Handwashers’ Newsletter 6th September 2020

Yes, it really is the 25th issue since 23rd March!

Thank you to those who have sent in contributions and please keep them coming – we need more.


In case anyone missed the announcement in the 2nd August Newsletter, the Committee decided at their July meeting to cancel all rehearsals in September and October. They will meet again in October to decide on next steps. For this they need to know what members think about the various possible options for resuming singing in the developing circumstances. Before answering the questions below, we suggest that you watch this interview between the One Voice Campaign and the Making Music Chief Executive: https://www.facebook.com/OneVoiceCmpgn/videos/714673862420334/

  1. Would you be interested in limited live rehearsals in Covid-secure conditions including social-distancing and where perhaps half of the choir attended alternate weeks. Would you be willing to assist with disinfecting chairs etc after rehearsal?
  2. Are you able and would you want to take part in some form of virtual choir singing from home?
  3. Would you prefer to wait, unfortunately probably until well into 2021, when the virus has declined and/or a vaccine becomes available, so full choir rehearsals can resume?

Clearly, the core activity of CCS remains full rehearsals leading to concert performance but the Committee feels bound to consider alternatives if the majority of members so wish.

Please email your responses to the three questions to timp470@btinternet.com and add any comments you would like to make.

♫ Madok me miest and Mathan me mophet . . . ♫

 DON’T FORGET . . .  nominations for the CCS Committee 2020-21 should be submitted in the coming week (by 13 September). Please remind yourselves of the timetable for the AGM set out in the 23rd August newsletter.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Andy reminds us of Catherine Backhouse:

Professional musicians, both young and not so young, are facing a tough time at the moment, but those with several strings to their bow (and I’m not just talking about string players!) may well come through the pandemic in better shape than some. If her career so far is anything to go by, mezzo-soprano Catherine Backhouse may be one of the luckier ones. You may well remember that Catherine has sung twice with us, first in Messiah in 2011 and again at our 2015 Puccini-Rossini concert.

After performing to critical acclaim at the Aldeburgh Festival in 2014, Edinburgh-born Catherine gave a fascinating interview to the Guardian and Radio 3’s music critic Kate Molleson. (http://katemolleson.com/interview-catherine-backhouse/). Describing her early musical experiences, Catherine told her interviewer that as the daughter of organist Peter Backhouse* she “never decided to sing, I just always did it” and that becoming a chorister at St Mary’s Cathedral was probably inevitable given that her father was the cathedral’s assistant organist at the time and they lived just round the corner on Palmerston Place. As a music student at Durham University, she was a founder member of the a cappella group Voces8. This, she recalled, was “a bit of fun at first – just a bunch of mates having a laugh and making work for ourselves. Then we won some prestigious competitions and the whole thing turned serious. Soon we’d all signed contracts, moved to London and started touring constantly. It was great, all those trips and parties. Oh, and that mythical thing called a salary”. 

While touring the world with Voces8 Catherine sang first soprano and it was only after a music teacher suggested she had a bigger, deeper, hidden voice that the idea of being an opera singer came to her. She left the group to audition, as a mezzo, for the Guildhall Opera course, the starting point for what has developed into a successful operatic career, winning many plaudits from the leading music critics of the national press. She has, though, continued to undertake oratorio and recital performances and involve herself in bringing classical music to the wider community.  With two of her former St Mary’s Cathedral friends she formed the Amalie Trio (voice, piano and viola), which provides recitals and workshops for teachers and pupils to explore classical music in the classroom.


Meanwhile, Voces8 is now the performing arm of what has become the Voces8 Foundation, one of London’s leading music education charities aiming to bring the power of singing to communities internationally. It is under their auspices that this summer’s on-line Live from London concert series has been organised, featuring many of the best vocal groups around.

*Footnote for fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s Scotland Street series: young Bertie met organist Peter at Angus and Domenica’s wedding. Running though the guests Bertie recalled ‘. . . and Mr Backhouse who played the organ and people said knew more about railways than anybody else in Scotland”!   What is it about the clergy – and it seems their musicians – and their love of trains!


CORONA DORMA Beryl King reminds us of this clip which seems to become more apposite as the weeks pass: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uL52AuF4QzY