Christmas Letter from the Chair

We could little have imagined, when ExCo gathered in early March 2020 and decided to close down our operations to protect you all, that it would be more than a year before we performed again. Of course this did not mean that our Society would stop all activities. In fact, this period has proved the truth of the old adage: necessity is the mother of invention. Or re-invention, in our case as in that of many other organisations, using the wonders of the internet to keep going, and the special expertise and talents of you, our members, to make so much happen.

As you know, in the hiatus we have done many new things. We have initiated choir rehearsals on line, and have found a new COVID-19 compliant practice location for both choir and orchestra. We have enjoyed fascinating talks from Ben Westerman and a thrilling concert from our choir accompanist, Jong-Gyung Park. We have had small groups, of strings in particular, playing chamber music that seems to have been written for precisely this sort of situation.

And that was only the musical stuff. I hope you took part in the quizzes (thanks to Jo Willoughby, Deputy Choral Chair) and read our fortnightly newsletter, the Tacet Times (brought together by Joanna Mace, Society Secretary). You may also have caught up with fellow members after the more serious business of the gatherings was complete. We held a very successful AGM, with over 80 members attending and voting electronically, and have launched our new website after much work by, in particular, Steve Minton (Orchestral Chair), Stewart Dearsley (Choral Chair) and Philippa Burbidge (Marketing Manager) among others.

We have created a carol singing online event to raise money for local charities, and I hope you enjoyed Jo’s second quiz and are looking forward to a second concert by Jong-Gyung in February. The recent news of the hoped-for vaccines means that we hope to be able to put together a concert in May or June, with choral and orchestral pieces that we were practising before the lockdown and some that we have added since then. We will let you have more detailed information as soon as things become clearer.

ExCo has been meeting regularly to stay in touch with what is/is not happening and, at a recent meeting, we discussed the issue of subscriptions going forward. Our accounts show that we have enough funds to support our current activities, and so we have decided not to ask Members for further payments until we are able to return to normal operations.

2020-21 is our 75th season, and is certainly proving to be unlike any other in our long history. This group was originally formed to celebrate the joy of making music together after the country had experienced the adversities of World War II, and I know that you and I will find as much pleasure as our predecessors did when all the restrictions have been lifted and we can put the current difficulties behind us. I’m looking forward to celebrating 75+1 in 2021-22!

If nothing else, this time has reminded us how important our collective music is to all of us who take part. I would like to thank you for the support that you have continued to show during this challenging period, and look forward to welcoming you to our concerts in 2021.


With best wishes for a peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year

Robert Skone James