Andrew is at the heart of the choral scene in Chesterfield, he runs four choirs and is heavily involved in a number of musical projects. We caught up for a chat at Elder Yard Chapel, Chesterfield to discuss his up and coming performance at Sheffield Cathedral which brings together almost 160 performers for what promises to be his largest… and he hopes best… event to date.
Andrew is a Chesterfield born and bred, he lives in Hasland, his singing career began in Chesterfield Parish Church Choir when he was just ten. He stuck with the choir through his twenties and his University days at Reading.
He later studied at the London’s Guildhall School of Music where he completed a post grad before returning to his home town in 1989. Today he is a full time musician, a piano teacher locally and in a Bakewell school and thoroughly enjoys his music.
“When I came back to Chesterfield in 1989, I very quickly started looking for opportunities to bring music to the town” explains Andrew. His first project involved setting up the Library Lunchtime Concerts. “I initially set up a programme of three small concerts at the Library, which have since taken place more of less every two weeks for the last 28 years.”
The concerts feature chamber music, choirs, piano and song recitals plus folk/art music and Jazz. “I was keen to create opportunities for people access to music for free, the concerts have been a great success. Today’s performance was attended by over 100 people and is a typical attendance. I book out the whole year, 20 plus concerts and greatly enjoy listening to the performers and seeing the audiences enjoying the events.”
Andrew is also the organist at Elder Yard Chapel and established performances here as well. These concerts take a similar format to the Library events and take place in the weeks between. “The Elder Yard Chapel recitals have been running for 20 years. Between the two venues we offer something most weeks and provide people with the opportunity to attend free lunchtime concerts.”
Andrew often plays in the concerts, either in a lead role or accompanying the performers. “It’s busy but fun” says Andrew. “I really enjoy the concerts, the support from those who perform and those who come to listen has been great and both series are set to continue for a good long time.”
I asked Andrew if the same audience attends both venues? “We have quite a large audience base, performers bring followers with them and yes, there is a core of people who attend most performances, but we do get a good mix of regular and new people … and there is always room for more” adds Andrew.
If you want details of the events, please look at the Chesterfield Tourist Information site or pick up a leaflet from the Elder Yard Chapel or Library.
Choirs are Andrew’s musical love. He is musical director of four choirs, Holymoorside Choral Society, Baslow Choir, Chesterfield Gilbert and Sullivan Society and MusicWork Vocal Ensemble and rehearses three nights during the week and runs the smaller vocal group at weekends.
“The first choir I directed was the Chesterfield Co-operative Choral Society which I took on when I returned to Chestefield” says Andrew. “I’ve always sung in a choir, I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Sheffield cathedral, I simply enjoy listening to a choral performance. Over time I started getting actively involved in the running of choirs and not just as a singer. Choir leaders are hard to find so I find myself taking on multiple roles.
“As musical director I help choirs choose the music, teach and support the choir members, conduct the concert and find other performers needed in support of the choir. Plus attend the weekly rehearsals and performances.”
Over the recent Christmas period Andrew was involved in eight concerts, a very busy man.
When Andrew turned 50 he decided to bring as many of his choir members together to celebrate. “We staged a performance at the Crooked Spire, getting choirs to sing individually and as one, a funds raising evening for the choirs and was also a great way to celebrate.”
This gave Andrew another idea to bring together his largest staged event. April 21st will see him conduct Holymoorside Choir, Baslow Choir and a 50-piece orchestra, the Hallam Sinfonia, as they perform in the Sheffield Cathedral.
“The Holymoorside Choir formed shortly after the war” explained Andrew “and although they have sung together as a village choir for many years this will be the first time they will be accompanied by a full orchestra.
“Baslow have had orchestral support but have never worked on an event of this scale so it will be great to bring them both together.
“We’ll be performing in Sheffield Cathedral as I wanted a neutral venue, it needed to be sizeable to accommodate everyone and I’ve also arranged three soloists, young up-and-coming performers from the National Opera School.”
The pieces being performed on the night will include Puccini’s ‘Messa di Gloria’.
In 2016 Andrew travelled to Spain with MusicWork
Vocal Ensemble and sang Messa di Gloria with an international choir and large orchestra and was hooked, it was this that inspired him to put on his own event.
The second piece ‘The Music Makers’, is quite a rare work of Elgar that isn’t performed very often and requires an orchestra and a large choir to make it work. The performance will be the culmination of a ten-month project and is clearly a very exciting prospect for Andrew.
Tickets for the event can be obtained from choir members, Baslow Spar Shop, the Chesterfield Tourist Information Centre or by calling 01433 631586.
Choirs are seeing something of a renaissance at the moment with numerous TV shows following the exploits of choirs and choir masters. Singing is a great way to socialise, it’s good for the heart, mind and soul and brings people together for a common cause. We’ve recently featured the newly established Tuneless Choir in S40 Local and we also have details of another performance in this edition, so things are looking for good for choral singers.
If reading this has sparked your interest please search out your local choir and get involved, and don’t forget to pick up your ticket for the Sheffield show, it promises to be a great night.