Pro Carmine Choir celebrates 40 years

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Music lovers are warmly invited the Pro Carmine Choir’s 40th Anniversary Concert at AMAZWI (formerly NELM) at 7pm on Wednesday 18 September. Entry is free and you’re invited to make a donation which will go to the Joza Reading and Chess Club.

In 1979 an 8-member choir was formed by Peter Breetzke and Dorothy Hart (later Holder), who for several years were its joint conductors. It was called “Pro Carmine” (“for a song”), to celebrate the love of singing which had brought the musicians together, in a language (Latin) in which the choir often sings, and which in a way is timeless.

It took little more than a year for Pro Carmine to become an established part of the musical scene in this town. In several of the first concerts, singing alternated with recorder ensembles playing Early Music.

Pro Carmine has continued often to share concerts with other musicians, usually instrument players or other choirs, sometimes both. There was a thrilling concert at the Monument, at which Pro Carmine and a visiting choir stood on opposite sides above the Fountain and sang works for double choir, supported by a brass ensemble. The audience below might easily have imagined they were in St Mark’s, Venice around 1600.

Another fine performance at the Monument Fountain – this one at ground level and unaccompanied – was of Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia. It was as if Britten had composed the work for this choir. In reality, though, some pieces have been written specifically for Pro Carmine, including an arrangement by Christopher Cockburn of Windmills of Your Mind, which will be sung on Wednesday.

In the early days, Pro Carmine did not often range beyond the sacred and secular music of the 16th century, although there was certainly variety in the languages used.

While this kind of music remains an important part of Pro Carmine’s offering, the repertoire has broadened considerably. On Wednesday, three pieces by Ola Gjeilo will be sung, including his setting (composed as recently as 2017) of a Latin text written 800 years ago.

From the start Pro Carmine has performed in a variety of settings: in addition to halls and churches, occasionally outdoors and frequently in people’s homes. In the Vice-Chancellor’s Lodge, Pro Carmine sang an adapted version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, with a well researched and witty commentary by Pat Terry. There have also been performances beyond this town, usually in support of local charities.

Three years ago a concert presented in Cradock brought in a record-breaking amount.

Inevitably in an educational centre, people come and go, and so choir membership fluctuates. At present it is around 20. The choir itself is not strictly “professional”, but professional musicians have been among its members. The other members (the majority) might be described as “gifted amateurs”. Some join without a great deal of prior experience, but quickly learn to read music with ease and to blend with others.

Almost from when the choir began, it has been praised by many people (including reviewers) for the nicely blended quality of its sound.

Much of Pro Carmine’s success is due to its long-serving director, Peter Breetzke, among whose many talents is the actual making of musical instruments (recorders).

Week by week the choir benefits hugely from his skills as a keyboard player (especially sight-reading) and his careful attention to tuning and phrasing. And audiences, in addition to enjoying the music for its own sake, learn much about the background to the pieces from Peter’s commentaries, which are informative, amusing, and (here and there) intriguingly mysterious.

COME AND CELEBRATE WITH PRO CARMINE!

For 40 years, Pro Carmine has shared the different kinds of music which it so enjoys, with the people of this town and beyond.  Two of its present members (director Peter Breetzke and John Jackson) were in the original group.

The choir’s title (in Latin) means “for a song”.  The idea was (and still is) to proclaim the love of vocal music which has brought its members together.  But also (in a sense) audiences have received something of value “for a song”.  Concerts have been free of charge, but with an invitation to donate to specific causes.  Thanks to the generosity of those who have attended Pro Carmine performances, this choir has gained  a fine reputation in fund-raising efforts.

On this occasion, whatever is received will be given to the Joza Reading and Chess Club.  Its members will begin the evening’s entertainment by singing to the audience.

You are warmly invited the Pro Carmine Choir’s 40th Anniversary concert at 7pm on Wednesday 18 September 2019 at AMAZWI (formerly NELM), 25 Worcester Street.

Chess game in progress at the Joza Youth Hub Open Day in 2016. Cultural and sport clubs make people’s lives better – please support them! Photo (2016): Sue Maclennan

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