There’s an assumption made about amateur choral groups: they won’t be very good. Or worse, in trying to overcome that assumption, the conductor of the group insists on programming both ridiculously simple and fundamentally banal music as to make both rehearsals and concerts an arduous affair for participants and audience member alike.
It’s a difficult balance. But it’s a balance which appears to have been executed perfectly at Lewisham Choral Society.
I went along to take some pictures at one of the last few rehearsals for an ambitious programme of Spirituals by Michael Tippett at their regular rehearsal venue at the Church of St Laurence in Catford, South East London.
There’s a nice atmosphere at the rehearsal. A healthy mid-week mix of camaraderie and a will-do attitude. That in part comes from the group’s curly-haired conductor Dan Ludford-Thomas who clearly knows his stuff and doesn’t have any issue telling a group of passionate amateurs where they’re going wrong and – more importantly – the membership who didn’t demonstrate any of the usual grumbling resentment one might expect from expert amateurs.
Vibrant and enthusiastic, Lewisham Choral Society shows itself unfazed by the pressure of forthcoming concerts. Penny – my contact for the evening – was suitably warm and inviting. If I was a newcomer, I’d feel welcome. And in London, going that extra mile is important.
Musically speaking, they’re an impressively attentive group. The opening of the Tippett Spirituals was beautiful, almost seductive. But in those moments when confidence lacked or the group dynamic failed, it was clear that everyone was paying sufficient attention to collectively correct itself. If it’s possible to discern mistakes being corrected in a matter a minutes then a credit needs to be paid to both conductor and choir. And that underlines a dynamic. An enthusiasm.
So it was this evening. It wasn’t perfect every time. But it was in tune, just in need of a bit of a bit of confidence. And there was enthusiasm. And that too is important. And on that basis I’d been keen to get along to more rehearsals. Just without a camera or a laptop next time.
But – more improtant that any of this – there’s one blind member of the group. And .. whilst it’s wrong to express emotion for a working dog .. what’s not to like when there’s an adorable animal present in rehearsals?
Everyone’s a winner.