In the 1990's, as part of a promotional package, one of the long-standing choir-members was asked to write a piece from her view about how Singing For Pleasure was created.
I first met Cliff in September 1980.
I had been in a choir at school since I was five years old and even when I left school at fifteen years, our music teacher started up a choir for ‘old’ pupils. When that choir folded up, I then joined Casio Operatic Society in Watford with my sister, but I only did one show, ‘Bitter Sweet’, because I married and moved to Hatfield. It was seven years later, after having my two daughters, that I began to miss singing and so I considered joining the Hatfield Philharmonic Choral Society. I had a friend who was in it, and although it wasn’t my type of music, I just wanted to start singing again and this seemed to be my only opportunity.
It was then that, with my family, I was at the ‘Water Carnival’ at Stanborough Lakes and saw a gentleman advertising for singers and musicians. When I eventually plucked up the courage to speak to him, egged on by my husband, I told him that I was a contralto and that I was interested in the choir he was hoping to start. He took my name and telephone number and said he would contact me.
I received a call several weeks later and was told there would be a meeting at the Woodhall Community Centre in November 1980.
How I found the courage to go along to that meeting I still do not know. I am one of those people who has to go with someone, but there wasn’t anyone to go with me. Anyway, off I went. From what I can remember there were about thirty or forty people at this meeting. We sat there and Cliff told us about the choir he was hoping to start. Apparently there was a group of six friends who had been chatting about starting up a choir and decided to invest some money into the venture. At this point I don’t think concerts were mentioned. I believe it was just going to be a group of people who enjoyed singing and playing musical instruments who would like to come together once a week for rehearsal. We decided that a Friday would be the best day for this. (it didn’t matter to me which day, and at this point in my life I didn’t have any other evening commitments) We were told that Cliff would be in touch when he had sorted out the arrangements and so we all went home. I was very excited about the project, it was exactly what I had wanted. Coming in at the beginning of a new venture and singing the kind of music that I loved.
I eventually received a telephone call saying that we would be starting in the January.
I duly turned up at this first meeting and rehearsed songs like ‘Where The Gentle Avon Flows’ and ‘Dance The Cachuca!’
By April 1981, choir numbers were getting pretty low, three to be exact – Glynis, her friend Jean and myself. It was at this meeting that Cliff told us that if there were no more people joining us, the choir would have to fold. I had to miss the next few rehearsals and told Glynis that if I didn’t hear from her I would assume that the choir had been disbanded.
I heard nothing until the summer holidays and then I was told that we would be starting up again in September. From there we went from strength to strength. We had a few problems with the orchestra, and it was eventually disbanded. There just wasn’t enough time on a Friday to rehearse both the choir and the orchestra.
It was decided that we ought to start doing concerts for charity. It seemed a shame just to rehearse and not do anything with our talent!
What a farce our first concert was! It was held at the Woodhall Community Centre in the main hall. Not many in the audience. Our singing was probably atrocious! One of the choir members fell off his chair, and I think it was after this concert that Cliff’s nerves got the better of him and he fainted! Things could only get better!
We have certainly had our problems over the years and some of these still occur today. Low numbers in the audience – our lowest being six when doing a concert in Cuffley. Dodgy sound equipment – Radio one coming over the speakers when we were doing a concert outside – microphones not working – the keyboard packing up during a concert – missing parts to the rostra. Losing keys to the van after a concert and standing in the churchyard until after midnight, and our pianist not turning up and having to ask if there was anyone in the audience who could play a piano! Choir members falling of the rostra and many more.
All this I wouldn’t have missed. I have enjoyed every moment of the past fifteen years, even the thirteen years I have been on the committee.
I have made some super friends and acquaintances and hope to be a member of the choir for a long time to come.
A very big thank you to those six friends who thought it would be a good idea to start up a choir.