The Walton Voices join Southdowns Concert Band for Festival of Chichester

Southdowns Concert Band
Southdowns Concert Band

Former Chichester Cathedral chorister Jonathan Kilhams is delighted to be heading back to the cathedral with The Walton Voices which he will direct for a special concert for the Festival of Chichester.

The Walton Voices join The Southdowns Concert Band on Saturday, July 6 at 7.30pm for an evening entitled A Journey through Time and Space.

“I have been their musical director for six years now,” Johnny says. “After university, they were one of my first choirs that I got the opportunity to conduct and be their musical director.

When I first took over the choir, there were 25 members, and I was taking them on, trying to breathe a little bit more life into them. They had been ploughed into the ground a little bit and were on their last legs. We rebranded the choir and made them more inclusive. It is an un-auditioned choir. It is very much part of the community. I think having to audition puts people off when you are trying to join a choir. Our tagline is that we are a choir for the community. If someone comes to an audition never having sung before or only ever having sung in the shower, then the pressure of auditioning can be massive and off putting and you just don’t enjoy it anymore. Part of our ethos is that we are serving the community. We are there for the people of the community. People come along to the choir to make friends and the voice will come if it wasn’t there to begin with.

“We started with about 25 people and we are now just over 90. The choir has more than tripled in size.

“I don’t know whether we will just continue increasing in numbers. We have just had to move to a bigger place to rehearse.

“We have done everything. We have done folk songs and songs from the shows right through to the Mozart Requiem. Last year we did a huge performance of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man and 30 to 40 of the choir went to perform it in Berlin with a massed choir as part of choirs coming together from around the world.

“I consider the choir my baby really, but it is definitely down to a lot of people’s hard work and commitment and people volunteering. It has been a really, really worthwhile experience.”

Johnny was a chorister at Chichester Cathedral from 1997-2003: “And in my time at the Prebendal, I was a trumpeter, and I got to know Brenda Bailey from The Southdowns Concert Band. We have kept in touch ever since. She approached me because she knew that I was running a choir, and she asked if I would be interested in joining forces for a concert for charity. It developed from there. This will be our third concert together.

“They are a great bunch of people – and the choir don’t often get the chance to have a full orchestra or band accompany them. The Southdowns Concert Band have got such a professional outlook.

“Even though they are a group of amateurs coming together, they are highly, highly professional, and it is also the fact that they are a wind band. There are quite a lot of similarities between the voice and the wind instruments.

“A lot of choral pieces lend themselves extremely well to being arranged for wind band, the big harmony pieces that we love to sing… and The Southdowns Concert Band really enjoy doing them as well. It just works really well together.”

The proceeds will be donated to Dementia Support (Sage House). The compere for the evening is novelist and Cicestrian Kate Mosse. Tickets £15; children free.

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