With a summer of celebrations ahead, Plymouth Philharmonic Choir got the party started when they raised a glass of fizz to thank two very special people: Jenny Shepley, their recently retired accompanist of 23 years, who took up the role, just for a term, to ‘give it a try’, and Christopher Fletcher celebrating his 25th Anniversary as the choir’s Director of Music.
Jenny Shepley is an extraordinarily talented accompanist whose skills include being able to mind-read the conductor and know where in the music to start from, playing the vocal parts and accompaniment sometimes at once, despite only having 2 hands, and being sensitive to singers, intuitively knowing when a voice part needs some support and their line of music needs to be emphasised, whilst still playing all the other notes.
Thanking Jenny for her years of dedication to the choir and for her hard work and excellence. Christopher Fletcher described their time together as a perfect partnership saying that “if I could have designed my own bespoke, choir accompanist the result would have been Jenny”.
A different era
Christopher Fletcher was appointed in 1996 at a time when first-class postage was 26p, the average house price was £53,394, the Spice Girls had their first Number 1 hit ‘Wannabe’, Independence Day was a box office hit, and in the FA Cup final Manchester United beat Liverpool 1: 0.
Looking back on what seems like a different era, where popularity comes and goes and there has been such a rapid rate of change in the intervening years, one thing that the group are extremely grateful for is Christopher’s unwavering commitment to making the choir the best it can possibly be.
Energy and enthusiasm
His energy and enthusiasm know no bounds and are infectious, making rehearsals a dynamic experience. He has a special ability to instil the emotion and sentiment in the music being learned which have led to so many memorable, moving experiences for audiences at well over 70 major concerts with the choir. Choir president, Brian Gerry, congratulated Christopher saying, “The recent performance of Verdi’s Requiem was, in my opinion, one of the highlights of your 25 years, if not the number one! I look forward to many more concerts with Christopher, at the helm.”
There won’t be long to wait, as the choir’s next concert, Orb and Sceptre: A Musical Celebration for the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II takes place on Saturday 9 July at 7.30pm in The Minster Church of St Andrew, Plymouth. The renowned journalist and Classic FM presenter, John Suchet will be compering the evening. Some of the jewels being performed include music from the 1953 Coronation.
The text for Parry’s I Was Glad is from Psalm 122 and was the first piece to be sung at the start of that coronation service. Handel composed Zadok the Priest as one of four anthems for the coronation of George II in 1727. This piece has been played at every coronation since, usually during the anointing, the spiritual climax of the service. The new Queen processed out of Westminster Abbey to Te Deum by Walton, composed for the occasion. The concert will include further pieces by Handel from Judas Maccabaeus, Parry’s Jerusalem and music by Vaughan Williams and Haydn.
For further details please visit the choir’s website.
top image: A 25th Anniversary gift from the choir to Christopher Fletcher
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