New era begins for Chichester’s St Richard Singers

Jake Barlow pic by Paul Hurst
Jake Barlow pic by Paul Hurst

Chichester’s St Richard Singers are working towards their Christmas concert – their first big event under new musical director Jake Barlow.

They are offering A Christmas Journey in Music and Readings on Monday, December 11 at 7.30pm at St George’s Church, Cleveland Road, Chichester, PO19 7AD.

Jake will direct, and the organist will be Susan Howell Evans. Tickets £12/£6 under-18s are available from tickets@strichardsingers.org.uk or text 07387 303683 and at the door on the night.

As he finds his way with the choir, Jake said he was very much aware of its rich history and position in Chichester. However, there will be a key double challenge: to attract younger singers and also to attract younger audiences: “I am certainly aware that with the demographics there is a certain age profile to choirs now and also to audiences. We need to get younger people into both.

“As far as I am concerned, the St Richard Singers are a very skilled group and they approach music very well. They are very good at what they do. My concern at the moment is to engage younger people and to get them interested in the choir and asking questions. Part of my mission is to rejuvenate our social media presence. We have perhaps got an age profile in the choir that doesn’t look towards social media so much. We will need to be receptive to it.

“I have also got some fairly exciting plans for the choir, particularly for our Festival of Chichester appearance next year. I am looking at getting a little chamber orchestra in for them. The Festival of Chichester is a big event and a chance to get ourselves seen. I am also working with the choir on voice training. I am hoping to raise musical standards, which is obviously what every musical director would want to do. It is a mixed group which covers quite a range of abilities. There are some good sight-readers and some perhaps who are not quite so confident, but as a group, after a little bit of rehearsals, they certainly all function together as a strong unit. From what I have seen so far, the choir has got a very good work ethic.”

And the Christmas concert is a good way to put it into practice: “We will have a fantastic selection of pieces and readings. I have got big plans one day to try to do a Christmas oratorio, but that isn’t going to happen yet, but this will be a nice concert, lovely for the audience too in that we will have some congregational carols.

“For the programme, I have inherited one or two items, and then I rebuilt the programme from scratch. The choir in its history has done a lot of sacred works, and that would be their speciality. I come board with a shared interest in that in my role as a lay vicar, and there will be a sacred element in the concert, but I think my stamp on in will be that there will be classics in there as well. It is about breathing new life into the repertoire. The carols will be performed in an exciting and well-presented way. The choir has made great strides in the past couple of months, and I have really enjoyed working with them.”