All Change at Clacton Choral
After a decade at the helm as Musical Director, conductor and, it must be said, as one-woman powerhouse; Gilli Dulieu is finally to step down from her role. In common with the experience of many people during the current Covid crisis, the priorities of creating some space for herself and her family were brought into sharp focus against the all-consuming backdrop of the personal and professional approach she always brought to her work. She stepped in and brought the traditions of Clacton Choral Society right up to date, as the newly-branded Clacton Choral took its rightful place in the local music scene.
Testament to Gilli’s tenure is written in the membership growing from 35 members to 80, which meant that more ambitious works could be presented for audiences that were growing at an equal rate, such that new, larger venues had to be found. A key aspect of this was her introduction of ‘Saturday Sings’ which embraced the whole community of singers and wannabees from Clacton and the surrounding villages, encouraging and enabling the choir to grow not just in numbers, but in quality, with invited soloists and instrumentalists keen to share performances. Gilli instigated a vibrant website to keep everyone informed; arranged workshops and masterclasses; and her weekly rehearsals concentrated as much on voice production skills as on learning the pieces, further to strengthen the brand.
Yes, Clacton Choral is in great shape! The members are sad to see Gilli move on but are grateful for all that she has done for the society and wish her all the best in the next stage of her musical career.
2019 Acorn Village receives cheque after Summer Concert
Our “Clacton Choral Goes to the Proms!” charity concert in July supported the Acorn Village in Mistley which provides residential living for adults with a learning difficulty.
At a recent rehearsal Musical Director Gilli Dulieu, accompanied by Chairman John Bennett, presented a £1500 cheque to Michelle Cook the Chief Executive Officer for the Acorn Village.
Michelle highlighted three particular areas where funding is currently needed, one of which is for the bathrooms to be converted into wet rooms. With those improved facilities the residents who sing will be able to have daily rehearsals!
2018 Clacton Choral Supports Hospice
Zack Witter, Community Fundraiser for St Helena Hospice, was delighted to receive a cheque for £1,500 following Clacton Choral’s fantastic Summer Show. Music Director Gilli Dulieu and Chairman John Bennett were thrilled to be able to hand over the money that will be used for their District and Community services, ranging from Inpatient to Advice-lines and Home Care to Bereavement Support – and maybe even to help fund that new bed!
VOCAL WORKSHOP - SEPTEMBER 2017
The inspirational Deborah Miles-Johnson led over seventy-five enthusiastic singers in a Vocal Workshop at Clacton’s St James’ Church Hall on 30th September.
From her experience performing with the BBC Singers and The Sixteen, Deborah introduced various ways of improving technique; from posture and projection to breath control; to support the stamina, health and dynamics of the singing voice.
Accompanied by pianist Stephen Smith, they rehearsed pieces from Puccini’s ‘Messa di Gloria’, and enriched their rendering of the traditional Christmas Carols they have sung for years. As one singer reported, ‘The afternoon was exhilarating; singing is such fun, and so rewarding!’
Gilli Dulieu, Musical Director of Clacton Choral said, ‘Deborah was brilliant, showing local singers how to develop their voices. There were so many new faces too and we hope that some will now think about joining our choir.
December 2019 - Brahms, Dvorak and Carols
Strange though it felt to be on the receiving end; having so recently left as an alto singer myself; I settled back to enjoy Clacton Choral’s Christmas Concert at St James’ Church on Saturday 7th December. Their new afternoon time slot, a nice warm church and comfortable seating, were all very welcoming to a packed house.
Right from the start, I was struck by the full, round tone of this choir, as two glorious Brahms’ melodies from his German Requiem filled the church, under the very skilful baton of Musical Director, Gilli Dulieu. The young and up-coming voices of soloists Emily Kirby-Ashmore and Julian Chou-Lambert – singing the hauntingly beautiful but little-known Brahms’ ‘Ave Maria’, showcasing Gilli’s specially-adapted arrangement of it – were to shine again in the next piece too; Dvorak’s Te Deum. This powerful and uplifting work with the full choir, whose handling of the dynamics, with such clear diction, made for a masterful performance, accompanied by Stephen Smith on the church organ.
The anticipation for the second half was palpable, as the audience hurried back to re-take their seats, for a cascade of traditional carols. Each was introduced with its own history to add context, including a delightful Rutter set with delicate flute and piccolo solos from Francesca Dulieu; then with plenty of the audience participation that is such a lovely feature of Choral’s Christmas concerts, we all enjoyed putting the finishing touches to what was a very spectacularly festive musical feast!
Or so we’d thought … until festive hats of every description popped out of nowhere and a figgy pudding criss-crossed the aisles as the choir’s encore sent us finally on our way. Could they top this? Well, with Parts II and III of Handel’s Messiah on 4th April 2020, anything’s possible. Keep an eye on their website for early booking – www.ClactonChoral.org.uk
Review by Mary Hall
July 2019 - Moon Rise over Clacton!
On Saturday afternoon July 6th, in St James’ Church, Clacton, the Clacton Choral Society gave a wonderful concert in aid of Acorn Village, Mistley, led by their musical director, Gilli Dulieu. Under the title Clacton Choral Goes to the Proms, tickets were sold out weeks before the event; tribute to the growing popularity of this choir. The audience was treated to a varied programme of traditional and modern music, with the opening piece Benjamin Britten’s stunning arrangement of the National Anthem, which the choir sang beautifully, displaying both tonal range and sensitive dynamics. We listened to Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs in an interesting arrangement by Chris Phelps, then Songs from the First World War, arranged by Alwyn Humphrys. Jerusalem was sung rousingly by choir and audience, accompanied by Paul Sidall on the organ. A new departure was to welcome members of the Holland Park School Choir led by Sarah Stephens: they sang Refuge composed by Robert Chilcott, onetime member of the King’s Singers, and the haunting Skye Boat Song, combining with Clacton Choral for the Sea Songs. Their presence gave added zest to the occasion and the audience applauded them enthusiastically.
Samantha Christopher (clarinet) and Peter Thorne (piano) played the delightful Sonatina Pastorale by Peter Thorne, and Two Flutes at the Opera, a selection played by Sarah Stephens and Francesca Dulieu, provided a further instrumental interlude.
As a refreshing contrast to the traditional themes, the 50th Anniversary of the first moon landing in July 1969 was celebrated in style. Mary Hall performed a poem she had written, and the Choir sang Moon Medley, an arrangement by Gilli Dulieu of popular songs, among them Moon River and Fly me to the Moon. This was an innovative and original part of the concert and provided both a highlight and modern focus to the programme.
The concert ended with Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 stirringly played as a piano duet by David Mitchell and Peter Thorne, the audience joining in with the familiar words of Land of Hope and Glory. This was a most enjoyable concert for a summer’s day with much foot-tapping and humming along. Well done Clacton Choral!
APRIL 2019 - 'Gounod: St Cecilia Mass with classics by Faure and Franck'
In the company of three fabulous professional solo singers (Laura Pooley, soprano; Daniel Joy, tenor and Peter Grevatt, baritone); harpist, Meriel Barclay; cellist Melanie Woodock and organist Stephen Smith, Clacton Choral’s Musical Director, Gilli Dulieu, led all the musicians so skilfully through a moving evocation of the Easter message at St James’ Church on Saturday 13th April.
Some eighty choristers worked as one to interpret the works of Franck, Fauré and Gounod to a level of performance that had the audience spellbound. Swift changes in tempo, volume and mood were so ably handled, to great dramatic effect. A newcomer to the audience was overheard confiding to her friend that she had no idea what to expect from the evening; but was “blown away” and will definitely be attending in future.
On 6th July she will see another side to the choir as they ‘Go To The Proms’ at 5pm, then she can look forward to the Christmas presentation on 7th December at 4.00pm; both concerts again at St James’ Church in Tower Road, Clacton.
Dec 2018 - AN EVENING TO REMEMBER
St James’ church at half-past six on a Sunday night but it wasn’t a service but a glorious “Concert of joyful English music with harp and organ”. One first saw the welcoming appearance of the church, then on examining the impeccably produced programme one realised that this was going to be no amateurist affair.
Then the sopranos came in, chanting the plainsong Hodie Christus natus est, the first element of Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. It was such a startling beginning to the concert, because the choir then went straight into Welcum Yule delivered with phenomenal attack and vigour. The other items followed, beautifully sung. Britten’s Ceremony of Carols is a wonderfully varied work and the texts in mediaeval English are a delight to read as well as to hear. It was good to see that several choir members were willing to sing solo or in small groups and did so to excellent effect.
People who have seen Clacton Choral in the past years must have been startled and delighted to see it now eighty-strong, a high-class choir, capable of handling any of the major choral works.
The harp, played superbly by Lynne Creasey, was an ideal accompaniment to Britten’s work, which was followed by the monumental Te Deum by Edward Elgar, when we heard the organ for the first time, played by Stephen Smith who is the choir’s favourite concert accompanist.
An audience carol brought the first half to a close; one wonders when the church last heard a massive sound of music like this, because the audience stood up and gave it their all.
The second half featured Gustav Holst’s Four Old English Carols plus his Christmas Day. This offering too was very varied and featured soloists from the choir. There followed a programme of perhaps lighter pieces, the Audience Carol Go tell it on the Mountain, some spirituals, one supported by flautists Francesca Dulieu and Sarah Stephens, and a final Audience Carol.
The church was packed, showing how much the varied programmes of Gilli Dulieu’s Clacton Choral are appreciated. It’s worth a look at their web-site clactonchoral.org.uk. Next time should be good: Gounod’s St Cecilia Mass on 13th April.
JULY 2018 - 'JOSEPH, OLIVER! and other Songs from the Shows'
The concert on Saturday July 7th was a joyous occasion. St James’ Church was full and the audience was treated to a feast of melodic music.
The programme started with a new medley from Lionel Bart’s 1960 musical Oliver! arranged by musical director, Gilli Dulieu, and accompanied by David Mitchell on the piano. The music moved seamlessly from song to song. There was good balance and contrast of tone, Gilli holding the choir with her usual control. Humour came at the end as the choir sang Food, Glorious Food waving appropriately decorated paper plates.
This was followed by a Selection of Show Songs sung by individual members of the choir. Heather Attwell-Davis brought her accomplished soprano voice to Art is Calling for Me, Graham Bell sang Oh, What a Beautiful Morning with great sensitivity, Miriam Fitzgerald sang Over the Rainbow with attractive clarity, the duo of Catrina Grimsey and Richard Nowak performed We’re a Couple of Swells with verve, enlivened by their swanky hats. Next Sylvia Canning, with her lovely soprano voice, convinced us that she could indeed have Danced all Night. The finale to this section was provided by Peter Thorne on the piano improvising on the spot a medley of songs from those suggested to him by the audience. This was a bravura performance and was greeted with cheers at the end.
A concert presentation of Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat formed the largest part of the programme. Dressed in multi-coloured shirts and blouses, the choir sang with panache and confidence, Howard Stapleton taking the voice of Joseph. The choir’s singing was enhanced by Peter Thorne on bass guitar, Gilli’s husband Phil on guitar and her brother, Jeremy Price on drums; the musicians providing a thoughtful accompaniment. The familiar songs sounded fresh and lively: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s great music and Tim Rice’s witty lyrics were beautifully brought to life on this sunny evening. Gilli Dulieu continues to draw the best from Clacton Choral: the 2018 Summer concert did not disappoint. It was in aid of St Helena’s Hospice.
APRIL 2018 - 'FOUR GREAT COMPOSERS'
Clacton Choral’s Spring Concert on Saturday 28th April, under the baton of their Musical Director, Gilli Dulieu, achieved a magnificent sound with the regal accompaniment of the Kingfisher Sinfonietta under Beth Spendlove – as they celebrated the ‘Four Greats’ - Bach; Handel; Haydn & Mozart.
The scene was set with Johann Sebastian Bach’s much-loved Jesu, ‘Joy of Man’s Desiring’, then his Cantata No. 12 with its majestic, soaring phrases, was sung in German. His ‘Double Concerto for Violin and Oboe’ showcased the thrilling playing of Beth Spendlove and Robert Rogers, and this led the audience neatly into Handel’s Vespers Psalms - his expressive ‘Laudate Pueri Dominum’ - with soloist Claire Colman’s sparklingly clear soprano voice running delightfully through the trills and the hallowed Latin text. Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’ was an exciting end to the first half; a momentous volume being achieved, that would have graced any cathedral!
Mozart’s ‘Te Deum’ welcomed the audience back after the interval, with the next instrumental piece the Adagio and Rondo from his first Flute Concerto, beautifully interpreted by solo flautist Francesca Dulieu. The choir’s rendition of Mozart’s joyful ‘Laudate Dominum’ was followed by Haydn’s ‘Little Organ Mass’ – a real gem of composition that cleverly compresses the length of the Mass to suit a much shorter timescale, by requiring the choristers to sing the different exhortations at the same time as each other – and all in Latin, of course.
As music critic and one-time professional Gilbert & Sullivan singer, Clive Harre, put it, “What a difference a Sinfonietta makes!” as he praised the diction, hard work and commitment of all concerned. Well done, Clacton Choral.
DECEMBER 2017 – PUCCINI ‘MESSA DI GLORIA’ and carols
In the short-time Gilli has been conducting Clacton Choral Society, she is now in the most fortunate position of directing a large choir who seemingly not only watch her every musical move but also respond to her requests. This friendly choir now boasts a most respectable number of both tenors and basses and on Saturday evening had the privilege to be joined by soloists Stephen Cviic and Patrick McCarthy who both sang beautifully to a packed St James’ Church in Clacton.
During the first half of the concert, we were treated to Puccini’s Messa di Gloria with its glorious operatic and lyrical music for both soloists and choir. For me the most musically rewarding moments were during the unaccompanied sections when the full effect of each voice part and soloists could be fully appreciated. Clearly conductor, soloists and choristers were well-rehearsed and prepared and presented this charming work to great effect.
The second half of the concert was crammed full with a variety of Christmas Carols including a delightful version of I Saw Three Ships by Peter Thorne for the two soloists, flute (performed by Francesca, one of Gilli’s daughters) and accompanied by the composer at the piano. Patrick McCarthy showed his versatility with a lovely rendition of the unaccompanied I Wonder as I Wander followed by When a Child is Born. Throughout this varied concert, the large choir of some 70 members were visually and musically focused on Gilli’s direction and clearly enjoyed the music.
JULY 2017 – ‘TRIAL BY JURY’ BY GILBERT AND SULLIVAN
Wigged and gowned, the ever-versatile Clacton Choral Chorus, Soloists and Guests, with gifted accompanist Peter Humphrey, performed their hearts out to a packed and delighted audience, with a selection of Gilbert and Sullivan favourites and their hilarious Trial by Jury operetta in one act, at St James’ Church in Clacton on 1st July.
The 1875 courtroom came to life in front of their very eyes, as weeping plaintiff Sylvia Canning hit her splendid top notes, ably supported by her Counsel, Heather Atwell-Davis. Howard Stapleton was the archetypal Judge; Paul Bloomfield the cheery and implacable Defendant; while John Bennett steered a wayward Jury. David Ventura kept them all under control as the boomingly efficient Usher.
The musicality and diction was all there; the timing crisp; the commitment absolute and the necessary ham acting so effective, all because of the skilful direction of Musical Director Gilli Dulieu. The concert was in aid of Parkinson’s UK and raised just under £1,000
APRIL 2017 - BACH `ST JOHN PASSION', BULLARD `WONDROUS CROSS'
Clacton Choral Society conducted by Gilli Dulieu presented its Easter concert with music from J S Bach, Malcolm Williamson and Alan Bullard to a large and attentive audience on Saturday evening.
Extracts from J S Bach’s St John Passion were sung in English with soloists Daniel Joy, Peter Grevatt and Heather Attwell-Davis plus occasional beautiful accompaniment from flautist Francesca, daughter of the conductor. Throughout this wonderful work the choir were very attentive and responsive to Gilli’s sensitive direction especially during the bass Aria “My Lord and Saviour let me ask Thee” with chorale accompaniment from the choir.
The second half of the concert began with The Procession of Palms, a work by Malcolm Williamson, a former Master of the Queen’s Music. To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect from this composer as he wrote in a bewildering array of styles but I was pleasantly surprised by the melodious choral writing, coupled with imaginative and contrasting organ accompaniment expertly executed by Stephen Smith.
The choir skilfully portrayed the meaning of the work from the start of the procession through to the final Hosanna and the work’s sudden ending.
This successful Easter-themed concert ended with Alan Bullard’s Wondrous Cross, which is interspersed with hymns for choir and audience, such as There is a Green Hill far away. The choir and three soloists sympathetically responded to the text based on the Seven Last Words attributed to Jesus on the Cross with empathy and pleasing phrasing.
The work and concert ended with the choir and audience singing the hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.
DECEMBER 2016 - HANDEL'S MESSIAH (PART ONE) AND CAROLS
Given the cold winter’s day, the organisers were surprised and delighted to see the large church fill up until there were no spare seats; it appears this choir has built up the reputation of always offering a really good evening’s entertainment.
And so it proved. The performance of most of Messiah part one, which deals with the Christmas story, went off splendidly, enhanced by the brilliant playing of Beth Spendlove’s Kingfisher Sinfonietta. The choir produced a massive volume of harmonious sound but knew how to handle the familiar passages that skip along so lightly. They rounded off the extracts from Messiah part 1 with the rousing Hallelujah chorus which normally comes in a later section.
After the interval there was a delightfully mixed programme, three carols for the audience to sing along, a fantastic oboe solo by Timothy Eaton accompanied by the orchestra and a virtuoso performance by Beth herself on violin of a familiar piece by Vivaldi . Before the last audience carol the choir sang Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols with its strange contrasts of the haunting typically Vaughan Williams’ chords, the simple slow solo line against the vigorous unison carol chants. We need to hear this work more often.
The solo was sung by Elaine Henson (contralto) who is very well-known locally and who was also the main soloist in the Messiah. The organist was Tom Cogan. All in all a great evening. Congratulations to the conductor Gillian Dulieu, whose hard work is really appreciated by the choir and bore such fine fruit this evening.
JULY 2016 - A SUMMER MISCELLANY
What a wonderful concert this was! A vision of summery yellow-and-green-dressed choristers produced music that spoke to everyone there; from the emotive choral suite of Karl Jenkins’ ‘Armed Man’; through to a soaring flute solo, delivered with consummate skill by BA (Hons) Music Student Francesca Dulieu, accompanied by Peter Thorne on the piano.
The choir went on to deliver ‘Sing’ and ‘The Happy Wanderer’ with so much joy that the audience were grinning from ear to ear,
then Gerry Bremner (aka Il Tenore) then stepped up to enthral us with three delightful songs from operetta and film, complete with sparkling eyes!
Prolific local composer Peter Thorne; stalwart of every performance that Clacton Choral has given since under the baton of Gilli Dulieu; played three of his fascinating piano pieces that were as refreshing as they were intricate and entertaining.
The choir picked up again with the all-time favourites, arranged by Gilli, of ‘Hello Dolly’ and ‘Smile’ and then, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its being written, ‘Que Sera Sera’, with the audience being invited to sing along – which they did, with further broad grins!
Gerry then led the choir in a stirring finale, singing the all-time favourite from Carousel, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.
All that was missing was a summer ice-cream … oh no; everyone had one at the end!
Bravo, Clacton Choral – Encore!