Vivace Chorus, Guildford - join the club

This month, we meet the Vivace Chorus, a Guildford based amateur choral society, who are about to stage an ambitious concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London's Royal Albert Hall to mark the centenary of Mahler's death

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine May 2011

This month, we meet the Vivace Chorus, a Guildford based amateur choral society, who are about to stage an ambitious concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s Royal Albert Hall to mark the centenary of Mahler’s death

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Name of club: The Vivace ChorusLocation: GuildfordIn a nutshell: An amateur choir of 150 members whose aim is to sing to a high, professional standard whilst having fun doing so. Name of person interviewed: James GarrowRole in group: Chairman Member of club for: Ten years.Joined because: ‘...of the reputation of the choir and the excellence of its music director. Having sung with some top national choirs (BBC Symphony Chorus etc), I was looking for a good choir with ambitions and a wide repertoire. I was very impressed with Jeremy Backhouse and the way in which he could convey a sense of fun and obtain a highly professional sound at concerts.’

When was the club set up? We were established as the Guildford Philharmonic Choir by Guildford Borough Council in 1947 to sing alongside the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2005, to reflect our new independent status from the borough, we re-branded ourselves as the Vivace Chorus.

How many members do you currently have?  The VC is an amateur chorus of 150 members of all ages and from all walks of life: legal, educational and commerce, who come from all over to sing in central Guildford with their music director, Jeremy Backhouse, one of the best in the land. Also, the choir’s patron is the internationally renowned choral conductor, Sir David Willcocks.

We are always seeking new members to join us. All that is needed is a commitment to making music whilst having fun. The choir’s website – – will give all the details you need on how to make music as an amateur but to a professional standard.We sing in a variety of venues: Guildford Cathedral, the Royal Albert Hall, St Martin-in-the-Fields and are planning a concert for the new Guildford venue, G Live. Also on the cards is a concert tour to Strasbourg, Freiburg and Heidelberg in early summer 2012.

Where and when do you meet?  At Holy Trinity Church in Guildford, on Mondays from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.

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What’s the best thing about being a member of the club? Having a great hobby that is satisfying, fun and gives so much pleasure to members and audience alike.

Do you find being surrounded by like-minded individuals inspiring? Very much so; it is both stimulating and rewarding.

Have you got links with other local clubs?  Not officially, but close co-operation for concerts with two orchestras.

What’s the most interesting story from the group’s history?  Two years ago, the choir decided it was ready to take on the exciting project of promoting and performing the massive Mahler’s 8th Symphony (‘The Symphony of a Thousand’) at the Royal Albert Hall, London, in May 2011 to mark the centenary of the composer’s death.This has involved a huge amount of organisation, combining as it does, 500 singers from four adult choirs and a children’s choir, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and eight soloists with a daunting budget of �54,000. No mean feat for an amateur organisation with no sponsorship apart from a small but welcome grant from the Borough Council.

…and the funniest?  On a choir tour to France, at the rehearsal prior to singing in Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the basses dressed up as Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, causing fits of laughter!

When is your next event that is open to the public/potential new members?  Mahler’s 8th Symphony on Sunday May 15, 2011, at the Royal Albert Hall; then an RNLI charity concert in Holy Trinity Church on Saturday October 8.

Describe your club in five words... Lively, ambitious, inclusive, fun and satisfying.

For more information about the Vivace Chorus, and their forthcoming concert, visit

NEXT MONTH: We meet the founders of the Guildford Theatre School, which opened in the town last September, to find out more about life at a performing arts school

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