Strife, spirit and soul were the themes of Saturday lunchtime’s spectacular performance by Westminster Music Library’s own Joint Force Singers. Think choir concerts are boring? Joint Force Singers made us think again, with their showcase of music in a wide range of styles, periods and even languages!
The impressive Guards’ Chapel at Wellington Barracks played host to this exciting event, and a large crowd of music devotees and casual fans alike were entertained and impressed for almost an hour as the choir presented the fruit of ten weeks’ hard labour. Under the directorship of Ruairi Glasheen, this group of singers from all walks of life had been meeting every week since Christmas in anticipation of Saturday’s performance, and we were delighted to see that their hard work had produced such brilliant music. Ruairi, ever charismatic, amused the audience between songs with anecdotes and jokes, and shared the fascinating historical background to some of the pieces, adding even more to our appreciation of the concert.
In true Joint Force Singers’ fashion, the choir had a surprise up their sleeve, and bewildered the audience by singing the opening song out of sight, taking advantage of the Guards’ Chapel’s excellent acoustics to capture our attention. All became clear, however, as, one by one, the choir appeared on stage, the music naturally rising in dynamic and excitement as more choir members materialised as if from nowhere. A dramatic crescendo led to a thrilling finish: as impactful an opening song as one could wish for. As Ruairi later explained, the haunting tune was in fact a Brazilian folk song.
Since the choir’s formation a mere six months ago, they have sung in several concerts, and in front of many distinguished guests. As a community choir, the Joint Force Singers are committed to supporting local events and causes, as their presence at initiatives like Silver Sunday testifies, and they have hosted numerous successful workshops, sing-alongs and community events. This concert, however, was a chance for the choir to showcase some individual members’ talents, and a real highlight of the afternoon was hearing some beautiful soprano and alto solos by accomplished amateur singers. The choice of repertoire was clearly chosen with these singers in mind, and it was a pleasure to hear their talent so sensitively showcased.
As usual, Project Manager Ruth Walters from Westminster Music Library was in attendance to introduce the choir and say a few words about the Joint Force Singers project. Special thanks were given to Tim Heale, London Garrison Welfare Officer, whose partnership in this project has been so valued, and to Ruairi and Hélène for direction and accompaniment respectively! Such a team of committed individuals has been involved in the running of this project behind the scenes, and it was a wonderful opportunity to thank them for their hard work.
The choir presented us a whirlwind tour of musical styles – from Enya to Amazing Grace, and everything in between. My personal favourite was the closing number, a rendition of Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend, for which the audience was invited to participate in the closing riff. A stunning way to end the concert, and the choir were rewarded with an enthusiastic standing ovation by the appreciative audience.
The opportunity to mingle with the choir and enjoy a well-earned cup of tea was taken by many present, as our afternoon with the Joint Force Singers drew to a close. Six months in to the project, it is wonderful to reflect on how far the choir have come, and this Saturday’s concert was a real testimony to that. Westminster Music Library are proud to be the pioneers of this musical adventure, and we eagerly await the next six months!