Weekend at Sharpham House – June 2010

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4th – 6th June 2010

In early June Exeter Chamber Choir “went away” for the first time, for a magical weekend at Sharpham House.  The glorious house and gardens were ours, the weather idyllic.

Sharpham is an ideal venue for a choir weekend: beautiful surroundings and we enjoyed eating all our meals outside on the terrace. The acoustics in the oval staircase are amazing! What a delight to sing the Byrd Mass for Four Voices there. The Saturday morning workshops, terrifying in prospect for the selected victims, provided both useful instruction and much hilarity.  The Shearing songs were great fun and I hope they will find a place in the choir’s repertoire.

After some in-house entertainment and a hilarious set of master classes, the serious study began:  rehearsing some new music for an evening informal concert on the magnificent staircase.  Woven around this were relaxation exercises lying on the grass under the big tree, all led by our tireless conductor.     

On Sunday two tenors were to be seen beating the bounds of the Estate shortly after dawn, others enjoyed early swims.  After breakfast we straggled up through the woods scented with the thick blossom of shrubs and trees, and along the lanes to Ashprington Church to sing some Byrd and Tippett as part of the morning Service. If you narrowed your eyes and imagined bonnets and frills, top hats and tailcoats, we could have stepped straight out of the pages of Charlotte Bronte or Jane Austen.

Great weather, great location, great food, great company, and the workshop and concert weren’t bad either!  Let’s do it again!

Sitting out on the terrace in our housecoats with Bron and Val at 7am sipping our first cup of tea in the still, calm coolness of the morning, taking in the view of the river Dart below us. Little did we know that every other meal after this would be eaten outside, such was the glorious weather. Friday, a very relaxed Victorian evening – Parlour songs being sung by brave individuals, and a memorable Joyce Grenfell monologue performed by Diana. Any music put in front of Andrew was effortlessly played and “don’t worry, even if you miss out whole pages, he always catches up” I heard one singer say to a slightly nervous performer. When there was a gap in the singing Andrew played some of his usual good jazz.

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