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We sing two major concerts a year, in May and October, and a Christmas concert with carols in December,
all in St Mary's Church, Halesworth.
We are also able to offer a section of the choir to sing at weddings, for example.
The Festival Voices choir was founded in 2007 under the direction of Ian Humphris, an accomplished musician of very wide experience, as singer, conductor, prolific arranger of songs, viola player, director of the Linden Singers, and member of the Baccholian singers. He sadly and suddenly died in November 2012 at the age of 85. There is a tribute to Ian on this site.
In an interview he gave a few years ago, Philip Simms, who has kindly agreed to be our new director,
described himself modestly as a “jobbing musician” – some musician! some jobbing!
It all began at Bedford Modern School, where, as a pupil, he ran the Madrigal Society. Thence to the Royal Academy, where he studied organ, piano, double bass and composition, a period interrupted by the compulsory demands of National Service, which took him to the Band of the Royal Horse Guards. There he played the cornet, and the double bass on dance nights. After completing his studies at the Royal Academy, he became sub-organist at St.Margaret’s, Westminster, and helped out at Westminster Abbey from time to time. With the death of one of his superiors, and an accident to the other, Philip found himself as principal organist at both the Abbey and St Margaret’s when in his early twenties. And between times he was increasingly in demand as a double bass player, taking him on what became a legendary tour of Russia with the English Chamber Orchestra in 1963.
“At that time the ECO fixed for the English Opera Group. You name it and all the great and the good were there. It took about two months and we did Turn of the Screw, Lucretia and Albert Herring. After that I began to be asked to play for the ECO proper. It seems that I got on better with Adrian Beers, the principal double bass, than anyone else! We had a wonderful team and I was there all through Britten’s years, and Danny Barenboim and Perahia. Those recordings we did were fantastic.”
In 1982 Philip founded the Tallis Chamber Choir, beginning its long and continuing association with the ECO, and in the ensuing years prepared the choir for conductors such as Ashkenazy, Harnoncourt and Norrington, while at the same time picking up conducting skills from the likes of Boult, Colin Davis and Mackerras. His willingness to take on anything within his broad musical compass is epitomised by his lovely account of a rehearsal with Rostropovich of the Shostakovich cello concerto: “We were rehearsing in Bishopsgate Hall. The fixer crawled over to me and asked, “Can you play the celeste?” I said. “I suppose so, it’s only a keyboard – when?” He replied, “Now!” I didn’t have time to think, so I aimed for the middle of the keyboard. Slava immediately stopped and screeched, “No, no, wrong octave.” I had forgotten middle C is down at the end of the keyboard on the celeste. I ended up at the Festival Hall with the double bass in my left hand and playing the celeste with my right.”
Philip’s connections with Suffolk music are long-standing, and include working with Britten when he was at the peak of his powers. Philip played at both the opening concerts (either side of the fire which all but destroyed the Maltings), and came in time to direct the Aldeburgh Music Club, which Britten and Pears had founded.
He has chosen works by Duruflé, Franck, Tavener and Fauré for our first concert under his direction, to be given on May 11th 2013. The prospect is very exciting.