Hampstead Chamber Choir
Minutes of AGM held on 3 July 2019 at 8pm
Present: 24 members. Apologies: John, Richard, Helena, Ros, Anne
1. Minutes of last AGM approved. It was noted that at the last AGM the committee had agreed to inform members as to committee dates and points discussed, and this was still something which could be improved upon. Nick said that any member wanting any matter discussed at committee should get in touch at any time.
2. Chair's report:
(a) Fundraising: We had raised nearly £500 this year: £239 carol singing at Archway, £160 for C4WS in the Christmas raffle, and £85 for War Child in the summer raffle. Thanks to all participating in the carol singing and the raffle, including donating prizes. Members please be in touch if they have ideas for other charity fundraisers.
(b) Membership matters: Membership numbers are down for a number of reasons – and this affects our finances as well as our music making. We are trying to boost numbers. We hope that the bursaries, which have been approved in principle by the Hanbury Trust, will help attract younger members into the choir, as younger people will already be in place. One of consequence of smaller numbers is that we are more reliant than ever on members volunteering their help. The committee puts in a lot of time, but so do Celia, Lesley, Ann-Gaëlle, Richard etc etc. Thanks to all who help, and if anyone else can help out, do please do what you can. Again, smaller membership means that it is more important that everyone takes part in every concert if at all possible. People withdrawing from concerts at short notice is particularly problematic. To help members plan ahead, the committee has circulated next year's concert dates so that members have lots of notice.
(c) Winetasting: This was the standout event of the year. Thanks to Dom for hosting, and also to Catherine, Sol, Anne and Celia in particular for organising. The event raised nearly £800, which really helped the choir's finances.
(d) Other thanks: To Anne for the great publicity and for doing such a wonderful job deputising for Dom. To Liz Codd for taking on the job of devising the choir survey and for managing the website as well as her library duties. To Catherine (and Nigel) for hosting the Christmas/New Year party and Nick and Celia for hosting the summer picnic (they will repeat this this year if we can find a date). Thanks to Dom and Lydia – flowers and wine presented.
(e) Membership survey:
(i) concert venues: lots of people singled out the Parish Church and Emmanuel Church as good venues. These have been booked for the October and Christmas concerts next year.
(ii) repertoire: some members requested more secular music. Problem is that most repertoire for choirs our size is religious. Also needs to be religious to get a grant from the Hampstead Church Music Trust. We try for a secular summer concert, as per this year. A few members have requested more 16th to 18th century music. We have the Lent concert earmarked for Buxtehude. Most seem to enjoy the mix of old and more modern music.
(iii) rehearsal venue: most seem happy with South Hampstead School.
(iv) professionals: most are happy with Dom and Lydia and the excellent work they do. There were a few comments relating to the need for forward planning.
(v) bursary proposals: most are happy with this.
(vi) finances: the feeling is that ticket prices and subscription level are about right. Therefore we need other ways to raise money. Members were asked to come up with suggestions – we can't do wine tasting every year (though would be good to repeat this, maybe the following year). Singing with Friends? This does earn money, but requires a lot of work. Dom is contracted to help in one fundraising event, so think of how to use him!
(vii) publicity: general agreement that the posters are great. Queries about the need for hard copy flyers. Suggestions included advertising in the Ham and High and improving our online presence.
(viii) charitable events: lots of members were keen in principle on a small group singing at charity events, hospices etc, though this was dependent on time commitments. Anne had volunteered to lead this. Maybe develop some suitable repertoire over the summer.
(ix) overseas tour: members were positive in principle, but with reservations. Could we muster a full enough group to sing at a music festival? Alternatively, maybe we could revive an exchange with Profs en Choeur – Anne made contact with them after the Notre Dame fire, and they are also keen in principle.
(f) Helen’s illness: This is such sad news. She was chair of the choir back in 1996 when HCC split with the Rosslyn Chapel, and is one of our most loved members. Dom's tribute to her at the concert was very moving.
(g) Dates for year ahead circulated
3. Membership Secretary's report: Sol reiterated that membership is down, and that this makes us vulnerable regarding unavoidable drop outs at concerts. There were only 25 singers at the last 2 concerts. We hope that the bursary scheme will help. Other ideas include asking members of larger choirs whether they are interested in singing in a chamber choir. Maybe the Tuckers could enquire when sending out concert publicity? Also, we have heard that the Orpheus Choir has closed. It was suggested that some of their members might be interested in joining us. Liz Mills would try and make contact. Other suggestions made included placing audition material (as prepared by Dom) on sites such as Next Door, Facebook groups, local community groups. Jennie could put this on Instagram and Twitter. Lesley suggested making contact with schools before the end of term to see if we can recruit young singers. Dom said he already used his Facebook page to try and do this, and had got interest in the past, though unfortunately none had stayed with the choir. Liz Mills said that a lot of former UCS students came back to the area after university. She would talk to the head of music at UCS to see whether we could make contact with former pupils. As we were so short on numbers, there was no need to restrict recruitment to particular voice parts. Dom said that an ideal mix was, perhaps, 10/8/8/10 (i.e 36-40 members) but there was no maximum number. At the moment we have 31 members.
Suggestions to help retain younger members – more socializing. Drinks after concerts could be a good start. Several members already met up, but it wasn't done on a formal basis. Maybe we should arrange in advance where we are going to meet up after the concert so more members (and their guests) could join in. Drinks after rehearsal? When Dom first joined the choir he always went out for a drink afterwards. It was noted that rehearsals finished rather late – maybe we could start earlier? But that may make it hard for some members to get to rehearsals on time... We could miss out the tea break and finish earlier (though some members said they enjoyed this time as a chance to chat) or maybe schedule drinks after rehearsal once a month. We would maybe try this for a couple of months. There was also a discussion of suitable pubs. Various members volunteered to investigate!
4. Treasurer's report: John was unable to attend the AGM but had prepared a report and accounts which were passed around. The Chair also reported that the formal accounts for the year ended 31 July 2018 had been independently examined and this was noted by the meeting. Main points from John’s report were noted: Last year the choir had a deficit of £786, with £800 in the bank; this year finances had improved, with a surplus of £400 and £1,300 in the bank. This was largely as a result of the wine tasting, and also Dom's choice of repertoire which had required no orchestral musicians this year. Less had also been spent on music hire – thanks to Liz for shopping around. Very little money came from ticket sales, and we had not applied for a Hampstead Church Music Trust grant this year. We intended to apply for grants for several of the proposed concerts for next year. The grant is not limited to concerts in Hampstead Parish Church, but any concert of sacred music in churches in the parish of Hampstead, which includes, eg, Emmanuel Church, West Hampstead. Giles said that he had met someone involved in the Trust, who had told him that he was very pleased that our choir was applying for the grants – it seems that there is a fair bit of money available. This trust is different to the Hanbury Trust which we are hoping will fund the bursary scheme.
5. Music Director's report:
(a) Overview: Dom said that this has been a great year. The choir has produced a great sound, and sung very musically. It was very sad that Tim and Shirley had left – they were great stalwarts of the choir and fabulous singers. He apologised for having missed 4 or 5 rehearsals. He always did his utmost to make rehearsals, but it was just unavoidable. He loved coming to rehearsals and looked forward to Wednesday evenings.
(b) Auditions etc: We had got a good level of interest in the choir, and 3 singers joined and came to a couple of rehearsals, though then, sadly, left. Elizabeth and Jennie joined during the year. Once we have the scholars in place, Dom would like to hear everyone sing again to get a feel for everyone's voice and how the choir fits together.
(c) Concerts last year:
(i) October: Howells/Victoria – this was a very ambitious concert, and Dom felt that we lost too many singers to sustain such a long work. There was great singing, but he realised that he needed to rethink his proposed programme for the year to make things easier/keep costs down/find music more cheaply. He appreciated that it wasn't ideal to change the programme for the year at a late stage, and intended to do more planning this coming year.
(ii) Christmas: The Arvo Part music went brilliantly. O Magnum Mysterium received a lot of praise. He appreciated that several members think the concert was too religious, especially the bible readings, but he thought you can't take the religion out of Christmas.
(iii) Easter: Very accomplished singing.
(iv) Summer: the choir reacted well to the concert conditions, and rose to the occasion once again. Particular praise due to the tenors and basses who had such depleted sections. Especially good in the Alm. Sound was great – very spinny. Lydia played wonderfully. Accompanying in a concert is not easy, and she did a fantastic job.
(d) General: We need to be realistic – if we have challenging repertoire we need to put in good attendance and work hard. Dropping out just before a concert is really not acceptable, medical emergencies excepted, of course. Dom would suggest that if you are absent for a rehearsal you should find out what was rehearsed and try and catch up. He emphasised the need for everyone to help out at the concert – it's a great feeling when we all work together.
(e) Concerts for coming year: Hampstead Church Music Trust has a lot of money to give away, so we want to apply for it. This means that we will be including a lot of religious music this coming year. Plans are :
(i) October: French concert with small orchestra of strings. Faure Requiem with lower string accompaniment, Faure Cantique de Jean Racine has same orchestration as the Requiem. If we don't get funding we can change the arrangement to, eg, organ. There will only be 7 rehearsals before this concert so the music is easy to learn. The Villette many members have sung before, also the Poulenc, and the Langlais is upper voices in unison.
(ii) Christmas: Main piece is the Finzi In Terra Pax. This uses harp. As a result, it makes sense to have other pieces with harp, so the programme includes Ceremony of Carols (which will fill the first half of the concert) and 2 Rutter carols with strings and harp. Also Britten's Hymn to the Virgin and audience carols etc.
Both these concerts require funding – each will cost c £2K for musicians. Dom would write a proposal to the Hampstead Church Music Trust for these.
(iii) Lent: There is a chance that the programme for this concert will change. At the moment the proposed programme is for Buxtehude – a 1 hour epic, though there is opportunity for the choir to sit occasionally. Again, it's a piece that should attract funding from the Church trust. It is not often performed. We could find soloists from within the choir. It's accompanied by baroque orchestra – hopefully Belsize Baroque. They were good at our Dido and Aeneas concert, and hopefully they bring their own audience. The other proposed piece is Tariq O'Regan's Triptych. The issue is that is requires accompaniment with modern instruments, so it may be better to change this for another baroque piece.
(iv) Summer: The piece Arion and the Dolphin has been chosen so that we can meet the benefactor's wishes for more outreach by including a children's choir. A big benefit to us from including a children's choir would be the audience they would bring in. However, the piece requires 2 pianos and percussion, which will be quite a cost. The second half would be Carmina Burana, which we know from our Come and Sing – also, it's an audience draw.
One or other of the Lent and Summer concerts may change if the exchange with Profs en Choeur takes place. We can't take the Buxtehude or Carmina Burana to Paris.
(f) Bursaries: He had drafted a proposal to submit to the Hanbury Trust. This set out proposed terms for the scholarships. They would be paid termly and would be required to come to 90% of rehearsals (ie could miss max one per term). The idea was that the 4 scholars would act as anchors for each part. They could possibly take sectional rehearsals (eg the Langlais is for upper voices only). Luise said that there was a danger that if they were an anchor for the part, the rest of us would rely on them rather than ourselves. We'd have to guard against this. They wouldn't necessarily get all the solos – hopefully many of those that we would have paid a soloist for, but solos that in the past a choir member would sing would still be on offer. The ideal was blendability not solo ability. Thus we may not be looking for music students so much as former choristers. Dom aimed to audition them in August. Once they're in place the hope is that they may tell their mates about us and draw in more younger people. Or at least be a younger presence in the choir visible if younger singers audition.
(g) Thanks: to Lydia, whom he described as the choir's powerhouse; to Nick and the committee and to the whole choir. He loves coming on Wednesdays.
6. Election of committee: Anne has agreed to stay for another year – members voted for this. John, Sol and Liz Codd were re-elected. Liz Mills agreed to stand and was voted on. Catherine and Nick were not up for re-election this year.
7. Fund raising events: Would Singing with Friends be next year's fund raiser or did members have other suggestions? Maybe a quiz night? Lesley suggested that Singing with Friends could be combined with a performance of the work at, eg, a hospice, so that the work done wasn't wasted. Other tweaks could include a shorter day, or the scholars taking sectionals. Singing with Friends did raise money, but not as much as wine tasting, and it did require a lot of work and organisation from lots of members. Muriel said that one advantage of keeping it going was that it was a good way to keep in contact with certain people who come to our concerts as a result of being regulars at Singing with Friends. Christine asked if we could find a warmer venue!
8. Charity events: We had discussed the possibility of a section of the choir singing at charity events in addition to carol singing. People had shown an interest in doing this. Anne had volunteered to take a few rehearsals and find some light-hearted unaccompanied repertoire. Scholars couldn't be required to take part in this.
9. Profs en Choeur: Anne had sent a message to them after the Notre Dame fire, and Nick had received an email from their new chair, suggesting we do another concert exchange. Possibly in May/June 2020. However, Nick thought that it may be better to delay this until October 2020. October concerts don't have many rehearsals, so working to prepare only half a concert was appealing. Liz Mills added that postponing also carried the advantage of giving us time to get the choir membership stabilised – there was a lot coming up.
10. Helen: Steve had received donations totalling £75 and had sent this, gift aided, from HCC to the hospice looking after Helen, with the message 'thank you for looking after our very dear friend Helen'.
11. Other matters: Warm ups: It was suggested that we should use Lydia more in warm ups. Also, they tended to work more on the upper registers – early in the evening it would be less stressful on voices to do some work on lower registers.