Charnwood Voices Menu
Past Choir Tours
Somerset April 2019
Our 11th biennial tour, organised by our stalwart Jeni Beasley and team, and under the direction of our musical director, Nicholas Scott-Burt, took a group of 36 singers and 16 groupies to Somerset where we stayed in the seaside resort of Weston super Mare. The Lauriston Hotel, kindly vetted by Margaret Dartnell, provided comfortable accommodation.
Credit should be given to coach driver, Mick, from Paul Winson for negotiating the tiny carpark each morning, accompanied by signals, clapping and cheers from members of the choir. Also to Jean Hayes who sorted everyone out with badges and itinerary booklets containing interesting information to whet our appetite for our various cultural visits.
Our first performance took place in the awe inspiring Wells Cathedral. It was amusing to observe the cathedral cat lording it beneath the famous Scissor Arches, and a relief that our voices didn’t shatter the beautiful 14th century stained glass Jesse Window!
To a large and appreciative audience we sang the best of our sacred a cappella repertoire including the moving “Ave Maria” by Bruckner, the 16th century choral masterpiece “O Quam Gloriosam” by Victoria and the 17th century jubilant “Cantate Domino” by Monteverdi, all so wonderful to sing in the glorious acoustic. We also included the deeply-felt anthem “Hear our prayer” by our own English composer, Henry Purcell (1659-95). This was challenging being in 8 parts but was definitely a highlight.
We followed this with a trip to Cheddar Gorge, one of Britain’s most spectacular natural landmarks. Malcom Steward organised a tour of the stunning stalactite caves which lie below high limestone cliffs. Despite rather miserable weather, some of us climbed Jacob’s Ladder to view the gorge from above.
Blessed by better weather the next day, some of the choir explored Weston while the rest of us went to Bristol, enjoying the harbour area with its interesting free museum and replica of John Cabot’s ship The Matthew. Meanwhile our unstoppable musical director, Nicholas Scott-Burt stayed behind, secretly beavering away at arranging another piece for our autumn concert.
Our next concert venue, a pleasant walk from our hotel, was All Saint’s church in Weston, rated by Sir John Betjeman as “the finest church of modern foundation in Somerset”. Here we added some secular repertoire to our programme, including the gorgeous “Seal Lullaby” by Whitacre, the lively “Tequila Samba” and some of Nick Scott Burt’s inspiring SATB arrangements of popular songs, a favourite being “Ticket to ride”. We were warmly appreciated by a fairly large audience, including locals as well as our loyal groupies. Afterwards we enjoyed a group Italian meal at Il Michelangelo restaurant.
Our final day got off to an unfortunate start when tenor Peter Finch fell from the coach steps on arrival in Bath and broke his hip. Thanks to medically trained people in choir and groupies he was supported to hospital where he subsequently stayed for a few days and had a hip replacement. A tribute to the excellent medical services in the Bath area, he was back at choir rehearsals only a month later.
We gave two performances in Bath, the first was all sacred and well suited to the grandeur of the historic Bath Abbey. The nave was undergoing restoration so we had to fit our programme into the workmen’s lunch break so as to avoid unwanted percussive effects! However, many people came inside to benefit from listening to our uplifting spiritual offerings.
In addition to her hard work involved in being treasurer, Janet Clitheroe organised a free walking tour of Bath. Sheltering from incessant rain under umbrellas and hoods we nevertheless learnt some interesting things about Bath’s architecture and history.
Our final concert venue was St Michael’s Church in Bath. Between rehearsal and concert Jean organised a buffet tea, served in the crypt (not as spooky as it sounds!). The concert was not particularly well attended. However the success of the day was surely that we finally mastered Mr Nicholas Scott-Burt’s encore piece “Seaside”. Based very loosely on the well- known music hall favourite “I do like to be beside the seaside” this was adapted and most cunningly arranged so that choristers were challenged to imitate sounds of the sea and cope with Nick’s trademark jazzy rhythms, harmonies, irregular time signatures and key changes.
2017 Tour to Tuscany
With a number of significant landmarks to celebrate, the choir took to the hills of Tuscany at Easter 2017 for the 10th of our biennial Easter trips around Britain and Continental Europe – this time appearing on tour for the first time under our new name and with our new musical director.
Now appearing as the re-christened Charnwood Voices and under the baton of Nicholas Scott-Burt, the choir managed to conjure all that was best from our former life as Shepshed Singers, with three performances in as many days alongside a heavy-duty schedule of cultural visits and general merry-making launched early each day from a hotel base in the spa town of Montecatini Terme.
In a breath-catching, non-stop, whirlwind of music and travel around the historic region that inspired the Renaissance, the 45-strong choir won appreciation from the locals for our a cappella singing and trademark enthusiasm. The programmes were all sacred music by (mainly) European composers including Bruckner, Monteverdi, Palestrina, Durufle and Mendelssohn, spiced with English flavour ancient and (more) modern in the shape of Tallis and Stanford. The American Samuel Barber was included as an honorary European, because his Agnus Dei was so obviously well-suited to the grandeur of the venues.
The concert series began with a short performance to the tourists of Florence at the mighty (and mightily-busy) “Duomo”, otherwise and more formally known as Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. This magnificent building possessed the most challenging acoustic, but a tour highlight for singers and listeners alike was a spell-binding Bruckner Ave Maria that will live as long in the memory as it seemed likely to do in the rooftops of the building.
On to the ancient walled-city of Lucca the next day, after taking in Pisa and the Tower. A guided tour of the city (birthplace of Puccini), a quick rendition of Nessun Dorma at the feet of his statue, up and down a tower or two, and it was show-time again with a concert in the San Martino Cathedral that ticked every box in terms of performance, emotion and reception from a happy audience. Then it was late back, early start and off to do it again at Certaldo, this time via wine-tasting at Castello Verrazzano (aged barrels, white tablecloths, fabulous views, vintage wines and balsamics at exotic prices) as well as the medieval world’s version of a Manhattan skyline at San Gimignano.
There was somehow time left in the day after enjoying a standing ovation at the conclusion of the Certaldo concert to go up a funicular, get back down and dash off by coach to dine at an agriturismo restaurant in the hills – the farewell meal.
Tour PS: The pace was set at the start by a requirement to leave Leicestershire at 3am. It feels almost wimpish to note that at the end of the trip most of the party reached home by midnight… Many thanks to our tour organiser and sop soloist Jeni for a wonderful week.
Cornwall April 2015
You’ve heard of Poldark, Jamaica Inn, Doc Martin, John Betjeman and now, Shepshed Singers; just some of the delights of Cornwall.
After many months of meticulous planning and rehearsing, the majority of the choir, with a good number of supporters, including Dawa the Newfoundland, were off to the South West to perform at four beautiful venues, St Tudy Church, Truro Cathedral, Falmouth Methodist Church and St Swithin’s, Launcells, for the warm and welcoming people of Cornwall.
Our programme of sacred and secular pieces, some old and some new repertoire, had been chosen to reflect the springtime, the sea and to celebrate Easter. Alleluias abounded and were put to best effect in Truro Cathedral, where its vastness gave the singing a heavenly quality. The full sound of the double choir singing Croce’s ‘Regina Coeli’ made an impressive start to the concert, as the two halves competed and then reunited to create an exultant final ‘Alleluja’.
A selection of early sacred music from Tye, Taverner, Palestrina and Byrd, fittingly chosen for the ancient churches of St Tudy and St Swithin’s, Launcells, was much appreciated, but the smiles came when we launched into the familiar sing-alongs, ‘Mermaid’ and ‘I do like to be beside the seaside’, even clapping along to ‘The angel rolled the stone away’. Throughout, Dawa, our canine supporter, lay peacefully spread across the aisle at St Swithin’s, giving a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere to the occasion. Indeed, they’re a hospitable bunch in Cornwall, providing drinks, sandwiches and cake to sustain us, and for our convenience, a composting toilet.
‘When the weather is fine, you know it’s the time, for messing about on the river.’ With stunning views of the coastline, our boat leisurely chugged along the Fal River to join ‘Eight in a Bar’, the local male voice choir, at Falmouth Methodist Church. They sang with both gusto and sensitivity and it was a real treat for us to sit back and enjoy their harmonious singing. I don’t think they thought we were too bad either! Our old favourites, Vaughan Williams’ Folk Songs were well received and, despite our groans, ‘Sacramento’ was enjoyed by audience and performers alike.
The tour was a great success and we have some happy memories to treasure. We are indebted to Richard for his expert guidance, his exuberance and expressive conducting; to Jo for finding such wonderful venues; to the whole committee, and especially our tireless ‘Saint Jeni’, who put everything into making sure the tour ran smoothly and enjoyably for everyone. So finally, to you all, ‘Meur ras’, a special Cornish thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Hungary April 2013
|The singers in Eger Basilica, April 2013
I can’t possibly eat at that time of night; that’s my bedtime! That was my first reaction when I saw the schedule of events for our visit to Hungary. Why Hungary? I had the impression it was more East than West, with a dark history which did not sound too appealing.
As we gathered at St Botolph’s car park, I wondered how Andrew managed to show no angst at the prospect of leading us on this latest expedition, while I had been feeling nervous for days. The first casualties of the trip were Glynis and David who couldn’t come after David injured his eye, and later, Lis, who totally lost her voice and had to be content with watching us perform. Small consolation, but at least she was able to sing at the first of the tour concerts.
The tour benefited from the committee’s decision to use a professional tour company, which ensured we had excellent venues and large audiences for all our concerts.
On our first morning, a three hour coach tour of Buda and Pest, with an English speaking guide, took us to some impressive places, including the citadel high up, overlooking the Danube, where we had eaten the night before. Many parts of Budapest have been rebuilt and there are some beautiful churches and historic buildings but, sadly, we also learnt how the Hungarians had suffered greatly throughout their history and that life is still tough for many people living in poorly maintained blocks of flats. Later, a visit to an antique shop, looking at some Russian memorabilia, sparked a passionate speech from the owner, whose experience under Russian rule filled her with hatred for all those who had oppressed her country. Pacifist tendencies started to drain away, as I realised the necessity of a strong defence force and our advantage of living on an island.
As I dislike bathing in water shared by the public, I reluctantly joined the bathers at the supposedly health-giving thermal baths. To my surprise, I quite enjoyed dipping in the pools and sweating in the saunas, despite having to brave the cold outside, wearing just a swimming costume and towel.
Our joint concert with a Hungarian choir was in the intimate setting of Nador Hall. First on were the local choristers, who gave a beautifully blended performance, much appreciated by the audience. Next it was our turn and Andrew’s light hearted introductions were tentatively translated by a member of the Hungarian choir. It was hard to tell if they were just being polite, but judging by the smiles, we were also well received, particularly our attempts at singing in Hungarian. The evening was concluded with a friendly gathering of both choirs, where we were urged to mix with our hosts, who fortunately could speak some English.
In contrast, our performance in St Stephen’s Basilica felt rather tense; it was a vast and daunting space, with the echo and strange acoustic causing some difficulty. However, it was an honour to sing in such a magnificent church and we were grateful for a large audience, despite the cold.
The long trip to Eger, where it was disappointingly too wet and cold to wander round the town before our final concert, was where we gave our best performance. Andrew had been interviewed for radio and television and TV cameras filmed our first piece. It was an emotional and uplifting occasion and our positively radiant conductor made it all feel worthwhile.
We are all really grateful to those who put so much effort into making the trip such a success and a huge ‘Köszönöm’ to Andrew; where would we be without him? We look forward to hearing the recordings so that we can relive those moments where, we hope, we were making beautiful music.
Amsterdam April 2009
After a pre-tour concert in Osgathorpe at the beginning of April a great time was had by all on our tour to Amsterdam. Our journey got off to a stuttering start when we had to swap our bus driver at Junction 22 of the M1 having begun at Junction 23! All to do with driver’s times etc. However once on our way we made good progress through patchy mist and bright sunshine to Dover ready for our lunchtime crossing. We were all unaware of the pending dispute in the Channel and happily boarded a slightly earlier ferry only to discover via BBC
|The Nieuwe Kerk
|In the Nieuwe Kerk, Delft
World News that some later travellers were not quite so fortunate.
|The English Church in Amsterdam
|Practising in the English Church
Whilst in Holland we performed concerts in the Nieuwe Kerk, Delft, the Engelse Kerk, Begijnhof, Amsterdam and the Oude Kerk, Zeist. The programme for our three concerts can be seen here.
|Practising in the Oude Kerk, Zeist
We were blessed with some gloriously warm weather which wasn’t so welcome on a couple of fairly long coach rides on a bus with malfunctioning air conditioning! We enjoyed a canal cruise and an evening meal together in our free time and several singers visited the Anne Frank Museum. Thanks to all involved in the tour’s organisation.
Paris April 2007
At 6.30 on a bright April morning the bus carrying the Shepshed Singers Touring Group (47 of us including singers, supporters and our conductor) set off for Dover to catch the ferry to Calais.The weather was bright and sunny and the Channel was very calm. Following a very long journey we eventually arrived at our hotel in Paris at about 8 pm. Immediately after breakfast the next day, we assembled on the roof of the hotel for a short rehearsal. Our coach then threaded its way through heavy traffic to Notre Dame, where we were to perform our first concert.
|Notre Dame Cathedral
|Singing from the chancel steps
The cathedral was hushed and the light was very dim, but we were able to make out hundreds of people, some seated, some wandering around. The acoustics were not very helpful, and we found it hard work making ourselves heard, but nevertheless it was a wonderful experience, which we shall always remember.
|The Singers are in town!
|In the German Church
After a few hours free to indulge in a little sightseeing and some sampling of French cuisine we assembled for the evening’s concert at the German Evangelical Church. This was more modern, with a wooden floor and gallery, and the acoustics were much more friendly. The audience was very appreciative and we were able to entertain them with a mixture of sacred and lighter music.
On Thursday morning we boarded the coach again for a 2 hour journey to Chartres, to sing in the magnificent cathedral, renowned for its stained glass windows. The acoustics here were different again, and the sound took 5 – 6 seconds to die away once we stopped singing. This was not such hard work as in Notre Dame, but our voices were already tired from two concerts on the previous day. After the concert we had a photo-call on the steps, where our supporters acted as Paparazzi to the choir. We all had dinner together and returned to Paris. Our driver, Jonathon, took us back via some of the famous landmarks in Paris which looked even more impressive at night when they were illuminated.
|In Chartres Cathedral
On Friday we were free to explore Paris, as we had fulfilled all our singing engagements. Most of us started the day by taking a trip down the Seine, then dispersed to see the sights. The weather was unseasonally warm which made it possible to relax at the numerous street cafes and watch the world go by.
On Saturday we made a fairly early start, and following a smooth but tedious coach journey, we all arrived in Shepshed exhausted but happy at about 8.30 pm. All in all it was a memorable and most enjoyable holiday, and we are already trying to decide where to go next time and how to raise the money to do it. Perhaps next time we’ll fly.
This is the repertoire that we took to Paris.
Prague March 2005
On a wet and windy March morning the Shepshed Singers departed East Midlands Airport bound for Prague and their Easter Tour. The inauspicious start weatherwise became irrelevant as we landed in Prague to bright sunshine! From the moment we arrived to the moment we left we saw nothing but blue skies (cue for a song I think!) and fine weather to accompany our tour. The Hotel Opera was our most sumptious stay so far and we began our visit by rehearsing in the dining room ahead of our first concert in the Church of St Nicholas in the Old Town Square scheduled for the following lunchtime.
|St Nicholas Church
|On the steps of St Nicholas
|Concert in St Nicholas Church
The concert was preceded by a short rendition on the steps of the church to hopefully encourage the passers-by to come in and listen. An appreciative audience enjoyed our programme and afterwards Andrew was presented with a book on the history of the church together with a CD of music performed there.
Our concert in Karlovy Vary, formerly Carlsbad, two hours west of Prague proved to be the most enjoyable. The spa town was looking at its best in the spring sunshine and we enjoyed a brief ‘tour’ with our NST rep, Hannah, before adjourning to a variety of eateries for lunch.
As we arrived at St Ann’s for our concert the evening sunshine outside belied the cold conditions inside. This church is in a poor state of repair with no heating or electricity and the purpose of our concert was to help raise funds for its renovation. The locals turned out in force to watch us perform – in our coats due to the very cold conditions.
|St Anns Church Karlovy Vary
|Rehearsing in St Anns
Andrew’s arrangement of Smetana’s Vltava proved most popular and served as an encore that elicited a standing ovation from a very ‘full house’! Despite the lack of grand surroundings that we have encountered in a lot of our venues, we all felt really uplifted by this concert and the response we received.
|Prague Tour Members
Our final concert involved participation in a mass at St Giles Church in the centre of Prague where we performed from a high balcony that meant that w didn’t really feel part of the service and once again it was very cold inside! Our final night of the tour saw us on a boat on the Vltava for a two hour cruise including supper which rounded off the tour wonderfully well! Many thanks are due to Andrew, Wyn (Treasurer), Peter(Chair) and Ann (Secretary) for all their hard work in the planning of the tour and whilst we were there. We look forward to the Shepshed Singers Tour 2007, but where to…..?
|Repertoire for the Prague Tour
|St Nicholas Church
|St Anns Karlovy Vary
|Concert of sacred music
|Concert of sacred and secular music
|Music for the mass
|Jesus junxit se
|Jesus junxit se
|If ye love me
|0 Rex gloriae
|O Rex gloriae
|If ye love me
|If ye love me
|Beati quorum via
|Jesu dulcis memoria
|Brown eyes blue
|The way we were
|O quam gloriosum
|The Oak and the Ash
|Nine hundred miles
|Water of Tyne
Barcelona April 2003
Our tour in 2003 took us
to sunny Barcelona where we stayed at Hotel Rubens located in an
attractive residential area to the north of the city near to Parc Guell.
The tour was booked through the NST Travel Group,
they booked the hotel and arranged all the concerts and transport
whilst we were in Barcelona.
We arrived in Barcelona at 8.00pm on Tuesday 22nd April.
Wednesday morning was free time to spend at leisure. In the
evening we were scheduled to sing mass in a small lady chapel, followed
by our concert at the main altar in the gothic .Barcelona Cathedral.
This was certainly an experience for all taking part, the mass in
particular as this was composed by our very own conductor Andrew Goff and this was to be
it’s premiere performance.
It was well received and Padre Parvre was delighted with our
performance, so much so that he has kept in touch with us and even flew
over for our recent major concert ‘Valls Missa Scala
Aretina’ which was composed in the 17th Century by Francisco
Valls for Barcelona Cathedral choir.
The Repertoire for the tour was all sacred taken from the
following: Brahms Warum ist das Licht, Bruckner
Os Justi and Locus iste, Mendelssohn Richte mich Gott,
Rachmaninov Bogoroditsye dyevo, Rheinberger Abendlied,
Victoria O Quam Gloriosum and Jesu dulcis memoria, Stanford
Three Motets, Holst Nunc Dimittis. Tchaikovsky
Tyebye poyem and Blazheni yahze, Palestrina Jesu
junxit, Croce Regina coeli, Anon Stella
splendens, Taverner Dum transisset sabbatum and Goff Mass.
Thursday we travelled to Montserrat Monastery where we were allowed to sing
in the Basillica . Again another wonderful experience. The monastery is
certainly a major tourist attraction and we sang to our biggest
audience to date (excluding Barry Manilow Concert) It was a beautiful
and prestigious venue in which to sing. We were able to spend some time
wandering around appreciating the magnificent monastery and the
Later the same day we performed our final concert in the Basillica
Santa Maria del Pi, in the centre of Barcelona. Although not as
magnificent as the Cathedral or the Monastery, the church proved to be
an excellent venue in which to sing with very good acoustics and we
felt this was our best performance of the tour, again being well
received by a large audience.
Friday and Saturday were both free for us to sight see
and enjoy the delights of a fascinating city.
We arrived back at East Midlands airport at 7.20pm Saturday 26th April
with every one saying “Roll on Tour 2005”!
Member accounts of the Barcelona Tour: Marilyn, Jane
For more information contact the secretary