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After six happy years with the South London Singers, Julian Collings has stepped down from his position as Director. Having been appointed in May 2013, he conducted his last concert with us on 2 February 2019 at St George's Church, Beckenham. Alan Tod describes the occasion and looks back on Julian's time with the choir.
Julian Collings made his last appearance with the South London Singers on 2 February with a programme that contained some relative rarities and some well-known pieces, The choir started off with Hummel's Mass No. 1 in B flat. This was followed by some familiar part-songs by Elgar, Stanford (his 'The Blue Bird', with Jackie Reily beautifully handling the floaty soprano solo), Sullivan and the contemporary American composer Morten Lauridsen, finishing up with a spirited performance of Cecilia MacDowall's A Fancy of Folksongs.
After a well-received concert came the part where Julian said his sad farewells. Our parting gift to him was the presentation by SLS secretary Maggie Isom of a facsimile of (in Julian's view) the “Greatest Amen ever written”, the one that closes Gerald Finzi's wonderful festival anthem Lo, the full final sacrifice. There had been several comments during rehearsals about which Amen was favourite. The presentation was followed by some words of thanks from the SLS chairman, Mary Jackson. As a final tribute to Julian, the choir sang the Amen not from the Finzi piece but from another contender for the acolade of Greatest Amen, Brahms's Geistliches Lied. The audience were then invited to drinks and canapés, skilfully prepared and arranged by Mary and David Jackson with the help of Carol Jefferies and her team.
During his tenure as our Director, Julian accompanied the choir on two tours, one to the village of Mere in Wiltshire, expertly organised by Maggie Isom. The other tour was to the Kent countryside, where we performed in the Church of St. James The Great at East Malling, to which a friend of the choir (and former Rector of St. George’s here in Beckenham) Canon Derek Carpenter, is now attached.
Julian introduced the choir to a number of modern composers of classical music, such as Arvo Pärt & John Tavener. But he was far from being stuck in the traditional classical mould, for he also encouraged us to sing music with links to American cinema and popular musical theatre. Thus we found ourselves singing selections from West Side Story and The Wizard of Oz. We even ventured into the world of opera with our performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.
We thank Julian for all he has contributed to the life of the choir and wish him well as he moves on to a new post with the Teddington Choral Society.
We are very pleased to announce that the Director of Music at St. George’s Church, here in Beckenham, Marcus Wibberley, has agreed to conduct the choir for the next concert, which will now be held in St. George’s on Saturday 1 June at 7.45pm. Rehearsals, with Marcus in charge, begin on Monday 11 February and the choir is always keen to welcome new singers (especially men!!).
As the picture opposite shows, Julian was very willing to be drawn into the social life of the choir. The event at which this photograph was taken was the annual choir dinner at a local Beckenham pizza parlour.