opportunity to work with Greg should grasp at it and get stuck in! To Mark and Tim who I fondly sat next to in rehearsals each week. You were both so kind to me and I am so grateful for the many hours we spent singing together. To the committee who work so hard to provide such fantastic opportunities and concerts for each member and subscriber, thank you. To everyone who sings with the Choral and welcomed me as one of their own, thank you. And to my fellow students, many of whom became great friends and created memories with me that I will always cherish, thank you.
And to you, the person who is reading this and asking themselves whether the Choral is for them. The answer is that it is. It is for you! Go and meet the wonderful people at HCS, sing with them and learn with them. You won’t regret it, and the more you put into it, the more you will get in return.
I didn't manage to stay away for long - after a short, post-graduation break I am now thrilled to have rejoined the Society and look forward to making many more musical memories with them.