A STAR IS BORN - "ELMBRIDGE COMMUNITY MUSIC SOCIETY "
Cobham-based Elmbridge Community Music Society celebrates its fifth
birthday in September this year. Even before the Elmbridge Choir had
reached it's fifth birthday, it had performed at over 20 concerts,
raised more than £70,000 for charity, and now forms the basis of The
Elmbridge Community Music Society, which also comprises the Elmbridge
Ladies Choir, the Elmbridge Community Big Band, and Elmbridge Young
Musicians - an astonishing 304 members.
Elmbridge Choir was founded in 2005 when local resident Cliff van Tonder placed an advert in the local papers inviting members of the public to attend an inaugural choir rehearsal in the village hall, in the hope that a few brave souls might turn up. Little did he know that within a very short space of time the choir would become so popular that he would have to start a second choir with a seemingly endless waiting list of people wishing to be part of the action.
The choir was borne out of Cliff's desire to gather together people from all walks of life, regardless of musical ability, to enjoy and experience the joy of choral singing, whilst at the same time making a difference in the community by raising money for deserving local charities and worthy causes.
This choir is rather unique in that it doesn't require members to go through an audition process, nor, indeed, to have any singing experience. Membership is open to any adult who has the desire and passion for singing and the willingness and commitment to uphold and respect the values and principles of the choir.
With few exceptions every concert is performed on behalf of a named charity which receives all profits from that concert. Numerous and diverse local charities have already benefited from the choirs' fundraising efforts, including Oasis, Walton Blind Society and, more recently, the choir were delighted to support the Woking and Sam Beare Hospice Appeal.
Since its inception, the choir has been continuously driven by the passion and vision of its founder and musical director, Cliff. Never one to rest on his laurels, Cliff constantly strives to advance the choir and to give its members new experiences, from trying different music styles to performing at different concert locations. In 2008 the choir were invited to attend the Advent Choral Festival in Prague, where over 100 of its members received a warm reception in The Old Town Square as well as at the Festival finale where they sang alongside other choral groups from all over Europe.
Elmbridge Choir found its popularity increasing and by early 2009 had reached its membership capacity. This of course was great news for the choir, but not so great for the prospective members who were registering to join on a daily basis only to be put on a waiting list.
And so it was that the Elmbridge Ladies Choir was formed, initially made up entirely from ladies from the waiting list, it very soon increased in numbers as word spread. The Ladies Choir soon became a sought-after choir in its own right as firm friendships were formed and a strong three-part harmony established. With the choir up and running and performing together well in a relatively short space of time, Cliff felt able to hand over the reins to the very capable Ramon Davis, who, as a teacher of music, brought with him expertise and experience in musical leadership. Ramon has proved to be extremely popular with the ladies who support him wholeheartedly.
Both choirs perform a varied and ever-increasing repertoire, ranging from fun-filled 60s medleys to pop classics and songs from the musicals to the beautiful harmonies of African music, some of which are sung a cappella.
Setting up and running two thriving choirs would be more than enough for most of us, but during 2009 Cliff was able to make another of his dreams a reality. Having established a successful sponsorship agreement with Savills Estate Agents in Cobham, he was fortunate to be introduced to Georgi Bartlett, a very talented lady who has a wealth of musical and orchestral experience. This was enough to spur Cliff into action and in September 2009, the Elmbridge Community Big Band was formed with Georgi as its conductor and musical director. Incredibly, within just a month, a group of around 40 musicians who had never met before let alone played together was creating a marvellously confident and harmonious sound under Georgi's leadership.
During this period of change, the committee of Elmbridge Choir agreed that with the addition of the Ladies Choir and the Big Band it was time to change the structure of the charity, to incorporate the two choirs and the band under an ‘umbrella' organisation, giving potential for further growth whilst still firmly sticking to its original concept of ‘enabling music for all'. Thus ‘The Elmbridge Community Music Society' was established. This structure will allow the society to grow even further in the comings months and year to respond to the growing musical demands of residents in Elmbridge and surrounding boroughs.
2009 was an extraordinarily busy year, a year of many changes for the group. With the Ladies Choir now settled and with their first concert under their belts, the Big Band formed and successfully up and running, Cliff became aware of a recently formed local youth band, enticingly called Elmbridge Young Musicians. EYM's principles of providing a musical opportunity for young people in Elmbridge to play together was entirely in harmony with those of the Society and so, after discussion with EYM's founders and leaders, Lewis McGuiness and John Starling (both members of the Big Band), it was agreed to integrate Elmbridge Young Musicians into the Elmbridge Community Society, much to the delight of the choir and big band members.
The addition of EYM meant that the Elmbridge Community Music Society was truly diverse and representative. Christmas 2009 saw the first performance of the four groups of the Society on the same stage at a sell-out concert in Leatherhead Theatre. An immensely proud and uplifting experience for all involved.
Elmbridge Choir and members of the Big Band have just completed a unique performance. ‘Till the Rivers Cease to Flow' is a musical drama which was written especially for the choir by playwright and dramatist Richard Conlon and songwriter Sarah Fisher who is best known for her singing with Annie Lennox and The Eurythmics, and who just completed a country-wide tour with 80s pop icon, Hazel O'Connor.
The project is part of a two year participative programme funded by Surrey Arts Partnership and Arts Council, and was developed and delivered by Farnham Maltings and Tandridge Leisure. Elmbridge Choir was delighted to be chosen to be part of the project which culminated with two performances on June 4th and 5th at Cleves School in Weybridge, and a final, shortened performance at the "Celtebrating Surrey" Festival at Loseley Park on Sunday June 27th at 3.45pm.
It is evident to anyone who has seen either of the choirs perform, that there is such a great sense of camaraderie among the members, whose singing enjoyment is clearly enhanced in the knowledge that they are helping others by giving support to charity.
Under the extraordinary leadership of Cliff van Tonder, who has already brought the group so far, the Elmbridge Music Society continues to go from strength to strength, and with Cliff's vision and inspiration, coupled with the enthusiasm and commitment of its members, the future looks set to be exciting.
Comment by nturner on 2010-06-20 18:19:48
Happy Birthday to all of us at the Elmbridge Choir.
Lesley & Nigel
Comment by loopyloo17 on 2010-08-30 19:06:37
painting,dancing, and dressing up was all good fun
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