Hey, you made it!
A quick look back at 2018
One year, maybe, I won’t be able to say “this year was even better than the last” but once again, it really was! Eclectic and adventurous barely begins to describe a year of La Boheme, Beethoven 9, Copland In the Beginning, Singet dem Herrn unconducted, B Minor Mass, Southwark Cathedral, QEH, John Butt, CLS, Roddy Williams, Southbank Sinfonia, Howells Westminster Mass at St Paul’s, two sell-out performances of The Christmas Truce, a 5-star review in The Arts Desk… and really those are just the highlights.
I’ve long wanted Epiphoni to be not just a first rate ensemble, and not just a lovely network of like-minded people — both of which it is — but to provide an environment where we all continually learn and improve — whether per project, or across a year or many years. 2018 feels like one of those years.
Beethoven, Bach and Truce gave us opportunities to hone our German whilst of course La Boheme was a rare foray into choral Italian. Thanks to Roddy Williams, Bach and the Cosmos gave us a project to really reflect on presentation and details of text; what we might be able to learn and apply to our own singing from an internationally renowned soloist. We got this in theory (his engaging rehearsal chats) and in practice: his mesmerising Ich Habe Genug was unforgettable.
Epiphoni even got invited to swell the ranks of the BBC Symphony Chorus at the Proms for Mahler 8 which a few of us were more than happy to muck in with:
Along with all the fireworks, one of my annual highlights is always the Good Friday recital — a slot reserved for going back to our roots of a cappella chamber music with repertoire of our choosing — and this year it featured very accomplished renditions of the Tippett Spirituals, Faire is the Heaven, MacMillan Miserere and Whitacre’s i thank you god.
Whilst never forgetting where we’ve come from, I have high aspirations for what we in Epiphoni can achieve. As we approach a major milestone — five years — and take on more and more opportunities, the time is right for both wider input from the membership but also a smaller, dedicated group to help me drive the group forward. I’m very grateful to those who’ve helped make a committee happen, most especially those who will be on it to begin with.
Morgan Simes will chair the committee, and Milly Taylor, Adrian Collister and Chris Pelmore will adopt roles that we expect to define over the coming year.
Jess and I will sit in committee meetings but are not officially members of it.
Jess is a paid member of staff, working on average 1-2 days a week. There is more work than can humanly be done in c.30 hours per month so we hope the emergence of a committee will both support Jess and also provide the bandwidth to help us shape our longer-term vision.
Whilst the Committee will take on some additional tasks, Epiphoni relies on all its members to lean in on occasion and your help is critical in us continuing to go from strength to strength.
As well as needing your support, the Committee (and I) are keen to get your thoughts on what is working and what we should be thinking about as we look to the future. To this end, Morgan will be sending out a survey early in the new year which I hope you will all complete.
As you’ll agree, Jess has been a huge asset to the choir since starting nearly 2.5 years ago.
Not just due to her immense efficiency and ability to get the job done but also that she elects to be a choir member (NB this is voluntary, not part of the job description) which is an enormous logistical help, and her sunny disposition which makes her a pleasure to be around.
As from January her job title will move to Choir Manager (from Administrator) reflecting more accurately the responsibilities she takes on, further alleviating the pressure on the Artistic Director (me!) and working in collaboration with our newly-formed committee.
Fixing — lists system
We’ll continue with our Lists system that we began as a trial in 2018. It is an enormous job to fix concerts and this system is hugely valuable in helping to do this efficiently as possible.
A refresher of this system and the three lists:
- “Opt out” – Full Choir Member; sings in everything/most things; indicates in advance to opt out (c.12-16 singers)
- “Opt in” – Full Choir Member; sings in around half of projects; indicates availability via poll or invitation (c.30 singers)
- “Deputies” – sings occasionally on invitation; usually larger forces or when gaps on a voice part. Not a full member of the choir.
If there is any doubt about which list you are on, or if you wish to move lists, please just contact Jess.
The largest list by far is the “opt in” list: those who consider themselves committed members of the group but prefer to pick and choose which to sing in. This list is very much intended to be a full member of Epiphoni but comes with some extra flexibility which we believe is a key attraction for some. However, it’s important to note that this flexibility cuts both ways: allowing you to be selective means that your involvement in all projects can’t always be guaranteed, because whilst we endeavour to include everyone who wants to be involved in a project, sometimes there are caps on numbers. If you want guaranteed involvement that’s what the “opt in” list is for and if you are keen to be on that please let Jess or me know.
All Full Choir Members (whether in the opt in or opt out lists) are expected to contribute to the group by singing at some of the various fundraisers each year and to be willing to lean in on minor admin tasks (opening up rehearsals, helping on front of house at concerts etc) so that we can keep the choir subscription free. I know that the Committee is going to reach out to you all next year to seek your ‘buy-in’ on this as well as your help in championing the ensemble in order to grow our supporter base so that we can have more full venues such as we enjoyed for the Christmas Truce.
Here’s the year ahead. As ever, your best way of being involved in something that particularity appeals (addressing the “opt in” list here) is to make your interest known!
- January – Ravel Daphnis and Chloe [ALL invited]
- 5th birthday concert – Sat 6th April (rehearsals from late Feb) [ALL invited]
- Good Friday – Fri 19th April [numbers limited]
- LFCCM Jonathan Dove programme – Sat 18th May [numbers limited]
- CD recording – Oct [numbers limited]
- Possible CLS project
- Possible film soundtrack recording with prominent orchestra
2018 really feels like an “arrival” year. Three years ago I set out several ambitions for the years ahead including releasing a CD, launching a chorus, partnering with orchestras, performing with an international artist and re-staging The Christmas Truce with a star in the lead.
And five years ago I said I wanted to create a choir to truly occupy that narrow space between amateur and professional, to sound for all the world like a pro choir, and so to receive a five-star review from the Arts Desk saying “Epiphoni is up there with the best professional choirs such as Tenebrae and Sonoro.” is a massive success story.
Thanks again for everything you’ve done to help achieve this vision and I look forward to even bigger and better things as we look to the future.
You’ll next hear from Morgan as we seek your thoughts on this past year and the year ahead.