Q & A
What is Winchester Community Choir?
We are a group of people who join together to sing for fun. The choir grew out of a series of workshops that ran in 2005 when lots of the participants expressed the desire for a choir in Winchester that would be open to all, without audition. Now we meet weekly during term time at The United Church, Jewry Street, Winchester at 7:30pm on Tuesdays.
Who conducts the choir?
The choir is conducted by Carolyn Robson, who is a professional singer and musician specialising in traditional folk song and dance. Her extensive repertoire consists of songs from her native Northumberland and Scotland as well as from other parts of the British Isles, and further afield. She studied at the London Royal Academy of Music and went on to work as a teacher and as a radio presenter. In 1981 she made her first album, ‘Banks of Tyne’ and can be heard singing on Kathryn Tickell’s CD ‘The Northumberland Collection’. She was a member of the celebrated a cappella trio, Craig Morgan Robson, and more recently joined forces with Karen Tweed and Kevin Dempsey. Dempsey Robson Tweed launched their first CD at the National Festival in Canberra at Easter 2013. Carolyn has a wealth of singing and teaching experience and runs three community choirs in Hampshire. She has made countless club and festival appearances, as well as featuring in HTV’s 2004 documentary on Cecil Sharp. She is widely recognised as one of country’s finest traditional female singers.
Are you available to sing at community events?
If you are involved in a community group, charity or organisation in Winchester and would like us to sing at an event or activity you are organising, please get in touch for a chat about it. We’ve sung by invitation at community festivals, charity events and at residential homes.
Who can join the Community Choir?
Anyone in Winchester and beyond is welcome to join. You don’t need to be able to read music and there is absolutely no audition.
So what can I do if I am interested in joining?
We are currently running a waiting list; please click on the “Apply to join” link at the top of the page.
And what sort of people are members of the choir?
Some of our members are experienced singers who have been in other choirs, others haven’t sung since school. We particularly welcome members who are new to social singing; don’t worry if you can’t read music as this isn’t necessary to participate in community choir.
What types of songs do you sing?
We learn a range of songs, including folk, international songs, gospel, seasonal songs such as carols, and some classical songs. The focus is on singing for fun. We sing in rounds and unaccompanied harmony arrangements – but we don’t have fixed sections of the choir and members are encouraged to move around and try singing various parts for different songs.
So how do you learn songs if lots of members can’t read music?
We learn songs by ear. At rehearsals, the music is taught to us line by line by our conductors. Members also get a folder containing the words to the songs and can download sound files of the song parts from this website for practising at home.
What happens at the sessions?
Weekly Tuesday night sessions run from 7.30-9.15pm with Carolyn Robson conducting or we occasionally have guest conductors. After a warm up, we practice songs from the current repertoire.
Do you meet every week?
We have 3 terms of approximately ten-weeks each, with breaks to coincide with school half-terms and vacations. Rehearsal dates are given in the Members’ Area of this website. We understand that members have other commitments such as work or family that mean missing rehearsals from time to time.
Do I have to come to rehearsal every week?
No, we recognise that people are occasionally unable to attend rehearsals. As a courtesy to other members though, we do ask a level of attendance which will enable the choir repertoire to continue to grow and enable us to prepare for performances. For this reason members are asked to attend at least 75% of the rehearsals each term. Absences of longer than this can be granted, by agreement of committee, in special circumstances but as a general rule attendance at as many rehearsals as possible is encouraged.
And do you perform?
Yes, we enjoy singing in the community and raising money for local charities through concerts and carol singing. WCC has links with other Hampshire community choirs and we’ve sung at concerts in groups of 100+ with them. We plan to continue to perform regularly in the community and welcome suggestions from members or others for occasions or places for singouts.
Do I have to perform if I become a member?
Well, it isn’t compulsory, but we do hope you’ll want to join us for performances as they are great fun. Of course, you will need to be confident that you know the songs before performing, which may take a month or two, but even if you haven’t been in a choir before, Carolyn will get you ready to perform.
Why do you rehearse at United Church?
The Sanctuary upstairs in The United Church is a large well ventilated room with good acoustics. It is also a convenient, city centre venue with lots of nearby parking. We hire the space; the choir isn’t part of the church.
How is the choir run?
We are a non-profit group and are run by a committee of volunteers who contract our conductors, organise and publicise the rehearsals and singouts, and administer the membership scheme.
Can I help with running the choir?
Yes please! There are lots of opportunities to get involved with running the choir, so please let us know if there is anything you can help with. If you join the choir, you’ll be invited to take part in the AGM which takes place each May.
I’m interested, so can I try you out before joining?
Yes, we know we are a bit different from other choirs, so when we invite people to come along, you will be able to try us out for free for 2 sessions. After that, we ask you to decide whether or not you are going to join the choir.
How much does it cost to be a member?
From January 2022 the cost is £10 per month, and we offer a concessionary fee of £7 per month for students, and people who are unemployed or retired. It helps us very much with administering the scheme if you pay by standing order, so we ask you to do this. You can cancel your standing order at any time if you decide you no longer wish to be a member. Our Membership Secretary will give you our bank details when you decide to join us.
What do you do with the money?
We are non-profit making. We use the membership fees to hire the conductors and venue for rehearsals and performances, pay for the members’ files, and cover publicity and running costs. Accounts are presented to members at the AGM.
We donate a proportion of ticket sales and all that we are given in a retiring collection at our concerts to charities nominated by the choir members. See our “Links” page for a list of charities and organisations we have supported.
We maintain a list of charities, nominated by members and approved by the WCC committee, and these charities will benefit in turn from our fundraising efforts.
To nominate a charity click on the “Contact us” link at the top of the page or speak to a member of the committee.