Momentous anniversary year for the Rowland Singers!

The Rowland Singers
The Rowland Singers

A momentous 2019 lies ahead for Worthing’s Rowland Singers as they celebrate their 50th anniversary this year.

The choir’s musical director and conductor Helen Emery is looking forward to a great time with a flourishing choir in good health. And she even wants to share the pleasures. As they launch into their rehearsals for The Messiah in April, Helen is keen to welcome new tenors and sopranos into the fold.

The choir rehearses on Wednesday evenings at the Goring United Reformed Church Hall, opposite the Worthing Leisure Centre in Goring. Rehearsals normally run from 7.30 to 9.45 with a break for light refreshments at half-time. Anyone interested in joining should phone Helen on 01903 238792. There will be a simple voice test to ascertain vocal range. All parts are taught, and you don’t have to be able to read music.

It should be a very happy year ahead, building on a very happy first five decades.

“The choir was started by my mum and dad. They had met at the Royal Choral Society in London and then when they got together, they decided to move down to Worthing and missed singing. They decided to start a choir and put an advertisement in the paper. They had six people for the first rehearsal which we reckon was in November 1969, and it has grown since then. Now we have 70-odd members.

“My dad is no longer in the area, but my mum (Jacky Hetherington) is still singing in the choir. Dad started off as the conductor. They split up and mum was the conductor from 1976 until 2010 when I took over.” The choir reflects those family origins: “It is very much like a family, to be honest. We are very caring towards each other. We look after each other across a wide age range, from people in their 20s through to people in their 80s… and that’s my mum! I used to attend rehearsals as a baby. I took over as the choir’s accompanist from about 1990 when I was 16, and I was the choir’s accompanist until 2010 when I took over the conducting.”

And the choir goes from strength to strength: “People say to me every time ‘That was your best concert ever!’ And I say ‘Really!’ We are an amateur choir essentially, but we strive to be as professional as possible, and I think what makes the choir appeal to people is that it is a very varied repertoire. At Easter, we are doing Messiah. You get the sacred repertoire there. In the summer, we do the more secular items, and then at Christmas we do a mix. We do some carols and we also do some fun pieces. There is something in there to please everybody really.”

Helen is hoping to recruit a few more singers early this year as they prepare for the Messiah in April in Worthing’s Assembly Hall when they will have Paul Whittaker who will be signing the performance: “We will be having a collection in aid of the Sussex Deaf Association. We did The Messiah a few years ago, and I wanted to do it again but do it slightly differently, and I wanted to be more inclusive for people who are deaf, which must be very isolating…”

The Singers will have a gala dinner in October and will be taking part in a massed choirs concert in June at the Assembly Hall.

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