Saturday, July 24th 2004

The FULL Story...



AS they prepare to mark their tenth anniversary this weekend, the appointment of a new conductor sees the dawn of a new era for Prudhoe Community Choir.

But the special concert which will celebrate the decade tomorrow night will be tinged with sadness, as retiring conductor Graeme Gilmore leads the choir for the last time.

The founder member has not missed many practise sessions or concerts in the last 10 years, and admitted that he is bowing out reluctantly.

“It has been fantastic and I have loved every minute of it,” he said. “We have a very happy choir.

“I feel very sad and I thought long and hard about this, but my wife and I have a lot of family who live away from the North-East, and I want to be able to visit them and go travelling without having regular commitments.

“Musically, it has been the most enjoyable time of my life, and the choir have become one big happy family of more than 30 people.”

Mr Gilmore first conducted a choir whilst still at school at the age of 17, but Prudhoe marked the first time he took over on his own.

New conductor Paul Davies will take over the baton in September following the three month summer break, and Mr Gilmore believes the professional musician will love the job.

“He could not wish to inherit a happier and very talented bunch of singers, with fabulous soloists from our very own ranks.

“We try to make every choir practice hard work, but they are very enjoyable and we have a laugh.”

Tickets have been in demand for tomorrow night’s anniversary concert, which will see the choir sing a variety of favourite songs from the past decade.

These will range from Andrew Lloyd Webber, to the Vicar of Dibley’s theme tune – The Lord is my Shepherd, and traditional local songs like Water of Tyne.

And the choir’s soloists will also star at the big night.

Prudhoe High School’s art centre performance area will host the concert which often attracts around 200 spectators.

It is hoped that the concert will see the return of many familiar faces from days gone by.

Mr Gilmore added: “We have lost a number of members over the years and we have invited them all back to join us for the concert, to meet the choir and socialise.

“Our supporters have been magnificent over the years and to say thank you, tickets will be free and there will be a buffet afterwards.”

Choir chairman Lyall Duffus is also looking forward to the big night.

He said: “The concert will mean a great deal.

“For one thing, Graeme is going much to everyone’s dismay.

“But thankfully we have found a replacement who will hopefully help the choir enjoy a prosperous future.”

The tenth anniversary concert will begin at 7.30pm.