The Chester St Cecilia Singers was founded in 1969 with the objective of bringing English Church music to a wider audience. In its earliest days, The Singers took the repertoire of the Anglican cathedral choir to churches, chapels and music societies across North West England and North Wales. Later, tours took The Singers further afield in the UK, to Europe and to Canada. We have sung in remote churches and chapels, often with small but enthusiastic congregations. We have also sung in great cathedrals including the Duomo in Florence, St John Lateran in Rome, York Minster, St Paul's and Westminster Abbey.
The Singers' Year
From January to March each year, we learn a repertoire of twenty to thirty pieces. We rehearse in Chester Cathedral Song School every Wednesday evening from 2000 to 2200. From April to July and in the early Autumn, the Singers give a concert on most Wednesday evenings. Concerts are normally within an hour's travelling time of Chester. As far as possible, we share transport to keep the costs down and to reinforce the cameraderie. If there is no concert scheduled, we usually rehearse. In November, we prepare for our Christmas engagements. These vary from year to year.
Because we usually sing in the evening, our repertoire often includes at least one setting of the Evening Canticles (Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis). A few will be continued from the previous year but the great majority will not. Although long serving members will probably recognise some of the newly introduced pieces, the repertoire always includes some items which the choir has never sung before. The music comes from the sixteenth to the twenty-first centuries and includes both popular and less well known items. Most music is for four part mixed choir with occasional items requiring different scoring.
Our Director of Music is David Hardie, who was previously our accompanist. He also assisted the previous Director and Deputy Director. He held organ scholarships at Dunblane Cathedral and Pembroke College, Cambridge. Presently, he is organist and Director of Music at St Peter's Church, Hale.
David's predecessor, Brian Greensill, was our director from 1984 to Summer 2010, when he retired. To our great sorrow, he died in August 2010. Brian was a well known solo singer and was Lay Succentor at Chester Cathedral for many years.
What formal qualifications do I need to join?
None. Some members have formal music qualifications but most do not. You will need to be able to read music, sing in tune and follow the conductor's beat.
Is there an audition?
Certainly. We ask all applicants to audition so that we can be sure their voices will blend adequately. Sometimes very competent solo singers do not blend well with existing voices.
Will I fit in?
The Singers come from many backgrounds and walks of life. We are united by our interest in our chosen form of music. If you share this interest, you will probably fit.
Must I be an Anglican?
No. Our members come from all faiths and from none. As we sing services in Anglican, Non-conformist and Roman Catholic churches, members need to understand and respect the appropriate conventions.
How many rehearsals must I attend?
All of them!
Rehearsal time is best used to work on blend, dynamics and interpretation so members are asked to do the note learning at home. We all have difficulty attending rehearsals from time to time but try very hard not to miss them.
Will I have weekend commitments?
Wednesday night is St Cecilia night. There are very few commitments at other times and these are only accepted if enough singers are available.
Are there any Singers to travel with?
Members live all round Chester - most members come from the area bounded by Wrexham, Birkenhead, Northwich and Nantwich but some dedicated souls have travelled much further.
What tours are planned?
We usually have a weekend visit to a British Cathedral to sing the services while its choir is on holiday. This may be at New Year or in the summer. Roughly every two years we go abroad for a week, usually duing the week of the late-May Bank Holiday.