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CHOIR BACK WHERE IT STARTED

Hereford Cathedral has played a big part in the life of Hereford Police Male Choir. It was the venue 60 years ago for the first concert given by the choir, when it was formed to sing at a celebration of the centenary of the old Herefordshire Constabulary. Over the years they have continued to entertain audiences in the cathedral with their fine choral singing.

The latest was the choir's Diamond Jubilee concert, marking six decades of song which have seen the choir sing in the Royal Albert Hall, on BBC TV and on tours of Europe and Canada. The Choir has raised over a £1 million for charities.

To mark their long association with the cathedral the 65–strong choir has donated £2,965 to the Cathedral Perpetual Trust, and the Dean, the Very Rev. Michael Tavinor dropped in on a rehearsal to collect the cheque and thank the choristers. In return he was presented with their latest CD, “60 Years on the Beat”, which is available at Off the Wall gift shop in St Peter's Street in the city.

Picture of HPMC officers presenting the Dean of Hereford Cathedral with a cheque

(l to r) Chairman Ray Williams (left) together with concert organiser, Robin Brook, and choir secretary David Coulson, presents the Dean with the cheque.

CHAIRMAN'S REVIEW OF DIAMOND JUBILEE YEAR

Chairman Ray Williams, a retired CID sergeant based in Worcester, looks back on his first year as choir leader: Picture of Ray Williams, HPMC Chairman

“It has been a mixed year of challenges and experiences, but I was fortunate to have the support of quality teams dealing with both the music side and the equally important smooth and efficient running of the choir administration.

There were many highlights throughout year. One of them was singing at the launch of the supporters club of the 2017 British Lions Rugby Tour of New Zealand at Worcester Warriors ground. This was a great cultural experience as we got to perform with the famous Maori HaKa dancers.

Recording a new CD album, ‘60 Years On The Beat’ was another experience, especially for the newer choristers. The repertoire chosen by our musical director, Alison Houlbrooke, demonstrated just how diverse and flexible we have become as a group. The quality of the music was a fitting tribute to Brian Williams, whose loss was a big blow. But his legacy – a hugely successful choir – will live on.

Another highlight that stands out was the tour to the Germany city of Magdeburg, hosted by the Magdeburg Police Choir, a mixed group who had joined us in Hereford in 2015 for our annual concert. The two concerts and the hospitality were magnificent.

For the 2017 annual concert in the Shire Hall, a full house, the guest soloists were both students at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama: Emily Rooke from Pudleston, near Leominster, winner of the Police Choir Young Musicians Bursary, and Oscar Castellino, a baritone from Eygpt.

The opportunity to perform an outdoor concert in the wonderful gardens of our Patron, Clive Richards and his wife Sylvia, at Lower Hope, Ullingswick was also a special treat, as was the opportunity to sing with three Welsh choirs – Rhayader, Neath and Cardiff Arms Park.

But none of us was prepared for the stunning success of the grand finale, the Diamond Jubilee concert in the Cathedral at the end of October, played to another full house and standing ovations. As they say, we had a little help from our friends. Stephen John Davis usually sings to audiences in West End theatres, taking lead roles in mega musicals like Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables. Picture of Rosa Valentine Bennet singing with Hereford Police Choir His father Michael is a member of the choir and Stephen has sung with us several times. The audience loved him, as they did our guest soprano Emily Rooke from Pudleston near Leominster, a student at the Royal Welsh College of Music in Cardiff and winner of the 2017 Police Choir Young Musician's Bursary. But the real heroine of the night was schoolgirl, Rosa Valentine Bennet, grand–daughter of Brian Williams, who paid her own personal tribute in song to her grandad, winning emotional applause.”

TRIBUTE TO A CHOIR LEGEND

Brian Williams would have loved to have been in Hereford Cathedral alongside his fellow Police Choir choristers in the choir he helped create – and then nurture for the next 60 years. His death in September, at the age of 86, leaves a huge chasm in the ranks, but thankfully he built strong foundations for the choir he was devoted to.

Serving as secretary for virtually all of its 60 years must surely count as a record. But it was his MBE of which Brian was most proud. Presented to him by Her Majesty the Queen, it recognised not only his unwavering dedication to the police choir, but a huge contribution nationally to male voice choral singing.

Picture of Brian Williams receiving the MBE from Her Majesty The Queen