FESTIVAL OF CHICHESTER: Michael takes his bow

The St Richard Singers

The St Richard Singers

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The St Richard Singers concert for this year’s Festival of Chichester will be a landmark event in the choir’s history.

It will be conductor Michael Walsh’s last with the choir after an association going back 43 years.

“I was first with the choir in 1973 and I have conducted them for 23 years in all. I am 67 now, and I just feel that now is the time for someone younger to take over.”

In his current stint with the choir, Michael took over in 2005 at short notice.

“But really the decision now has been coming for a while, and the timing is just right to be stepping down at the moment.

“I am doing a lot of composition at the moment. I wrote a requiem mass at the end of the year before last that has been performed three times now, in Bournemouth, Chichester and Nottingham, and I wrote another piece which is just about to have its sixth performance. And there is also the possibility that a record company is interested in making a CD of my music for general release, so there is a lot happening…”

Michael admits he broke gently his decision to leave: “And I have had lots of lovely messages.”

The good news is that he is handing over a choir in good health.

“It is such a friendly choir, and the standard is very high. Everyone reads music well, and that means that we can really concentrate on dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.

“But the enjoyment is the thing. We exist very much for our own enjoyment. We have had enormous fun over the years. I think I must have conducted nearly a hundred concerts with them over that time.

“I just try to encourage them to enjoy themselves. Conducting is a two-way thing.

“You demand that the singers watch you, but you have also got to be watching them, and if I may say, I think that is something that I am quite good at, that I can really engage with the singers on the night.”

For the Festival of Chichester, on Monday, July 4 at 7.30pm, the St Richard Singers are offering A Bach Festival, St George’s Church, Cleveland Road, Chichester, promising an extravaganza of orchestral and choral music by J S Bach: Cantata 147 with the famous last movement Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, Cantata for Double Choir BWV50, Magnificat in D and Orchestral Suite No 3 in D which includes the well-known Air on a G String.

“I think Bach is so satisfying because there are so many layers.

“There is enormous vitality and joy, and we are using the full Bach orchestra.

“There is so much enjoyment in Bach on so many different levels. I think it is also very intellectual music.

“It is very clever music and very satisfying. But some of it is very difficult. There is always such a lot to be got from Bach.”

Choice of music is very much a committee decision for the singers, but Michael is delighted that Bach will be the way he bows out: “And the choir is in very good heart.

“It’s always such a joyful experience to work with them. I come away on a Monday night thinking ‘That was really good!’ I will undoubtedly miss it, but there are a number of others things that I am involved in, and I am pleased to know that I will be leaving the choir in safe hands.”

Tickets £10; students £5; children £5. Tickets for the St Richard Singers concert and all other Festival of Chichester events are available on www.chichestertickets.co.uk.

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