IT WAS a bit like being invited to the best kind of summer party.
There was music, lots of chat and laughter, a glass of wine on hand and a chance to speak to those who you haven’t seen in a while.
Better still, there were one or two surprises and that’s just what Huddersfield Choral Society intended.
They invited some of their friends and supporters to Huddersfield Town Hall last Friday night to let them in on what’s in store next season.
But those who gathered round flower dressed tables in the main hall got more than they perhaps expected.
First was the sheer number of choir members who turned out to remind us all just what it is that inspires such devotion to this remarkable choir.
We all know that it’s partly that sound. That flexible, powerful, richly coloured band of sound which can make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, put a broad smile on your face and even make you weep.
But it is also the sense of camaraderie, of belonging to a top notch choir and sharing that passion for music.
In a town hall warm enough to give everyone a glow, there was the sense of sneaking in behind the scenes.
When you’ve only seen the choir in its formal, on-stage gear, it’s great to see the singers looking relaxed in T shirts and jeans, summer dresses and sandals and perhaps a touch too much time in the sun evident on one or two faces.
It’s not often anyone gets the chance to see the Choral in rehearsal, to understand just how that musical sound is shaped and perfected by the singers and their team of professionals.
Or even better, to join in. The 300 plus people who turned up to this season’s preview event ended up singing for their glass of wine. Their efforts got a round of applause from the singers on stage. One for the memory bank that one.
Joseph Cullen, the choir’s long-serving chorus master was out front as usual, his rapport with the singers he works with each week obvious from the smiles on every face.
Darius Battiwalla, deputy chorus master but here playing the organ, got a great reception from the singers as did newly appointed music director, Martyn Brabbins.
News of his appointment clearly delighted singers, subscribers and supporters as did his description of his relationship with the Choral.
“It’s rather like a happy marriage. We get to spend time away from each other but then we come back together”.
That togetherness will allow the Choral to bring in a variety of different conductors to suit whatever piece they are working on. And that will include Martyn when he is not zipping off to conduct orchestras worldwide.
But more importantly it will see Martyn’s guiding hand in programming.
The advice of a top music professional will be invaluable to the Choral as it shapes its future.
There was a taste of the season to come and of what have become treasured parts of the Choral repertoire.
The choir sang excerpts from Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony which offered a glimpse of what could well be a memorable performance to come. Its threads of fluid sound were moving and filled with colour, already quite beautiful even in these early days of rehearsal.
The night would hardly have been complete without a taste of Handel. It came in waves with Israel in Egypt and to the delight of the audience, the Hallelujah Chorus.
It just about summed up what the Choral has come to stand for. Fine musical tradition yes, but also a sense of community and a vibrant future to come.