Double dose of Christmas for the Leconfield Singers


It will be Christmas at the double for Petworth’s Leconfield Singers this year.

Their Christmas concert always sells out, so this year they have added a matinee.

Saturday, December 9 at St Mary’s Church sees an afternoon concert at 2pm when the Leconfield Singers will be joined by the Dorset House school choir. Then there will be an evening concert at 7pm when the principal piece will be Stabat Mater Speciosa by Chris Williams. Both concerts will find the singers in fine voice. The choir is still relatively new, but it is already making its mark. Jeannie Whitman Esdaile, who took over as chairman in the spring, is delighted at the way the mixed-voice choir is developing: ““We have just leapt in the past couple of years to great heights.”

Much of the credit goes to Graham Wili as the choir director, Jeannie believes: “He is just the top. He is a perfectionist… but with kindness. He manages to get a very eclectic bunch of people together with a range of ages, from young mums to grannies like me! We performed last year at the Festival Hall doing Verdi’s Requiem and joined up with a couple of other choirs that Graham works with. We had 300 people singing with full orchestra, and when you do something like that, something so exciting, all the stress is worth it.

“And we also go on tour. We went to Belgium this past year and sang in three of the most gorgeous cathedrals. It is all growing. Generally, we have got 80 to 100 people. People come in and out because of family commitments, but we all have a really good time.”

As chairman, Jeannie says she believes in the principle “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The role is to keep things going, but in this she is helped by the fact that the choir is “a pretty democratic bunch”: “We have got a board of directors, and really my role is one of ensuring stability, but the choir works really well together and responds to each other, and that’s one of the great fun things about it. We all get a real camaraderie from being in the choir. You make good friends, and even if there are people you don’t see outside the choir, it is always good to catch up.

“But also we are all doing a really good healthy thing. Over the years there has been so much research done about how good singing is for you. The health benefits are huge, and because you are doing something so rhythmic and you are all mentally following the same path, you do actually get to the point where your hearts all beat together.”

As for Christmas, Jeannie is delighted to see the concerts expand: “The Christmas concert is a tradition, but over the past few years we have just been completely sold out. St Mary’s is a wonderful place, but we are all squashed in, so this year we thought we would go ahead and try a matinee. We are taking a big risk, but it would be great if we can pull off the two performances.”