Young choirmaster hits a chord with members

Joe Paxton, 27, with members of the Arun Choral Society at a rehearsal held in Arundel C Of E Primary School, Jarvis Road, Arundel
Joe Paxton, 27, with members of the Arun Choral Society at a rehearsal held in Arundel C Of E Primary School, Jarvis Road, Arundel

Running a choral singing group is not the average pursuit of most 27-year-olds – but Joe Paxton has launched himself into the role, and wants more young people to join.

Since he was appointed as musical director of the Arun Choral Society in September, the PhD student from Brighton has got the seal of approval from the society’s 87 members and wants anyone from 16 to 106 to get involved.

He said: “There is a reason we have been singing this choral music for hundreds of years: it is really fun to do. There is something really special about performing it and bringing it back to life.

“People find it quite intimidating joining a group, whether it is a sports team or a book club. The most daunting thing is talking to the first person and going through the door, but after that you’ll soon get used to the rehearsals.

“This is not just a choir – it is a close-knit group of friends.”

The society is currently preparing for its autumn concert in Arundel Cathedral on Saturday, which will ring with the tune of Vivaldi’s masterpiece Gloria, a choir staple, and music from Michael Haydn and other famous classical composers.

It will be their first big concert with Joe at the helm, who took over from John Henville when he retired after 20 years in the role.

Society member Hedda Wells, 49, from Barnham, said Joe’s ‘energy and enthusiasm’ gave him the edge in his interview: “We all want to please Joe; when he is conducting he shows what he wants and we respond as a choir. It works really well.”

A music PhD student who lectures at Sussex University, Joe also has director roles at many other singing groups, including the Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus.

But what does he prefer – Vivaldi’s Gloria or Gloria Gaynor? Well, his favourite musical period is the Romantic era, from 1850 to 1950, and his favourite piece is Verdi’s Requiem.

His goal is for the choral society to perform the majestic song, which requires a large chorus, in the next three years once its numbers have increased.

Susan Francis, the society’s chairman, said some new blood would help: “We need that energy that younger people have, because it can be hard work singing for an entire concert.”

The autumn concert is at 7.30pm on Saturday. Tickets: £15, £7.50 for students and children. Call 01903 504 188.