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Local Choir Pipped At The Post For Choir Of The Year Title

Published on: 30 Oct, 2012
Updated on: 31 Oct, 2012

The Surrey Hills Chamber Choir singing in the national final on Sunday (click to enlarge). The witches could not quite cast a spell good enough to secure first place but there was plenty of magic in their performance

Surrey Hills Chamber Choir were very narrowly beaten to the title of Choir of the Year 2012 at a packed Royal Festival Hall on Sunday (October 28th). Only five points separated six of the UK’s top choirs.

The Choir, which was the winner of the Adult Choir section, faced competition from choirs from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with some competitors aged as young as eight.

Surrey Hills were second to perform, following the Methodist College Girls’ Choir from Belfast, who sang some difficult pieces extremely well and were particularly entrancing during their performance of the Irish Blessing.

Presence and Performance

In their bright outfits, Surrey Hills had real stage presence, which was accentuated when their conductor, Debbie Walton, moved from the traditional conductor’s position into the choir itself, removing any barrier between the singers and the audience.

Each choir had an 8 minute slot to fill and Surrey Hills made exceptional use of their time. Their first piece, Rytmus, by Ivan Hrušovsky, was fast paced and challenging with the potential to leave singers exposed, but SSCC were committed, reliable and believable.

They followed that with the traditional folk song She Moved Thro’ the Fair, which was quiet but complex, creating a real atmosphere that is difficult to achieve by a small number of singers in a concert hall of this size.

Finally, they sang – decked out in witches’ hats – the fun , dramatic and highly entertaining Double Double Toil and Trouble by Jaakko Mäntyjärvi.  Close harmony, evil cackles and a real sense of humour brought the house down, and you could see many singers around the hall mentally filing that one away so that they could give it a try.

Telling a Story through Song

Judge Ruthie Henshall said: “You had me from the moment you started and you didn’t let me go.” And other judges said the choir’s commitment to each other clearly paid off in the tone, quality and performance.

Speaking before the results were announced, Debbie Walton said: “We entered this competition on a whim and we are so excited to be here as category finalists. This hall is so acoustically different to anywhere we’ve sung before, but we believe in telling a story with our music and we use a range of rehearsal methods to keep everything as fresh and accurate as possible. This is such a special competition, and we are so lucky to have come so far.”

The eventual winners were Glasgow-based female choir Les Sirenes, who are all students or graduates of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. But the judges said they had found it extremely difficult to choose a winner because the overall standard was outstanding.

See the Performance on BBC Four

You can see the stunning Surrey Hills Chamber Choir performance on BBC Four on November 23 or listen to highlights on BBC Radio 3’s The Choir at 5pm on November 11.

Were you at the Choir of the Year finals, or have you heard the SSCC in action? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Responses to Local Choir Pipped At The Post For Choir Of The Year Title

  1. Mike WInterbotham

    October 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Nice article.
    However, the TV coverage is on Friday 23rd Nov. Plenty of great music, so tune in!
    Mike, SHCC

    • Martin Giles

      October 31, 2012 at 3:14 pm

      Thanks for pointing that out Mike. Now corrected.