THE FARINGDON SINGERS
Maureen Pendlebury (founder member)
Founded by Michael Perkins in September 1975, the Faringdon Singers then consisted mainly of children drawn from the local schools who “just wanted to sing”. Without funds, meeting place or instruments, they had to start absolutely from scratch, first finding a home and then organising rummage sales to pay for it! Our first concert, in a local village hall, consisted entirely of Christmas carols sung unaccompanied. Lacking a constitution, members contributed to expenses on a week by week basis – the amount in the tin fluctuating according to the perceived value of the practice! Those were the days of complete informality, as well as adversity and struggle, all of which enhanced mutual loyalty and team spirit, while the unaccompanied singing provided an excellent training for what was to come. Ever since those early days “a capella” singing has remained an important part of the choir’s repertoire.
From the beginning it was decided that admission to concerts should be entirely free of charge. Instead, the host (often a local village church) would nominate a charity to which the audience might if they so wished contribute voluntarily. This has remained the policy of the group, and over the years thousands of pounds have been raised for good causes – local national and international.
Despite its inauspicious beginnings, the choir not only survived but has thrived. As the original young people inevitably moved on they were replaced by adults not only from Faringdon but from a wider area stretching from Didcot to Swindon and from Alvescot/Clanfield to Wantage. Some had considerable musical experience and under the expert leadership of Michael Perkins and later on Terence Carter, concert programmes became more ambitious. Folk songs, spirituals, religious anthems, motets and carols still find an important place but so too do more substantial works such as the Fauré Duruflé and Rutter requiems, Mozart’s “Solemn Vespers”, and Byrd’s Mass for four voices.
In recent years the choir has also had the opportunity to join with Wantage Choral Society in performances of Bach’s St Matthew Passion and St John’s Passion, the B Minor Mass and Brahm’s Requiem – thus also experiencing the luxury of having a a full orchestral accompaniment. The choir has also participated in the annual Faringdon Arts Festival, with lighter items such as “Trial by Jury” (Gilbert & Sullivan) and Captain Noah and his floating Zoo (Flanders & Horovitz).
Another new experience was a highly successful Come and Sing Messiah in 2003, organised by the singers and performers in Faringdon as part of the “Voices for Hospices”. The amount raised exceeded all expectations - £750 being shared between Prospect House (Swindon) and the Sir Michael Sobel Hospice (Oxford). Thus inspired, the choir was equally successful in June 2006 with a similar sing-along venture based on Haydn’s Creation.
In 2005, the Faringdon Singers celebrated its 30th Anniversary. It remains a relatively small group of 35 members – a friendly and dedicated choir committed to achieving a high standard of music making and to its charitable ethos. Those involved hope that their varied programme will continue to appeal to singers and listeners alike and we are always pleased to welcome new members.
M.P. April 2006