Having joined the Durham University Choral Society (DUCS) in the midst of the pandemic last year, I wanted to help ensure that this year the choir hit the ground running when restrictions lifted, by being on the Executive Team, and so far the choir is yet to disappoint! DUCS is one of the oldest and largest music societies at Durham University, yet this year we are the biggest (over 90!) and best we’ve ever been. We are also the only music society with a professional conductor! With all this under our belts, I think we have all the right ingredients to create what will be an amazing period in the life of DUCS.
John Forsyth MBE
During the pandemic, musical life was stunted everywhere, and so our President, Katya Davisson, wanted to set a new precedent this year and create continuity in employing a professional conductor. She did not disappoint! Appointing John Forsyth MBE (yes, MBE!) as our conductor was probably the best thing that could have happened for us. At over 70 years old, John is more energetic than most of us students, highly skilled in violin, classical guitar, singing and conducting and has an ambition that is infectious.
John has created and directed numerous choirs in the North-East, some of which ended up performing at The Proms in London, and never fails to remind us, “I think this choir can do anything it puts its mind to”. Not having even met us, John extended our rehearsal times and created a repertoire list the likes of which DUCS has never managed in a term: Rutter’s Magnificat, Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, Vaughan-Williams’s Fantasia on Christmas Carols, and so much more!
I have no doubt that this term’s concerts will go incredibly well, with the passion and commitment of the choir members teamed with the wisdom and ambition of John. We haven’t even given a full concert yet and he’s already talking about performing countless Requiems. He’s also hinted at absolute behemoths of the choral repertoire, such as Chichester Psalms and The Dream of Gerontius – so exciting!
This term so far and what’s next
So far this term, we have had multiple exciting opportunities. Starting off right at the start of the term, ITV asked for a few of us to sing at a wedding that they were recording, where we got to meet Alison Hammond – yes, she is as funny in real life as she is on TV!
We’ve also had contact with some incredible professional international musicians. One of such opportunities came about quite randomly, when Paul McCreesh, the founder and artistic director of the Gabrieli Consort & Players, turned up to our rehearsal to drop in and say hello to John! During this session, Paul conducted us through some of our repertoire and offered invaluable insight into the music, as well as blowing us away with his incredible conducting style and character. Paul has taken one of John’s other choirs to The Proms before, so who knows what’s in store for us!
All of our hard work will be on display in the next few weeks as we make our official appearances around Durham as DUCS. Starting off, we will be singing carols and some of our repertoire in the Durham Christian Union Carols Service in Durham Cathedral on 29th November, followed by festive carolling at Hotel Indigo on 4th December and adding to the festive atmosphere of Durham’s Christmas Markets, performing in Market Square on 5th December.
To finish off with a bang, we will then be performing all of our repertoire from this term in what promises to be a spectacular concert in Elvet Methodist Church on 8th December. Do come along to see what the best choir in Durham (in my obviously unbiased opinion) has been up to for the past few months!
Find out more:
Follow DUPO on Facebook
Visit the Music Durham webpages for details of DUPO and all other student music events this Christmas