Chichester's St Richard Singers go back to their roots after pandemic halves their size

Chichester’s St Richard Singers have been forced back to their roots as they begin rebuilding after the pandemic.

Sachin Gunga
Sachin Gunga

They return to the Festival of Chichester with a concert entitled Still Quiring on Monday, June 27, 7.30pm at St George’s Church, Cleveland Rd, Chichester, PO19 7AD, promising " touches of sweet harmony" for a summer's evening.

The programme, under musical director Sachin Gunga, particularly celebrates the music of several British master composers, including Parry, Elgar and Finzi. Tickets £12 and £5 from the Festival of Chichester website.

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Spokeswoman Kirsten Scott said: “It has been a real slog with the pandemic. We are considerably reduced in numbers. It has not been easy at all. Last summer we started singing outdoors and we got back properly around spring this year. We opened all the windows and the doors and that was not to the liking of some people. We wrapped up in coats and that was difficult for other people. We have been as low as eight people in numbers. At best we were close to 40; generally we hav e got about 17 people though it is never the same group of 17 people.

“We've got quite a few people that were immuno -compromised or had spouses or relatives who were so it has really been very difficult. So what we have really done has been to go back to the founding principles of the group which started as a very much smaller group in the late 60s and early 70s. We have been forced back to our roots. We've all found it very difficult but we know that our singers are enjoying it very much and are all very determined. We're certainly getting more attention from our musical director as a smaller group and hopefully we are becoming better singers.”

Inevitably what they can do has changed: “We can't compete with a full orchestra now and that is something that is just off the cards for a while but in a way this is an opportunity. It is good for us as individual singers. There is safety in numbers and now we don't have numbers! And I do think people are rising to the challenge and I think the mood is exceptionally good. We had to open up to Sachin that we are not the choir that he signed up to. When he joined we were 40 strong and now we are about half that.

“I do think it will be difficult to get numbers up. Other ensembles have really struggled but we really do want to be very open and we are very keen to welcome some of our Ukrainian guests. But apart from that it is a real struggle. We had a 50th programme that didn't happen. We planned the concert and we didn't get to do it. We were going to do the Chichester Psalms which is something that is difficult even for a cathedral choir. We couldn't do it now.

“We had financial issues when half the people disappeared but people have been happy to pay slightly more subs and the good news is that we love singing and we have got an exceptionally good MD.”