Handwashers’ Newsletter 28th June 2020


A statement from the Committee:

Quite obviously our normal choral activities are impossible for now and the immediate future. Not only is gathering the choir together for rehearsal out of the question under current regulations but so is accommodating a concert audience. It therefore seems unlikely that our earlier hopes of resuming in the autumn for a December concert will be realised. However, we will want to be ready to resume as soon as relaxations in the rules allow, so will be looking for ways of rehearsing together as the situation develops over the coming months. Many of us are in the groups identified as vulnerable to Covid-19 so we will need to be cautious and to respect individual concerns as we plan the restart. Meanwhile, we hope to find activities to engage members and keep the Society going. 

Currently the Committee has decided that:

  • The envisaged August 2020 voluntary sessions will not take place.
  • For the 2019-2020 AGM members will be circulated with papers and asked to respond via e-mail.
  • Current Society membership, which would normally expire on 31 August, will be extended until we can restart, at which point new subs will become due based on budgeted costs for a defined programme of activities for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.
  • In August Members will be asked to confirm their intention to renew membership for the new season.

The committee will update you on any developments after its summer meeting.  

(Meanwhile let’s have musical anecdotes from more of you to keep these Newsletters going. Ed.)


‘He’s on about Elgar again,’ I hear you cry! Well yes, I suppose I am. This time you can blame the BBC! No, this is not going to be a rant against ‘auntie’ – far from it – but rather a word of encouragement to tune in to Radio 3 from time to time.

One of the best programmes, in my opinion, is ‘Composer of the Week’ – the title of which is fairly self-explanatory – and which over the past five days has featured (you guessed it!) Edward Elgar. This long-established series is quite excellent and to be applauded not not only for the music played but also for the superb, informative commentaries. Last week’s programmes can be accessed for the next 26 days and they are all well worth a listen.

One of the pieces featured was the Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands. a set of choral songs written as a remembrance of a holiday with Alice in Bavaria. Many of you will remember performing these infectious pieces with CCS in the Bingham Hall some years ago. I hope you enjoy hearing them again: https://youtu.be/kSP6vmHVjzs

PORRIDGE Sue and Vic Gilks in Wormwood Scrubs:

Vic and I were part of a 30 strong choir taken from LCS who were invited to sing at the prison – a mixture of classical and popular music.

When we arrived, we were squashed tightly together in a tiny stuffy “holding room” for about an hour because the prisoner numbers’ count didn’t tally – great start! We then walked across the quadrangle while prisoners shouted at us from their cell windows – “Hello darling!” and the like! We finally assembled in a hall and were a bit nervous as it had not been possible to rehearse that much, but we hoped the clientele wouldn’t be that discerning.

We got through the concert in spite of a few musical hiccups. The hall was packed.  Unsurprising from the prisoners’ point of view as it was obviously a chance to get out of their cells.

A warden then said that coffee and cake was about to be served and we were welcome (if we felt comfortable) to mingle with the prisoners which we decided to.

I ended up talking to a huge man with scary bulging eyes who told us that he was a lifer and that he had problems controlling his temper resulting in him murdering a few people. Very odd conversation though he was really friendly and polite. He told us they had had the Bach choir there a few weeks earlier and that they were much better than us! Couldn’t argue with that one! Another guy used to be a hairdresser and kept remarking on how nice my hair looked and how well I managed it! He then asked Vic where he’d parked the car. Vic said it was just a road or two away from the prison and the inmate said to him “ Big mistake – you’ll have no wheels on it when you get back – they’ll all be in here!”

It was certainly an experience. No surprise that we weren’t invited back!!

(Bit of a comedown after the Palau de la Musica in Barcelona! Ed.)


Several weeks ago, thanks to Di, we ‘met’ Hildegard of Bingen and her monophonic music. Chairman Andy, aided by Mozart, now takes our musical education one step further into pollyphany: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfT_SuDRLNE

LIZ FLEMING recalls more Monmouth Choral Society events:

Our conductor, Mark Foster was a wonderful musician and we did some amazing works with him and went on several European Choir tours and performed The Dream of Gerontius in St David’s Hall, Cardiff, under the baton of Vernon (Tod)  Handley who was President of MCS.

Mark was particular about choir etiquette and did not tolerate sharing music. Peter our Chairman at the time arrived for a concert and had forgotten his music! There were no spare copies on the night, so the only option was to surreptitiously share with the tenors on either side of him! They held their music towards him, so it was not obvious that he was sharing, because like most choirs, there was not much room on the staging in Monmouth Parish Church. For Peter it was not easy as he had to read the right-hand side page first and then the left hand side page (think about it!!). When he told us and Mark afterwards there was much hilarity and Mark had not noticed!!


Here’s another version of Meg and Jayne’s St Peter’s Road choir; this time collected from the litter left after the Thursday ‘applaud the NHS’ events. As Meg points out, at least they’re all looking at the conductor, Jack Daniels! (My own favourite conductor, apart of course from Maestro Etherington, is Johnny Walker. Ed.)