If there’s one thing we can confidently say about 2020 as the New Year beckons, it’s certainly been different. The pandemic has affected each and every one of us in some way or other, and, while at last there might be a ray of hope on the horizon, we’re certainly not out of the woods yet. We know that the Arts has been especially ravaged, so it’s always great to hear that singers and players aren’t just taking this lying down. Our own Plymouth Philharmonic Choir (PPC), for example, has come up with something really festive, which goes a long way to assuage the still ongoing impact of Covid-19, with its unique injection of Christmas Spirit. Let PPC Press Officer, Mary Johnson, tell us all about it:
‘At the end of their 50th Anniversary year, Plymouth Philharmonic Choir, acclaimed as one of the top 10% of amateur choirs in the country by internationally-renowned soloist and patron, Neil Jenkins, had hoped to see a number of superlatives mentioned in the review of the last twelve months. With not a note sung in any of the four planned performances, you may be forgiven for thinking that words like extraordinary and remarkable have more to do with all of us living through the most exacting of times in 2020, or do they?
From an audience-member’s perspective, the essence of the choir is what they see during the performance. There is drama and anticipation as, at a twitch of the musical director’s baton, everything from stirring crescendos to the quietest and most spellbinding passages of music, are brought forth.
From a Plymouth Philharmonic member’s point of view, the choir provides even more than the exhilaration gained from performing beautiful music. It offers the opportunity to make lifelong friends, to learn together and work collectively to achieve something to be really proud of. So, whereas it’s not been possible to sing, there has been something to fall back on, support for one another and great camaraderie.
Perhaps it’s not so extraordinary then, that this choir has actually recruited new members in the last few months. If your lockdown resolutions have begun to drift, use the optimism that the New Year will bring to reignite those plans. More information about Plymouth Philharmonic choir including how to join, is available on its website.
In a cross between the Chelsea Flower Show and The Great British Bake Off, photos and news of successes and projects have been shared. With the choir’s musical director, Christopher Fletcher, virtually marooned, his Desert Island Disc ‘shows’ and the musical choices of rehearsal accompanist Jenny Shepley have been greatly enjoyed.
With all sections of the choir contributing, the eclectic mix has encompassed everything from What a Wonderful World sung by Louis Armstrong to Bach’s B minor Mass and Double Violin Concerto. With the Festive Season approaching, the choir is busy voting for favourite carols and sharing less familiar ones so that, with the aid of technology, they can enjoy nine carols and readings.
Gift of a smile
Earlier in the year people thought the volume and variety of bird song was remarkable. If you’re a bird it’s part of being a bird. Emerging from lockdown 2 there is an opportunity with many of the excesses stripped away, to remind ourselves what Christmas is all about. The remarkable thing about being human is that we all have the ability, at any time of the year, to give one of the most precious gifts, that of being able to put a smile on someone else’s face. As the one and only ‘performance’ from Plymouth Philharmonic choir members during their 50th Anniversary year, the hope is that The Twelve Days of Christmas 2020 style, which is available to view on the choir’s website – or direct on YouTube – puts a smile on your face and those you share it with, and that it is the only thing to ‘go viral’ this Christmas.’
On a personal note I would just like to add a special thank-you to long-time friend and musical colleague, Brian Gerry, for his truly marathon solo rendition – as well as heartily reciprocate his seasonal good wishes.
Philip R Buttall