David’s spectacular ‘last hurrah’

The Anvil, Basingstoke - 9th July 2016

After 32 years at the helm of Farnham Youth Choir, founder/director David Victor-Smith bowed out in style with a final celebration concert at the Anvil, Basingstoke to mark his retirement.

All five choirs which make up FYC came together to reflect the three decades of David’s and his wife Gillian’s leadership, with the 75-strong alumni choir including five original members of the choir which began back in 1984. The music too contained songs from these early years right up to the first performance of a new arrangement for combined choirs and orchestra of The Music’s Always There With You by John Rutter, a long-standing friend of the choir who was in the audience to share in the special occasion.

The whole evening, which also marked the retirement of FYC accompanist Julia Freeman after 30 years, was excellently kept on track by presenter Lt Col Stuart Watts OBE, husband of former Girls’ Choir Director and FYC vocal coach, Catherine Watts. The first half reflected the qualities which have made FYC concerts so entertaining over the years. The Junior Boys’ and Junior Girls’ Choirs, first in turn and then together, beguiled the audience with characterful performances of repertoire well-chosen to show off their skills in giving every song its own special character.

However, not surprisingly perhaps, the Training Choir - with some members as young as six - stole the show with their performance of I Once Saw an Elephant by Vo Fletcher, combining singing and actions to hilarious effect.

In sacred and secular songs spanning five centuries, the main Youth Choir itself showed why it had won so many national and international awards over the years, and in the second half was joined by alumni of each appropriate vintage to sing some old favourites. These included The Water of Tyne, the Northumbrian folksong arranged by Michael Neaum which first put FYC on the national map when they won the Sainsbury’s Youth Choir of the Year competition in 1992.

This reflected the greater party atmosphere of the whole of the second half of the concert, in which the Alumni Choir performed Rutter’s The Sprig of Thyme and was then joined by the Youth Choir and junior choirs in varying combinations. The choirs’ renowned breadth of repertoire was reflected in performances ranging from Mozart’smotet, Ave Verum Corpus, conducted by David’s successor as Musical Director, Jo Tomlinson, to a long-standing FYC favourite, Jerome Kern’s Can’t Help Lovin’ dat Man.     

Following presentations to David, Gillian and Julia, the audience also got the chance to join in with a rousing performance of Parry’s Jerusalem, including a special descant written by David himself. The perfect sign-off.