My first ‘paid’ conducting appointment was signed and sealed over a cup tea and some cake overlooking Exeter Cathedral. There was no audition (I never met the singers or heard them in action until the first rehearsal a few months later) and seemingly little chance to discuss fees, but I was so excited about getting my hands on another choir so soon after leaving the University of Exeter that it would have taken a lot to put me off!
The choir in question was Exeter Choral Society and those first few concerts were a wonderful and insightful ride through some really varied and exciting repertoire (Purcell, Vivaldi and Bach were mixed in with Mendelssohn, Goodall and Rutter). Tuesday evening rehearsals and end of term performances taught me a lot about working with friendly, adult singers with a huge range of experience and ability.
Fast forward almost ten years to 2017 and I’m still working with the choir. We’re currently preparing Handel Messiah for a concert on 10th May and tonight is our last rehearsal before a short Easter break. It’s a piece that I’ve worked on as a singer, conductor and even harpsichordist many times before but I do love revisiting it and (inevitably) discovering something new that I’d perhaps not noticed in the past. This time around is particularly special as it was one of the pieces I tackled with the choir in my first few seasons.
We’ve seen some great singers come and go, but there are still a few familiar faces around the room who were there in my earliest days with the group. They include David, who closed the deal with tea and cake back in 2008!