Choir is back in full voice

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A lifeline was handed to a choir that was on the brink of folding after a talented young conductor joined.

The number of members plummeted in Gildersome Community Choir after organist and manager Ken Silver, who founded it in 2008, retired for health reasons last April.

The “devastating shock” was compounded when another non-singing member left at the same time – the roles of secretary, treasurer, librarian and conductor were lost. Things then got worse when the pianist also decided to leave.

Soprano Jan Dawson, 64, of Scott Green Mount, Gildersome, said: “We’ve struggled all summer. The eventuality would have been that the choir would have folded. We were really struggling to find a musical conductor.”

At a meeting during the end of April, 32 members vowed to carry on – but would desperately need the musical skills of a pianist and conductor to survive.

John Halligan, a tenor at Gildersome and also conductor of Churwell Choir, kindly offered to play and conduct until replacements could be found.

After repeated unsuccessful efforts at recruiting new members, spirits were low and the choir almost admitted defeat.

But Betty Priestley, a Gildersome soprano who also sang in another choir, asked their conductor Jess Ward if she could help.

Mrs Dawson thinks classically-trained Jess has helped revitalise the choir.

“She is a young, energetic and talented lady who, from the first time you hear her play, is obviously steeped in her music,” she said.

“From the first rehearsal it was obvious the choir were very taken with her approach and skills. There was no doubt that she was our future.

“The whole village is buzzing with her, she just keeps it all moving.”

Jess, 28, said: “They seem like a really fun choir and are of a good standard already. It’s about developing on that.”

Sponsorship has now also been offered by local businessman John Cullen, of Plumber and Property Repairs.

New members are welcomed by the choir, which rehearses in Gildersome Baptist Church on Thursdays from 7.30pm-9pm. Contact 0113 2383130 for more information.