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Big Singing Success with John Rutter!

28 February 2016

Yesterday, nearly four hundred singers joined their voices to take part in our third – and most successful – singing day with the internationally-acclaimed composer and conductor John Rutter CBE.

Over 300 Sopranos and Altos!
Just short of 400 in total crammed into the Hall
Wow! That really was an amazing achievement yesterday. Everything worked perfectly, all participants seemed very happy - well done.

Throughout this news item you will see one of the dozens of quotes we have had back from participants, who were clearly thrilled with the occasion.

I just wanted to tell you and the rest of the Northampton Bach Choir how very much I enjoyed the John Rutter day yesterday. I am a new and novice singer but my confidence levels soared yesterday and I loved every minute.

From extracts from John Rutter’s new work The Gift of Life, to his settings of A flower remembered and (in this Shakespeare anniversary year) Blow, blow, thou winter wind, to the late George Shearing’s setting of Who is Silvia?, and popular works including Handel’s Hallelujah chorus and Vivaldi’s Gloria, the day was an instant hit with those who came from near and far.

John Rutter introducing our MD Lee Dunleavy
Rehearsing with just short of 100 Tenors and Basses
I am hoping that all who did so much to make today such a success have had a well-deserved break today after such an incredible day on Saturday with John Rutter!

The highlight for many Northampton Bach Choir members who took part was John’s arrangement of When the Saints go marching in, which is not only our local Rugby club’s home song, but also evokes thrilling memories of singing the arrangement with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (who we on top form, and really let their hair down) in a Last Night of the Proms concert three years ago.

Truly a magnificent day. Rutter is amazing - as a personality, teacher and musician. I came away having greatly enjoyed singing lovely music with so many like-minded folk and having learned so much as well.

What is special about days like these is that not only do we get an insight into the mind and spirit a such gifted musical leaders, but we also get a chance to improve our choral skills. Never again will we think that Dentists are right when they say “Open Wide”! We won’t forget to ensure our vowels are bright, especially when singing in English, where the heavy dose of Northamptonshire burr present clearly took some taming. How remarkable to learn that John Rutter and the late Sir John Tavener were in the same class at school!

Battle Royale - Those on the floor turn to face those on the risers!
John Rutter with one of our singers
May I congratulate and thank the Bach Choir for their very hard work in making such a day run smoothly, with all the organisation behind the scenes providing refreshments to the much appreciated car parking ‘attendants’ directing traffic at the beginning and (especially) at the end of the day. A very big thank you!

We also had a rare opportunity to hear our Musical Director, Lee Dunleavy, in the rôle of accompanist. Of course we know of his organ abilities from his provenance as a former Organ Scholar of both Oxford University and York Minster, and from his series of recitals at All Saints’ Church, but it is not often we hear him accompanying on the piano. John was clearly impressed by his sensitive handling of the piano, an especially difficult job given the large number of singers, and distance between the piano and those sopranos who were at the other end of the hall.

Just a quick note to thank you for a great day’s singing on Saturday – I really enjoyed it. The organisation was excellent and helped everything to run smoothly.

Not only was the day a great musical success, but also a triumph of organisation. Getting every possible singer accommodated (we were oversubscribed, so had to maximise every seat to get as many in as possible), all the information distributed in advance, over one tonne of music sorted and placed on seats, twelve urns across six tea making stations, ensuring over 250 cars and coaches were parked safely, the list goes on and on and on. With many thanks indeed to all the choir members and their friends and relatives who ensured everything went like clockwork, and not least Jennie who masterminded the event, and Ajit who took the stunning photos which adorn this page.

Directing the singers in Amazing Grace
John in Full Flight
We had a fantastic day and thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to sing with such a large body of people under John Rutter's guidance. The refreshments were made all the more welcome due to the precision organisation and complete lack of queues. As my husband said when we left, ‘If there doesn't seem to be any organisation, it is indeed a smooth-run operation!

On 3 June 2017 the local Royal School of Church Music committee is hosting a large Come and Sing event with Dr David Hill, former Director of Music at Winchester Cathedral, St John’s College, Cambridge, and the BBC Singers, so we envisage our next large Come and Sing will be in early 2018. Keep watching our website for further details!