Summer 2016 Newsletter



Chair’s introduction

Hello to all our Members and Friends

It is great to be in contact with you just two months after our singing at the Cream Teas Sunday afternoon in May.  There we had the added pride and pleasure of having our President singing with us and taking a lead initially in the solo parts. It was, once again, a very happy occasion which seemed to go down very well with the many visitors and supporters of the church. So too was our post concert “rubbing out” social evening.  It is always good to have the opportunity to chat and let our hair down after the exhilaration of the concert performance and reflect on the music and events of the day.  John was not able to be with us but I know that as Director of Music he was extremely pleased with the choir’s rendition in April of the Mozart Requiem, the Vespers and Bruckner’s Three Graduals and of the blending with the orchestra and soloists, with their wonderful young voices.

What a difference two months can make!  Half way through the summer, though with less sun and perhaps a little more rain than some of us would like, the batteries are hopefully getting recharged and the prospect of another season of singing and friendship in music are in wait for us.  We have a great choral tradition in Britain and today and there is a resurgence of people re-discovering the joys and thrills of singing together, which this choir has continued to enjoy for well over sixty years.

You will find John’s pre-season notes in this newsletter.  It will be a season of celebration, with the church of St Peter and St Paul for the 100th year since the inauguration of the organ, which has featured regularly in our concerts and will be given a special place in our Christmas Concert on 16 December, and then our celebratory 150th concert performance next spring.  For this we shall be undertaking the Bach Mass in B Minor, which has been John’s ambition for the choir for some time. I know John has every confidence and anticipation of the choir’s abililty to produce a truly memorable performance.  We would like to ask members who have sung with us over the years to join with us in this special performance to join us, if they are able, and for budding young singers, there are bursaries available to cover the costs of membership.  Please do talk with our friends and past members and let us know their current addresses or contact details, so that we can ensure we have included everybody in this exciting occasion.

I am looking forward to seeing everyone again at our AGM and first rehearsal of the new season on 5 September, 2016, at the Oldham Hall.  You will see from the article below that Tony Overton will be resigning from the position he has held as Treasurer for many years.  I am delighted that Tony is recovering very well and he and Kirsten will be singing with us again in September.  This does mean, however, that there will be a vacancy on our committee, and if anybody would like to join us, please do let Tony or myself know.  As ever, the Committee would be very happy to receive any comments about the choir or suggestions for the future.

In the meantime, wishing everyone sun and happiness for the rest of the summer and lots of music to enjoy in the future.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Vivien


Message from Tony Overton, Hon. Secretary

After a mild stroke a month ago, I feel obliged to resign as Hon. Secretary.  I shall of course pass on all documents to my elected successor and help in every way in the handover.

I was elected in 1999, at the start of the season following our Golden Jubilee.  Sue Bottomley, then our chairman, reported at the AGM the highlights:

  1. A lottery funded “Singing for Fun” voice training at Missenden Abbey which was attended by at least 80 people and brought in several new choir members. A successful and enjoyable event culminating in a fine rendering of Vivaldi’s “Gloria”.
  2. The Christmas concert was attended as guest of honour by our Founder, Herta Grove, who flew in from the States. Neil Jenkins gave a wonderful performance in the “Fall of Lucifer” by Geoffrey Burgon, who was also in the audience.
  3. The Christmas Party was more formal than usual, held at Missenden Abbey, again with Herta Grove entertaining us with her reminiscenses of the early days of the choir. She was happy to meet again our President and founder member Bob Gerhardi.
  4. The Spring concert comprised Haydn’s “Creation” and was also very successful.
  5. The choir also embarked on rehearsals for Elgar’s “Dream of Gerontius”, which were due to sing in the Albert Hall the following October.

    Incidentally, while leafing through the old records I found that for the “Mozart in Missenden” concert we performed on April 27th, 1996, we sold 280 seats! The church must have bulged; perhaps there has been an exodus from these parts, HS2 was then  only a rumour.


    Tony Overton



Ever been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday such as a world cruise or done something really special that you’ll never forget?  Well, that’s what the second half in particular of next season will be like as we prepare for the Choir’s 150th concert on 29 April 2017 and perform Bach’s wonderful Mass in B minor at St. Mary’s Church, Amersham to mark that special event.  Considered by many to be the greatest choral work ever written, this masterpiece will provide us all with an experience never to be forgotten. W.R. Anderson, in ‘Lives of the Great Composers’, wrote “the like of it is to be found in the music of no other composer – the highest point of sublimity, the greatest depth of inspiration, musicians agree, that the world has ever known”.  The Kyrie and Gloria were sent by Bach to the Elector of Saxony in 1733 with an application for the post of Kappelmeister (Musical Director) at the Saxon court to which he was appointed in 1736.  The whole work was completed by 1748 when Bach was 62 years old. It was never intended for a service of the Mass – it is an oratorio with the words of the Mass as its libretto. It seems never to have been performed complete in Bach’s lifetime and the first performance appears to have been at Berlin in 1835.  The first performance in England was in 1876 by a special choir under Otto Goldschmidt which became a permanent institution and still continues as ‘The Bach Choir’.

Some of the choruses in the Mass are fairly easy to sight read, while others are more difficult but entirely stimulating and exciting to sing once the notes are known. We shall take the learning of these in short steps, building confidence and pleasure as we go.  To this end, we are planning, with Sheila’s help, to split some Monday rehearsals into sections, with half the Choir in the Oldham Hall and the other half in a separate nearby venue for the first part of the evening, but all coming together after the break.  Moreover, we propose to have an earlier ‘Awayday Workshop’ on the morning and afternoon of Saturday, 21 January when we will have an overall look at the Mass as a whole and when, as well as  some singing and learning, we will explore the work’s innermost beauties and the genius behind its writing. This is intended to be an important, enjoyable and enlightening day of bonding together for this most stimulating cause. Please make a note of the date now.

A performance of the B minor Mass is a landmark in the travels of any choral society, and, having conducted it on at least two previous occasions, I know what a strong sense of achievement and joy the singers feel once the experience is over.  When it is left behind, it is never lost from view.  Rest assured, I would not have chosen this masterpiece for this special occasion, if I didn’t think the Choir was capable of tackling it.  Choirs of less ability have risen to it well, and with everyone’s commitment and dedication, I’m sure we will thrive on it and give a memorable account of it on the day.

However, before that, we have another special concert for Christmas to give on 10 December 2016. Programmed in response to a request from the Church that we feature the newly refurbished Church organ in its centenary year, the concert will be entitled ‘A Great and Mighty Wonder’.  This title may well apply to the organ itself (!), but it is really a translation of ‘O magnum mysterium’, the title of the hauntingly beautiful short motet by the American composer, Morten Lauridsen, commissioned by Marshall Rutter in honour of his wife, Terry Knowles, and first performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale on 18 December 1994.  Since then, it has grown in popularity throughout the world and is sheer indulgence to sing.   This will come in the second half of the programme after my good friend, Rhidian Jones, with the St. John’s Chamber Orchestra has played Handel’s well-known Organ Concerto Op. 4, No.4 in B flat – one of six written between 1735 and 1736. The concert will end with the Christmas Cantata, Christus natus est, by Cecilia McDowall first performed in 2002 by the St. Albans Choral Society, the Choir of St Hilda’s School, Harpenden and Orchestra Nova. It takes the form of a sequence of five carols brilliantly put together by Cecilia.  Many of you will remember with pleasure singing her ‘Ave maris stella’ a few years ago.  

The concert will have begun with a firm baroque favourite, ‘Das neugebor’ne Kindelein’ (‘The new-born Babe’) by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707). This happy, sprightly piece was performed a number of times by GMCS in its earlier days, and it will be good to revive it.  Following this will be Mendelssohn’s ‘Hear my Prayer’ which includes ‘O for the wings of a dove’ and is based on words from Psalm 55. Completed in January 1844, the whole work shows Mendelssohn’s lyrical and melodic gifts, and is highly regarded by choirs and audiences alike. To end the first half of the programme, we will have Haydn’s Missa Brevis Sancti Johannis de Deo, commonly known as the ‘Little Organ Mass’ because of the lovely organ part featured in the orchestration.  Haydn was beginning to enjoy international recognition by the time he wrote this delightful piece between 1775 and 1778.   St. John of God (1495-1550), after whom the Mass is named, was the founder and patron saint of The Brothers Hospitallers, a religious Order devoted to providing medical services to the poor.   Haydn’s patrons, the Esterhazy family, supported the Order generously, and the Little Organ Mass was written for the Brothers’ church in Eisenstadt – little more than a tiny chapel with a small organ and space for only a handful of singers and instrumentalists.

Our soloist for the Mendelssohn, Haydn and McDowall works will be the soprano Alison Rose who sang so beautifully for us last December and has been delighted to be invited back.  The accomplished St. John’s Chamber Orchestra will of course also be with us again for both concerts.

So, altogether this all adds up to a really special season indeed.  Please make sure you don’t miss out or you’ll surely have regrets.  If you are as proud to belong to this Choir as I am to conduct it, this wealth of music will be worth every ounce of effort and commitment which everyone can put into it. Remember, what you are, the Choir is.   Let’s have a great time!                                                                                                                                                      John


BBC Proms Concert

The Bach B Minor Mass that we will be singing for our 150th concert next April is being performed at the Proms at at the Royal Albert Hall 19.30hrs on 1 September.  I think the tickets are sold out, so well done to those who have managed to book seats but it will, of course, be broadcast by BBC Radio 4 and later on TV.            V.S.


Naxos recordings

Many of the items which we sing, as well as much other music, is available to listen to via Naxos online. To listen to these recordings go to:

Bucks CC Library website/Reference and Enquiries / Naxos online

Enter BUCKSxxxxxxxx (where x is your Library Membership number)

Type the name of the music into the Search box: e.g. CPE Bach Magnificat

You then get a list of the recordings available

Select the recording

Select play


You cannot save the recording to a disk.


Online shopping to raise funds

For those of you who shop online, we are trying to raise additional funds for our choir, through links to a website which will give us commission on sales from online shopping: Easyfundraising. This website will give commission of up to 15% on sales.  There are links from this site to over 600 Brand Name retailers, including Amazon, B & Q., BHS, Curry’s, Marks and Spencer, and Waterstones.  It costs us (and you) nothing.  It is free to use.

How to access

  1. Go to This will take you to that company’s website.
  2. Create an Account
  3. Select ‘Support a good cause’
  4. Select Great Missenden Choral Society as your chosen charity from the dropdown list.
  5. Register yourself as a user.
  6. Enter your details including a password.
  7. Await acknowledgment of the registration
  8. When you want to shop, login and start shopping. There is a list of all the available companies shown on the website.
  9. If you choose, you can prompt a reminder whenever you go to a website which supports Easyfundraising, e.g. Expedia, if you go to that company’s website without going via Easyfundraising.
  10. There is a link to Easyfundraising on the GMCS website if you wish to use it.

Thank you if you are able to support the choir in this way.

September 27th, 2016