About the North Herts Guild of Singers

North Herts Guild of Singers says "Hello"



Welcome to the website of The North Herts Guild of Singers, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018.

We are a friendly non-auditioning choir open to all comers from whatever background who want and are able to sing. Based in Hitchin, Hertfordshire with members living in Hertfordshire and the neighbouring counties of Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, NHGS is one of the best-known and best-supported choral groups in the area with a membership of about 140 singers and an ever-growing reputation for high standards of music making. We have a wide repertoire, ranging from the major choral works through to popular oratorio and to smaller, less familiar works. We seek to extend our range of music to include current compositions, and secular works.

As a non-auditioning choir we recognise that our members will have different levels of choral experience; however we all share a common love of choral singing. We rehearse on Thursday evenings under the direction of Harry Bradford. He and our répétiteur, Colin Spinks, are professional musicians keen on developing and maintaining the high musical standards we set ourselves. Our normal rehearsal venue, as of September 2015, is Benslow Music Trust in Hitchin but check the diary in the Members Area for up-to-date rehearsal details.

We regularly perform four concerts a year in England and have also enjoyed wonderful trips to Malta, Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Belgium, singing in Florence, Ghent, Seville and Nuits St Georges among many other exciting venues. This is just part of the Guild story:

As you will see under previous concerts, we have performed many of the major choral works over the past few years together with programmes of lighter music appropriate to the type of concert we are giving.

For example, in 2011 we followed Bach’s Mass in B minor with favourites from Gilbert & Sullivan, and the Duruflé Requiem in the autumn; in 2012 we performed Finzi’s Intimations of Immortality, Brahms’s German Requiem, and Mozart’s Mass in C Minor. All of these concerts were performed to capacity audiences, demonstrating the popularity of the choir within the local community.

In 2013 we were joined by the Orpheus Choir of North Herts to commemorate the late John Railton - who founded both choirs - with a performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion; in contrast, our summer and autumn concerts featured several 20th century composers, a highlight being our newly commissioned work from Terry Mann, Lux Vivens Angeli, based on the texts of Hildegard of Bingen. This piece was premiered on our tour that year to Bingen and Mainz. In 2014 we added two works to our repertoire: Elgar’s Apostles in the spring and Handel's Judas Maccabeus in November. Sandwiched in between was a light-hearted summer programme of Music from the Movies.

In 2015 we teamed Mozart's ever-popular Requiem with the lesser known Let God Arise by 'the English Mozart' Thomas Linley, and travelled nearly 100 miles along the A1 to reprise our Songs from a Summer Evening at conductor Stephen Bullamore's 'home ground' of St Mary Magdalene in Newark. In November we were invited by Herts Philharmonia to sing Ode to Joy in their performance of Beethoven's 9th (Choral) Symphony. Our first concert of 2016 was Elgar's stunning Dream of Gerontius in March - a concert which was rated by choir and audience alike as one of our best ever - and in July we presented Puccini's beautiful Messa di Gloria. In November we fulfilled a longstanding commitment to perform Handel's Israel in Egypt, which was dropped from our Millennium Concert programme in 2000 for technical reasons.

We could not have asked for a better start to 2017 - Verdi's magnificent Requiem with the Herts Philharmonia and soloists Claire Pendleton, Louise Mott, Julian Stocker and Julian Empett. The two Julians, along with tenor Mark Wilde, Musica Donum Dei and others, became regular favourites with Guild audiences. In the summer we presented a varied programme featuring Finzi, Elgar, Bruckner and Vierne at what was for us a new venue - the church of St Mary in Baldock - and our presentation of Haydn's The Creation in November, when we welcomed soprano Elizabeth Weisberg, was well received by our Hitchin audience. Finally in December St Mary's, Hitchin, was the venue for Mr Fezziwig's Christmas Party, a Dickensian composition by Jonathan Rathbone which headed a programme including several other Rathbone arrangements of familiar carols accompanied by the Chameleon Arts Ensemble.

2018 was a very special year - the choir's 50th anniversary, and also the centenary of Women's Suffrage. To mark this milestone, our spring concert featured works by three female composers. Guest orchestra the Hertfordshire Philharmonia performed Elizabeth Maconchy's Proud Thames Overture, and the choir presented Cecilia McDowall's Magnificat followed by the wonderful Mass in D by Ethel Smyth, which was new to most of the singers and audience members alike but a welcome addition to our repertoire. Once again we welcomed Louise Mott and Julian Empett, alongside Claire Ward and Ben Alden. Early in the summer term we held a Come and Sing Messiah at the Free Church in Letchworth, echoing the very first performance of the Guild when it was founded in 1968; and for another exercise in nostalgia, our July 'birthday' performance at St Mary's in Hitchin revisited Haydn's Nelson Mass, which featured in the choir's first full concert fifty years earlier.

Of course 2018 was also the centenary of the Armistice, marking the end of the First World War. The Guild chose to commemorate this event with Vaughan Williams's haunting Dona Nobis Pacem and one of our favourite works, the Fauré Requiem, both featuring the solo talents of Philip Tebb and Grace Davidson (replacing Elizabeth Weisberg at the eleventh hour - appropriately enough). Our guest musicians, Chameleon Arts, performed Arvo Pärt's Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten; there was barely a free seat in St Mary's on this occasion, and we nearly filled it again for our traditional carol concert in December.

In the spring of 2019, we said goodbye to our long-standing music director Stephen Bullamore with a performance of Bach's St John Passion for which our regular 'band', Musica Donum Dei, were once again joined by Mark Wilde - heroically singing both the Evangelist and all the tenor solos. Sarah Gilford, Susannah Bedford and Jacob Feldman were our other professionals, while young Isaac Lyons made an admirable Pilate. Then in the summer our new conductor, Harry Bradford, made his debut in an electrifying performance of Carmina Burana featuring our regular repetiteur Colin Spinks on one piano with guest Richard Carr on the other. The Percussion Ensemble of London provided the big bangs and some infectious rhythms of their own, and our vocal soloists were the impressive Magnus Walker and Paul Grant, plus Ana Beard Fernandez who stood in for Tamsin Raitt at extremely short notice and thrilled us all with the purity of her top As.

Hitchin's lovely parish church of St Mary is our regular 'home', especially at Christmas, but over the years we have been welcomed at many wonderful venues, including the Coptic Church Centre in Stevenage, Letchworth Free Church, St Mary's in Ashwell and the church of St Andrew & St George in Stevenage. Members of the Guild often take part in charity events, and enjoyed many rousing concerts with the massed choirs of Hertfordshire at the Royal Albert Hall, performing such works as Britten's War Requiem and Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts in aid of the British Council for the Prevention of Blindness. Closer to home we have raised thousands of pounds for the Garden House Hospice (now Garden House Hospice Care).

As often as our calendar permits we hold workshops to help those within our community to improve their singing and to give participants an opportunity to take part in a concert. If you would like to join us please see the relevant web pages for details; to be kept informed about our future concerts, send us your email address via the form on the Home page.

We hope you enjoy this website and that it inspires you to start singing.









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