THIS is a milestone year for choral group St George’s Singers of Poynton. The choir was formed 60 years ago, with 23 members. Today it has over 100, drawn from Cheshire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, and is recognised as one of the most innovative in the north, under musical director Neil Taylor.
It’s celebrating with major concerts in Manchester and Stockport, including (on April 22 next year at the Royal Northern College of Music) great choral works from the past 600 years, and (on June 25) Verdi’s Requiem with Stockport Symphony Orchestra and the Sheffield Chorale, at Gorton Monastery.
But first there’s the German Requiem by Brahms, on 26th November at the RNCM, when SGS are joined by the Northern Chamber Orchestra and international star soloists Elizabeth Watts – a former member of Norwich Cathedral Girls’ Choir, a group founded by Neil Taylor – and Marcus Farnsworth, their president.
I spoke to Marcus Farnsworth as he was appearing in opera in Boston, USA. His link with SGS began when he was at Manchester University and a choral singer at Manchester Cathedral alongside its then conductor, Stephen Williams. “He created the role of assistant musical director for me in 2004,” he says. “They’re an amazing bunch of people – always happy, incredibly enterprising and energetic. Now I’m an advocate for the choir, I can help with contacts for soloists, and it’s a feather in my cap, too, to be linked with them.”
Neil Taylor, recently organist at Sheffield Cathedral and now living in Macclesfield, became conductor 10 years ago. He says: “I think it’s the passion you can sense in the room when you work with them … and a determination to do everything as well as they possibly can. There’s an unimpeded lack of fear, and they’re willing to tackle anything.
“The thing that attracted me here was the variety in their repertoire that had been brought by my predecessor – they’re up for anything, and that’s really refreshing.
“They work with anyone from professional orchestras (as in the Brahms Requiem) to school groups. Two weeks after the Brahms we’re doing a Christmas concert (it’s on December 10 at Norbury Church, Hazel Grove) with Bradshaw Hall Primary School Choir and the Youth Brass Band for Stockport.”
If you’d like to join in with St George’s Singers, there’s a Singing Day for all comers on January 21 at St George’s Church, Poynton (see www.st-georges-singers.org.uk).