A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HEDGE END NEW MUSIC MAKERS
Early in 1970 the then Junior Church Organist and Choir Master in the Methodist Church, Stuart Harding, a young 24 year old, was asked to do something for the Junior Church Anniversary. So, he gathered together a dozen young people from the church to sing the Andrew Lloyd Webber Musical ‘Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat’, the group being accompanied by an even younger recorder group. The evening was a tremendous success, so much so that after the performance we suggested that we should continue to sing for our own enjoyment. So after a meeting of all who were interested the ‘New Music Makers’ was born in the September of 1970. We wanted to sing secular music rather than church music with only a loose association with the church. From then on we have always practiced in the Methodist Church Hall.Read more
The name New Music Makers was carefully chosen as we wanted to sing New and Contemporary Music, particularly music of our generation. At the time the Beatles, Carpenters, Simon and Garfunkel and many other groups were everywhere, so we set about finding sheet music that would challenge us, albeit, in one or two part harmonies.
Stuart Harding became its conductor and continued to conduct us for the next fifteen years, during which time we progressed to four and eight part harmonies. We enjoyed singing and performing all over the area and traveling quite far afield with some full blown musicals such as ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, ‘Come Together’, ‘Ride! Ride!’ and other popular individual pieces. During that time, as individuals, we all had a ball and became a very tight knit group of friends who have stayed close ever since.
In 1978, Stuart, Tom Rodaway as Chairman, Pat Halifax who was Mayor of Eastleigh at that time and Tony Sharp went to Kornwestheim in Western Germany to set up a twinning between us and a German male voice choir by the name of Liederkranz Kornwestheim. This we did and in 1979 we started what was to become an association that lasted for 30 years. During that period we had numerous exchanges, staying in each others homes,
having great fun together and making long and lasting friendships, some of which are still enjoyed today.
We also had great fun doing pantomimes. This we did during the Christmas period, mainly in the Village Hall where we would easily fill the hall for four performances in a week. Collectively we would make and paint scenery in a huge garage that we were given access to, free of charge, on the corner of Hobb Lane in Hedge End by a delightful elderly lady by the name of Mrs Denny, a member of the Methodist Church. We were indeed so lucky.
After Stuart decided to hang up his baton and after a long search we found a replacement in Olivia Lee, a school teacher and devout Catholic who taught music and also instructed young children in playing the violin. Several of her pupils played at some of our concerts and some eventually became professional musicians. One of the highlights during her time was a weekend away in West Wales in a town called Llandovery where we sang to a packed audience in a Catholic Nunnery. Olivia grew with the choir and everyone loved her, she would throw herself into anything we wanted to do including pantomimes. Olivia
lead the choir for about twenty years, eventually deciding to retire to Dorset with her new husband, David Curtis, who she met through the choir, David being one of the basses. We were all delighted for them both and sang at their wedding. For a number of years after she retired we as a choir were invited down to their garden in Highcliffe for BBQ’s, sadly Olivia died in her garden after a heart attack just a few years ago.
After Olivia came Marianne Temperley in 2005 who sang with the BBC Singers in her early years and later taught singing in her home professionally. Once again the choir were lucky in their choice, Marianne being a real lady was so easy to work with. When she joined us David Farnell, who was one of our tenors, asked if it would be possible to conduct a few of the pieces, she was only too pleased to let him spread his wings and encouraged him as much as she could. From then on David was recognised as the Assistant Musical
Director and they worked in true harmony together. She had a warm personality and brought some glamour to the choir. One of the more memorable occasions, although very sad, was when we were asked to sing in Winchester Cathedral at the remembrance service for the two firemen who died whilst trying to deal with a fire in Southampton. The Cathedral was packed with serving officers from all over the country, together with dignitary and close family members, and including a live television broadcast. Somehow we managed to sing two very emotional pieces within a highly charged atmosphere. Marianne was with us for a total of seven years before retiring to pastures green.
Michael Goldthorpe took over from Marianne, he being a contemporary of hers whilst singing together with the BBC Singers. A man in his seventies, but possessing tremendous energy having other choirs that he conducted and teaching singing professionally, also having to travel from his home in Lymington to Hedge End every practice night. He is blessed with a brilliant tenor voice which he sometimes demonstrated to the choir, but never in front of one of our audiences, it would be fair to say that he is a superb singing
instructor teaching us a lot about the use of the voice and breathing. He brought his own style to the choir with his quite rigorous warm up routines, which included physical exercise and voice control. He was a natural teacher. We may not be the youngest choir around these days, but we may be the fittest. Under his stewardship we have tackled some quite difficult and challenging pieces, recording some of these for national competition. We are still waiting with baited breath to hear the results. Sadly after four years at the helm
Michael has decided to retire after this current set of concerts in the summer. The choir wish him a long and happy retirement.
It should not be forgotten that during our forty-six years as a choir we have been blessed with some extremely talented piano accompanists, without which, any of our musical directors would have found it impossible to continue. At this stage it would be wrong of me to name any of them for fear of missing any of their names off such a talented list but I can honestly say, without fear of contradiction, having been with the choir from its conception, that you could name on one hand the number of times we were ever without an accompanist throughout the entire life of the choir.
An organisation is only as strong as the organising committee that conducts its day to day business. The New Music Makers have always been very fortunate in having strength in that department, always working very closely with its musical directors but not allowing the MD’s to dictate the music we sing or how we run our organisation. We have a separate music committee who decides on musical choice and content and we rely on their ability and experience. We have also been fortunate over the years to have had many people
with abilities in other direction such as stage management, set building, choreography, sound requirements, video recording and even tea & coffee making.
I must take this opportunity in thanking everyone who over the years have added in any way to the quality of the New Music Makers, for without your help we would find it more difficult to exist.