To mark the choir’s milestone 45th birthday Ryesingers have chosen their favourite pieces to sing at their spring concert, An Evening to Remember, this year.
They and their audience will celebrate with wine and nibbles and a programme of songs including many that have won them prizes at music festivals around the country – at the Welsh Eisteddfod, Blackpool Musical Festival, in Middlesbrough, Cheltenham and once, memorably, at Bromley where they arrived just in time to take part in the competition, and brought the house down with a lively rendition of The Wedding Ring. The choir has presented concerts in churches and other venues in and around Rye and further afield in this country and in Europe, in Belgium, France and Germany.
Ryesingers was started in 1971 by Lesley Brownbill with just a few keen singers practising in neighbour Sally Osborne’s sitting room. Initially the choir was made up of women but when men joined there was the chance to present the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas that have been so popular in Rye. Lesley, still the choir’s musical director, has always insisted on achieving a high standard of pure sound, with a wide-ranging programme of classical works, such as the Berlioz Requiem, and madrigals, folk songs, gospel and songs from popular musicals.
Performances have included The Dream of Gerontius in Pershore Abbey and at Cranbrook, Berlioz Requiem in Norwich Roman Catholic Cathedral, Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in Bury St Edmunds and concerts of folk songs and madrigals, Christmas and light-hearted music in Rye and surrounding areas. Ryesingers have always been successful in competition, including competitive music festivals in Cheltenham, Blackpool, Middlesborough and Hastings Music Festivals where they have won numerous trophies.
Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the last thirty nine years was the two performances of the spectacular Berlioz Requiem in Rye itself. After two years of planning and fundraising the concerts took place in July 1995 and have been a talking point ever since for anyone who either took part or attended in the audience. Ryesingers celebrated their Silver Jubilee and 30th anniversary with concerts as part of the Rye Festival (which also came into existence in 1971) in 1996 and 2001.
An Evening to Remember, reflecting the choir’s achievements over the years, is on February 27 at Rye Community Centre, 7.30pm. Tickets, £8, include a glass of wine and the audience is invited to join the post-concert party. Tickets on the door or from Grammar School Records, Rye High Street. The choir’s summer concert in this anniversary year is on July 16, with Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and works by Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams.