2019 has not been the easiest of years for us, overshadowed by the knowledge that we would be losing Clive Rushworth, our dedicated and much-loved Musical Director, who’s been the expedition leader of our amazing choral journey since the start.
Clive took a random group of people, many without previous choral experience and moulded into the Choir we are today. He’s enabled numerous novice singers to find their voice and soar: without his willing support and enthusiasm Bolton Cancer Voices might never have got off the ground! We’ve had some incredible adventures together and created some wonderful memories: Clive will always have a special place in our hearts and we wish him well for the future.
Stepping down with a heavy heart, due to his increasing competing commitments, Clive was nevertheless keen to keep things going until he could hand the baton on to a safe pair of hands, who would continue to inspire, challenge and develop us; making the next chapter of our story as exciting and rewarding as these inaugural years have been. A hard act to follow – it was never simply about recruiting a Musical Director with the requisite skills, experience and qualities, who would continue to make rehearsals and performances fun and learning easy for all; we needed that exceptional someone to share our ethos and drive to be the best we can be: someone with a passion for becoming the Musical Director of Bolton Cancer Voices; there’s a world of difference!
When Clive spoke to me about his intended resignation we revisited our planned activities for 2019 to reassess what would be realistic and manageable in the circumstances. Thus our activities needed to be scaled back and we agreed not to take on any performances prior to our ‘Jingle Bell Sing-A-Long’ concert to avoid additional pressure on Clive during the recruitment period and allow for a settling-in phase when an appointment was made. Despite an extensive search, which generated a number of enquiries, the process took rather longer than we’d have hoped! Finally, at the beginning of July we welcomed a new Musical Director: sadly their tenure was short-lived after unforeseen circumstances led them to step-down. Thankfully fate dealt us a trump card in the arrival of Helen Eadie, who had previously expressed interest in the position but subsequently determined that she had insufficient time to do justice to the role. On learning of our plight, Helen agreed to join us temporarily to get us through our festive season commitments and did a truly outstanding job! We are absolutely delighted that she had so much fun she’s now accepted the position of Musical Director with us going forward.
An accomplished violinist, Helen freelanced with various orchestras before joining the BBC Philharmonic in 2006, where she worked for eight years. Helen was also leader of Bolton Symphony Orchestra for eleven years, leaving in September 2017 to take on a new venture as leader of Stockport Symphony Orchestra. But alongside her work teaching the violin and examining, Helen has always been passionate about singing and the way it can positively affect well-being. In 2011 she founded Stockport Community Choir, which she still directs: she also runs a singing for health group in North Manchester; has taken over a Doing Dementia Differently Choir and set up a Singing for Lung Health Group. These Choirs provide a real opportunity to allow the power of music to make a difference in people’s lives, which is the heart of where Helen’s passion lies; so she’s the perfect fit for us.
Without question this was a stressful period of challenge and uncertainty but we got there in the end and we’re all the stronger for it! We look forward to many happy years under Helen’s guiding baton.
In a year blighted by a dearth of concerts / performances, we kept choral life going through other activities including a Workshop with the amazing Antonia Sotgiu – Opera Singer and Principal Study Vocal Tutor at the Royal Northern College of Music. Antonia has performed lead roles with many Opera Companies including the Welsh National Opera / English National Opera / Opera North / Raymond Gubbay Productions; performed as a soloist at the BBC Proms and worked with Glyndebourne Festival Opera / The Halle and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – to name but a few! We were so fortunate to have the opportunity of benefitting from such knowledge, talent and experience.
After applying, we were lucky enough to be selected to participate in a Halle Singing MeetUp led by Choral Leaders Matt Roughly, Abi Kitching and accompanist Jill Fogden. Joining two other groups – Act 111 & Leigh Community Choir – we had a brilliant evening of fun-filled learning. In fact it was such a great experience that we went on to engage Matt’s services for a further Workshop.
This year we were extremely privileged to be featured on BBC Radio Manchester; ITV Granada; That’s Manchester and C5 News. Such amazing coverage not only gets our story out to a wider audience but enables us to send a loud and clear message that there is life with and beyond cancer: if we can touch just one person struggling on their own cancer journey then we have achieved something truly amazing!
We had a stall at 3 Macmillan Health & Well-Being events; fantastic networking opportunities and a great way to introduce the Choir to potential new members: many of us attended filming for BBC ‘Songs of Praise’ at the Victoria Hall, Bolton and had the pleasure of watching the fabulously talented young people taking part in the BBC Young Choir of the Year competition: we put our creative talents to good use and built André for a scarecrow trail – a new direction in our search for Clive’s replacement – and very handsome he was too:
and finally we said ‘So long, farewell, Auf wiedersehen, goodbye!’ to Clive after seven wonderful, melodious years together.
Before we knew it the festive season was upon us and after a private engagement entertaining guests at their Christmas celebration we had our fifth ‘Jingle Bell Sing-A-Long’ concert to look forward to. This year we were delighted to be joined by special guests Besses Boys’ Band, an accomplished Second Section Band, whose talented members have qualified for the finals of the National Brass Band Championship of Great Britain (sections 1-4), four times in the last decade and successfully represented the North West of England in September: along with Bolton’s own Cottontown Chorus, a tour de force on the UK acapella scene, who’ve been at the top of British barbershop for the last 15 years winning multiple gold medals and representing Britain in international competitions in the United States and elsewhere; their repertoire delivered with passion, performance and spine-tingling harmonies: and charged with keeping the whole evening running smoothly – Dr Kevin Jones – a Consultant Physician at the Royal Bolton Hospital, who’s been on the After-Dinner circuit for over 30 years and worked with celebrities like John Bishop, Stephen Fry and Michael McIntyre!
Supported this year by Bread and Butter Advice and Positive Pennine, the evening was packed with traditional seasonal favourites to imbue the heart-warming spirit of Christmas. With such a superb cast list, fantastically enthusiastic audience, hardworking front of house team, not to forget the traditional ‘surprise’ appearance of Father Christmas, I think this may well have scooped top slot as being our best ‘Jingle Bell Sing-A-Long’ to date! It’s great to collaborate with others equally passionate about sharing their love of music and providing fantastic entertainment: we are extremely fortunate to have had such talented, professional and passionate co-stars.
So proud of the way everyone pulled out all the stops to ensure we were performance-ready on the night; the hard work and dedication shown by our members was reflected in the fabulous feedback received: the event was a huge success, much-enjoyed by audience and participants alike. It really was a brilliant night: as one member leaving the stage commented to me ‘this has been the best night of my life’!
This year, in keeping with the fun-loving spirit of the Choir, we recruited a new festive helper – Alfie! A busy little chap, he turned his hand to everything from taking over our social media, delivering flyers and handling ticket sales to attending the Macmillan Health & Well-Being event, mocking up the ‘Jingle Bell Sing-A-Long’ programme and fulfilling orders for our lovely Christmas cards.
Well done Alfie; you’re a
All that remained for us to do in 2019 was to enjoy our customary Christmas meal at The Crofters, where we are greeted as old friends, treated like family and nothing is too much trouble, even for the smallest guest! Jolly Old St Nick handed out our ‘Secret Santa’ presents and the evening closed with a turn or two on the karaoke.