Shepway Singers is a choral group formed (under the name the ‘Hythe Chamber Choir’) in the mid-1970s to perform choral music requiring about twenty four competent singers. The choir’s rehearsal base is St Leonard’s Church, Oak Walk, Hythe (CT21 5DN), and it takes its name from the Local Authority in which Hythe is situated.
Some five to eight concerts are given each year, usually in response to invitations from various parts of Kent. The Shepway Singers’ range of pieces extends from 15th century church music to the contemporary and includes both sacred and secular, obscure and familiar. Though specialising in a cappella pieces, the repertory includes works written for organ or piano accompaniment. In 2010 three performances of the St Mark Passion by Charles Wood were given in the weeks before Easter, and a concert was performed in November containing music by composers with names beginning with B (Britten, Bach, Bruckner, etc.). In April 2011 the Shepway Singers sang an Evensong in Canterbury Cathedral. The 2012 season contained concerts mainly focussed on secular music (everything from Elizabethan madrigals, to songs by Gershwin and Cole Porter, under the heading ‘From the sublime to the ridiculous’) and, in November at St Leonard’s Church, Hythe, an Italian and French sacred programme with strings. In 2013 a series of concerts has been given with the theme ‘Monarchs and Coronations’, comprising music performed at royal events or perhaps written by the king (Henry VIII). On 22 November 2013, St Cecilia’s Day, the Shepway Singers will perform a celebratory concert of works by Britten (whose exact birth centenary falls on that day) and Purcell, whom Britten greatly admired.
The Shepway Singers have also performed with professional orchestras where the composers had this size of choir in mind. J S Bach’s Mass in B minor, Handel’s Messiah, and Fauré’s Requiem. Choral works by Scarlatti, Monteverdi and Pergolesi have also been presented in recent years using strings and continuo.
The membership spans a very wide range of ages and backgrounds. It embraces, students, teachers, professional musicians and good amateurs who share enthusiasm for choral music and who enjoy the experience of singing in a chamber choir. Many are also members of other choirs (choral societies or church choirs). This helps explain the facts that (a) rehearsals are held on Sunday evenings (7.45 to 9.15pm), so that clashes are minimised, and that (b) rehearsals are only scheduled to meet concert commitments, typically in a batch of four or five before a big concert or a run of concerts starts.
The current members (January 2014) are:
Sopranos: Jenny Bayford, Becky Berridge, Hilarie Hill, Belinda Lewis, Molly Parsons-Gurr, Isolde Swinfin, Rosie Vale
Altos: Elizabeth Hopkin, Janet Hughes, Margaret Ritchie, Jane Spencer, Theresa Wier, Bridget Wight
Tenors: Robert Aylward-Lopez, Patrick Bayford, Peter Bettley, Timothy Hill, Brinley Hughes, Harry Strachan
Basses: Michael Lewis, Duncan Lord, Roger Parker, Tim Parsons, Kenneth Tee, John Wright, Simon Wright
Auditions for membership
Membership is by invitation after an audition with the Director of Music and a few choir members. This is a relatively relaxed affair, designed as much to inform the potential member about the choir as to give us an idea of how the new singer will fit in. A characteristic of the present membership is the blend between voices, particularly among the sopranos, and this is something we are keen to preserve. Please contact the Director of Music, Berkeley Hill, if you would like to arrange an audition.