Musical Musings

MFC and NSSO at Birmingham Symphony Hall


What a joy it was to be invited to join the National Schools Symphony Orchestra (NSSO) celebrating their 25th Anniversary in Birmingham Symphony Hall on 21 July 2019.

Six weeks of concentrated rehearsal, starting before the choir’s final concert of the 2018-19 season, culminated in a thrilling performance of Verdi’s Requiem with this hugely talented orchestra in one of the finest performance venues in the country.

Not only did we perform with the full orchestra, we were treated to magical performances by the two younger orchestras, Young NSSO and the Sinfonia. Watching young people, aged 9-14, come together and play a wide range of orchestral music was not only highly enjoyable but also a truly heartening experience.

Malvern Festival Chorus had been joined by members of the NSSO Chorus for their last two rehearsals but only rehearsed with the full orchestra on the day of the performance. It was difficult to believe that these highly professional instrumentalists, aged between 14 and 19, had only been rehearsing together for one week during their summer residential course at Malvern College.

As the choir approaches its Centenary Season, it was an honour to be part of the 25th Anniversary celebrations of such a dedicated and worthwhile organisation.

Click here for more information about NSSO.

Why Sing?! Why MFC?!

​​​​​​​Music has been part of my life since age 5 – learning the piano, squeaky recorder playing, clarinet playing in county music bands and orchestras and then going on to study music at Birmingham University. Somehow I took it for granted that music would always be at this level and forever….. After a career move into HR/Learning & Development and Consultancy work, with the music world awash with professionals, my clarinet stayed in the box and I sang when no one was listening! Other activities took over from horses to motorbikes!

Travels, new adventures and new horizons, I was still routed in my musical upbringing and missed those large scale, rip roaring productions. For me, music is to be shared and I’d now found the right avenue in which to do that. Years ago before moving from the area, I sang with MFC – introduced to the joys of Elgar – in the concert rehearsal, the opening bars of the Apostles moved me beyond words – this is what I had been missing. Tens of voices around me, rich sounds from the orchestra and singing Elgar in Malvern – what could be better.

Recently returning to the area, life is different and music has an even greater sense of purpose. Escapism from the demands of work, singing my heart out, practising new music at home, meeting new people, having lots of fun and singing music to a high standard – what’s not to love about that!

“If music be the food of love, play on” – Shakespeare

Elizabeth Gait

Hark – the Angels Sang!


What a joy to sing at the tops of our voices with a packed Malvern Priory – filled with sound and festive joy, harmonious voices and reverberating organ!

With the sun flooding through the stained glass and the atmosphere buzzing we performed our annual Carol Concert which included some regular favourites and ‘Midwinter’ by Bob Chilcott with beautiful harmonies filling the air. Audience participation in ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ sealed the event with rousing singing and celebration. Amongst friends and singing my heart out – it was my highlight of the Christmas period!

Elizabeth Gait

Wonderful Walton!


Nearly a month since our performance of Belshazzar’s Feast and I’m still on a high of exhilaration! I still can’t quite believe we pulled it off but the excitement and huge sense of achievement will linger in my memory for many years.

For six months, fragments of Walton’s hugely challenging work have haunted me but how worthwhile were the almost daily post-lunch note-bashing sessions, earphones shutting out all other distractions, as I listened to the Cyberbass rehearsal files before graduating to YouTube recordings of how it should really be sung. What a great way to while away tedious car journeys or empty carriages on long train trips as other passengers move away from the strange woman with the earphones and weirdly printed book, manically nodding her head to some unheard rhythm and mouthing silent words! Ah, those rehearsal files – they sound dreadful but what a boon for inexperienced singers like me, with very little knowledge of the major choral works and no access to a keyboard. And the elation when I thought I’d finally mastered a tricky passage only to discover at rehearsal that what seemed achievable in my lounge deserted me in Chase School Hall!

This is why I joined MFC, to be really challenged and to learn to love demanding music, to share my joy and fears with fellow-singers and finally to come together to create something special. Thank you, Richard, for giving me this tremendous opportunity – and for helping me discover that I can occasionally sing a top A without panicking!

An elated second Sop

Thank you!


Thank you so much !

Putney has 36 bubbling happy singers; they are exhilarated after their weekend spent in Malvern. The whole experience of coming to your wonderfully atmospheric town and singing Walton’s masterpiece with such a warm friendly choir added up to a really memorable week-end.

Thank you for your hospitality. Thank you for the magnificent spread in the Great Malvern Priory. Thank you for organising our vocal scores. Thank you for letting us come and sing with you.

I look forward to conducting some of you when you join the 1885 Singers for a performance of The Dream of Gerontius on 14th October.

Best wishes,

Alison Hunka

Singing is Good For You – more evidence

Professor Stephen Clift and Consultant Andrew Patton have provided the BBC with further information on why Singing is Good For You …

One study revealed that after just 40 minutes of group singing, cortisol – the stress hormone – had fallen much more quickly than it would with the normal passage of time.
Our cortisol levels normally taper off at the end of the day but by singing, the process can be speeded up.

The act of singing causes the body to release endorphins, which are the body’s feelgood chemicals and associated with pleasure.
Singing makes us take deep breaths, which in turn increases blood flow around the body and helps increase the endorphins’ effect.
It’s been found that we get a similar endorphin rush when we laugh, or eat chocolate.

Singing triggers the release of dopamine.
This is an important neurotransmitter that is linked to basic human biological needs.
One recent study found that we release more dopamine when we hear music which we enjoy.
The researchers also found that increased dopamine production was linked to that shiver-down-the-spine feeling we experience in response to singing pleasurable music.
Dopamine is also linked to less tangible stimulants such as falling in love.