The vocal locals
Buy this photo Musical director Katrine Reimers
Award winning choir has plenty to sing and shout about
IF you’re male and can hold a tune, here’s your chance to make music that hits people squarely in the soul.
Some of the pieces sung by the Wessex Male Choir are in foreign languages; at least one is in a wordless language invented by a composer.
Visit the website and hear them sing, though, and you’ll soon realise there are times when language doesn’t matter.
As the choir’s patron, a certain Aled Jones, put it: “They sing from the heart!”
In 2011 the group won the male choir class at the International Musical Eisteddfod in Llangollen.
As achievements go, it’s roughly on a par with an English baseball team heading for the States and coming back with a World Series trophy.
The choir, formed in 2001, has also taken second and third place at the Eisteddfod, as well as countless accolades in other competitions including the Cheltenham Choral Festival, the Jersey International Choral Festival and the Bath Choral Festival.
Last year the choir sang the national anthems and other songs before the international rugby match between England and Australia at Twickenham, which England won 20-13.
It has also raised more than £50,000 for Parkinson’s UK.
Members’ ages range from late teens to early 80s, but with singers’ careers often taking them away from the area, new ones can always expect a welcome.
The all-male choir’s musical director is a woman, 36-year-old Katrine Reimers.
Katrine, a Cambridge and Guildhall School of music graduate has a CV which includes stints with the National Opera Studio, the English National Opera and the Royal Opera House. She splits her time between Swindon and projects in London and Bath.
She has no idea whether it’s unusual for a woman to direct a male choir: “The only male voice choir I’ve worked with before is inmates at Pentonville prison, so this is quite different...”
Chairman Ken Bull, 67, a retired Hercules aircraft navigator from Purton Stoke, said: “It’s a choir that sets itself high standards but it’s a very close group of guys who thoroughly enjoy what they do.
“You can’t be unhappy when you’re singing.”
Publicity officer Tim Yeoman, a retired police officer from Lechlade, said: “A lot of people are quite afraid of coming into a male voice choir. They see it as very rigid, whereas this choir offers the opportunity to dversify and produce lighter music, more pleasing music and stagecraft.
“There is also the social side of things. That’s not just going to places with the choir throughout the UK and performing with well-known people but also about supporting each other in illness, bereavement, whatever.
“That’s part and parcel of being involved in a social group.
“Background-wise, quite a few have been choristers in churches and schools as boys and then probably done nothing at all until they heard Wessex at a concert and come back into it.
“That’s the important thing – whilst we want people who can sing, who can hold a note, the rest of it comes with practice.”
One of several younger members is Greg Satchell, a 24-year-old neuropathology technician and forensic science graduate, who was 17 when he joined.
He said: “There’s a stigma attached to young blokes singing in a choir – that it’s not the most fashionable thing to do.
“But go for it. If you can sing, if you’re a shower singer, if you sing on your way to college or whatever, come and have a go.
“If you’ve never tried it before you can’t say you don’t like it.”
The choir rehearses every Tuesday evening from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at the Church of Christ the Servant in Elstree Way, Abbey Meads, and welcomes visits from potential new members.
Its website is wessexmalechoir.co.uk
THE choir gives its annual summer convert at Steam on Saturday, July 5 at 7.30pm.
There will be guest appearances by acclaimed mezzo-soprano Maria Jagusz and MJ-UK Music & Arts.
Tickets cost £12 for adults and nothing for under-16s.
Further details are available from the choir on 01793 852786, from the Visitor Information Centre in the Central Library on 01793 466454 and from the Steam ticket office.