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 takes its name from ‘Shepway District Council’, the Local Authority in which Hythe is situated but which in 2018 decided to revert to being ‘Folkestone and Hythe District Council’.
Some five concerts are given each year, usually in response to invitations from various parts of Kent. The 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 capella pieces, their repertory includes works written for organ or piano accompaniment, including Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana and Brahms’ German Requiem (both in their versions for two-piano accompaniment). In October and November 2017 there were performances of music from the English Romantics to mark the centenary of the First World War, and on Good Friday 2018 they sang the recent setting (2015) with organ and ‘cello of the St Mark Passion by John Joubert. Since 2011 the Shepway Singers have regularly sung Evensong in Canterbury Cathedral.
The Shepway Singers also perfom with professional orchestras where the composers had this size of choir in mind. JS Bach’s Mass in B Minor and St John Passion, Handel’s Messiah and Chandos Anthems and choral works by Monteverdi, Scarlatti and Pergolesi have been presented in recent years using strings and continuo. The Singers also gave an early performance of the arrangement by David Hill of the Faure Requiem that uses one violin, one cello, harp and organ and performed it again, very successfully, on Good Friday 2023.
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 fact that 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. Rehearsals are now held on Tuesday evenings from 7.30pm to 8.45 pm.
The current members (April 2023) are:
Sopranos: Jenny Bayford, Alison Chambers, Elizabeth Clarke, Hilarie Hill, Belinda Lewis, Isolde Swinfin, Rosie Vale
Mezzos: Elizabeth Hopkin, Janet Hughes, Marianne Kelly, Jill Page, Di White
Tenors: Patrick Bayford, Peter Bettley, Michael Galvan, Timothy Hill, Brin Hughes
Basses: Michael Lewis, Roger Parker, Tim Parsons, Simon Wright
We are very sad to have lost our long-standing bass, Rev Canon John Wright, who died in December 2022. We remember him with great affection and gratitude.
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.