Shoreham Oratorio Choir keen to recruit new members

Shoreham Oratorio Choir are keen for new members to join them as they continue to rehearse online.

Marc Yarrow
Marc Yarrow

Choir spokesman Brian Hills said: “Like many choirs, we have tried to keep things going during this difficult time.

“I should think we will be online for a while yet, maybe into the summer. Who knows after that!”

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But the key thing is that they have retained a togetherness – despite all the difficulties.

“We had a major problem last Easter, 2020. We had a really big concert planned. We were going to do The Armed Man by Karl Jenkins, and we were booked at the Shoreham Academy. We had invited other choirs to come and join us if they had sung it before and had their own scores. We were planning for 80-90 singers and a big, big band, the Crawley Millennium Band which is also run by our musical director Marc Yarrow. Obviously that all fell apart because Covid came along, and we were thinking ‘What shall we do?’ and ‘How can we continue?’

“Not everybody wanted to carry on online with singing because it is not as easy as you might think, but there was a significant group that wanted to try it, and Marc certainly wanted to do it. He had tried it with other choirs, and so during the summer, maybe from May, we had maybe 30 people a week.

“A lot of people are good friends with each other, and meeting up online at least gives them the chance to say hello and check up on people. There is an important social element as well.

“We didn’t do a lot during August, but come the autumn, we started up again and decided to do a slightly longer piece, the Rutter Requiem.

“We did that for about six weeks and we had a little online concert at the end of that. And was maybe the end of October, and then we started on more Christmassy music, singing a lot of carols, but not necessarily the traditional carols.”

Inevitably there are frustrations with rehearsing online. Because of differing broadband speeds, you just couldn’t get everyone exactly together, as Brian explains – so the only approach is effectively to sing alone, hearing only yourself. But as Brian says, it’s an approach which does have its advantages: “I think you are able to hear your own mistakes – and so you do start to improve.”

Now, with 2021 starting, the choir is tackling a collection of shorter, favourite pieces, something Brian had suggested a while ago: “Maybe a bit of Handel, maybe a bit of Brahms and put them together. We are going to do some really, really iconic pieces that will inspire some lovely singing from the group.”

And as they do so, they are keen for others to join them: “Email us at [email protected] or visit our website at for more details.”

There are no auditions, simply a chance to hone your skills or develop new ones: “Some of the pieces that we have sung over the years are absolutely wonderful. They are some of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. But there is also a great camaraderie in the group. We get on as a group really well.

“And then there are the concerts, the big events and seeing the joy on the audiences’ faces… but I am talking about normality now!”

Brian has used the pandemic to put together a proper archive of performances that the choir has given since it started in 1961.

“I have got three folders that are full. Everything is collated. I can tell you that we have sung more than 200 pieces by roughly 100 composers, and I have tabulated how often we have sung a piece – like Handel’s Messiah we have done about 15 times.

“I have also done a potted history of the choir.”