It’s already two months since my final concert with the wonderful Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir. So long in the planning and anticipation, it passed me by in a haze of musical triumph, accolades and goodwill. Too much to take on board then, I am only now beginning to process it all. We go back such a long way!
New to Yorkshire and about to build a freelance music career from scratch, I slipped unnoticed into the Yorkshire Chamber Choir summer concert in 1989. They were advertising for a musical director. Unknown to them, they were being auditioned! I always look for willingness to work hard, potential and vision to push the boundaries. The twenty-eight strong ensemble looked as though they might qualify, so I took them on.
They quickly expanded to maintain over a hundred singers, which led to the new name of Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir. Looking back down the decades I can say they consistently delivered on all fronts. I can even say that my time with the YPC has been the single most important aspect of my career.
The choir achieved standards equal to those of the very best choral societies on the planet – as affirmed by countless international soloists who performed with us. Much of the most challenging choral society repertoire was performed, with some major works sung without scores! My skills and musicianship grew alongside.
The majority of my tenure was with the chairmanship of the late Richard Haigh and Derek Howell. Both were wonderful colleagues offering much support and encouragement. Their friendship, wise counsel and partnership were key to the success of this organisation and I feel so privileged to have worked alongside.
Throughout most of this was the musical wizardry of Tom Moore at the piano and organ. It is rare for musicians to develop such heights of musical intuition based on mutual respect, and together we earned the name of ‘the dream team’: it is a partnership that I have greatly treasured. Tributes must also be paid to the wonderful Amici orchestra, capacity audiences and our many generous sponsors.
YPC was so much more than part of my career: we travelled together through ups and downs, through major bereavement, loss of founder members and through a highly successful youth recruitment scheme in partnership with Leeds Conservatoire. There were some epic choir trips (musically and socially) six to Europe, two to Scotland, two to Ireland and others around England. The friendships made will always be treasured by myself and Eileen. YPC is our family!
The decision to retire was difficult but I am convinced it was right for both me and the choir. It was always my wish to leave whilst still able to deliver the goods to a high level. The pandemic deferred the decision for a couple of years, as globally it has had a devastating effect on the performing arts. But not on the YPC!. Post lockdown, members came back full throttle in high numbers with new recruits queuing to audition.
Thank you YPC for everything you have given me, and how you have enriched my life. You are awesome! What a privilege it has been. Your loyalty never wavered for a moment, which is why I have been able to hand you over in top shape to your new director.
Au revoir! I will watch you from afar.