The Norfolk WI Choir was called the Norfolk Belles. They were due to compete against other WI choirs from the East of England at Cambridge at the end of November. I attended a rehearsal of the choir last week. Here is my report on the Norfolk Belles. (My connection with the WI is that my wife Molly is a mezzo-soprano in the choir.)
‘They have three songs to perfect for this competition. The parts required are obviously not the more usual four-part Soprano Alto Tenor Bas but the three parts for female voices, Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano and Alto. They opened with Cantate Domino, a piece written by Texan composer Laura Farnell in 2008. The composer does a lot of work with the choir of the Presbyterian Church of America which her husband is a pastor. It is a tuneful piece.
Secondly they sang the African chant Amen Siakudumisa. This is short and has movements to go with it. Third is English Country Garden which was written in 1966. The composer had already spent most of the 1950s studying at Oxford; he finally abandoned a DPhil in orchestration when National Service ended, and he no longer need to be a student to avoid conscription! Herbert Chappell is his name and he has been involved in writing film scores and music for TV commercials as well a plenty of choral pieces. The song has some difficult changes of key; it is not a simple version of the folk song. Rather it is a satirical take on the “pleasures” of gardening.
So much for music. The standard of singing was surprisingly good for a newly formed amateur choir. This coming weekend will see their first performance. The dynamic range seemed good to me, but the fact that the rehearsal took place in a small room rather than a concert hall made it impossible for me to be sure. The enunciation o]f the words was good. Breathing and intonation still needed some attention but if the choir remember all the good hints they received from their choir mistress they will be fine on the day.
The choir consists of about 20 singers. The WI rules allow for the accompanist to be a man. I think another rule states that one or two choristers may be non-members of the WI, although in the case of the Norfolk Belles none is. The singers are drawn from a radius of about 20 miles around Norwich.’
They were the only choir from Norfolk in the first round, so they proceeded to the next round by default. If had come through the next round they would have gone on to the finals, which were held in Birmingham in 2015. In the event, when they did not get through to the next stage, the Norfolk Belles folded in 2016 although they did compete in a choir festival at Papworth in Cambridgeshire (that I attended). However they have been revived for the WI Centenary Concert. They will sing in Norwich Cathedral in 2019.
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