THEY are just hours away from one of the biggest challenges of their singing lives and Bolsterstone Male Voice Choir can’t wait.
“It’s probably the most massive thing the choir has done,” said its chairman Roger Pont.
But like the 60 or so other members of the choir involved in twin performances this weekend at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival then at the London Jazz Festival, he’s eager to get on stage.
The choir has spent six months rehearsing a new piece by internationally renowned composer and multi-instrumentalist John Surman.
The composer has already flown in once from his home in Norway to meet them and he and pianist Howard Moody have been in Bolsterstone all week rehearsing with the choir.
Surman, who was the BBC’s Instrumentalist of the Year in 2002 and has written scores for Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet, said: “Bolsterstone is a fine choir and I’m very excited about what we will be able to achieve together.
The piece is called Lifeline and gets its world premiere at Huddersfield Town Hall tomorrow afternoon (3pm) as part of this year’s festival which co-commissioned it along with BBC Radio 3.
“We perform first at HCMF then we are off to London to sing it again on Sunday at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank, for the London Jazz Festival. The BBC are recording it and it will be broadcast on January 30,” said Roger.
“It has been a real, real pleasure to be involved. It’s been hard work and very challenging but it is something we have really been able to get to grips with.”
“Things like this might get young people interested in the choir. We don’t just sing hymns and traditional male voice choir pieces.”
But isn’t taking on something like a world premiere for Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival a bit unusual for a male voice choir?
“Twenty years ago composer Barry Russell wrote a contemporary piece called Bermudas and we sang it at the National Male Voice Choir Championships and won,” said Roger.
“Barry said we’d sung the piece exactly as he’d written it.”
“Something came up at the HCMF this year and they wanted a choir to sing a piece written by John Surman and decided we were interested.
“We thought we were singing one piece but it’s turned out to be nine pieces, a suite. We’ve got a book to learn that’s half as big as a family Bible.
“They are incredible pieces. There’s a piece about coal, one about the mills, one about the birth of civilisation.
“It’s a story. The whole nine pieces are a story. John, the composer is from Devon and there are pieces about smugglers and a shipwreck.
“And we finish up with a drinking song which has gone down well with the lads in the choir.
“We’ve been rehearsing every night this week and all week we have had John and pianist Howard working with us in Bolsterstone.
“We feel really lucky to have them with us and to have had this opportunity. It’s been hard work but it’s been brilliant.
“There are about 90 of us in the choir but not everyone will be able to travel to London this weekend so there will be about 60 of us singing at the two events.
“We are a really mixed age group and we hope this may bring us a few new members. Things like this might get new people interested.
“I’ve been with the choir for about five years and sing what I call bottom bass. This has been a real breath of fresh air for us, though it has come in a busy year.
“We’ve known about it for about 12 months but we were very involved in rehearsing for the Eisteddfod in Wales earlier in the year.
“We’ve had charity concerts to prepare for including one for Help For Heroes last weekend so we’ve had to juggle things round a bit.
“But it’s been good for us. It’s kept us on our toes.”
l Lifelines is at Huddersfield Town Hall at 3pm tomorrow.