VOCAL Harem are an all-female choir who, in the words of their musical director Rosemary Turner, like a varied diet, writes Sarah Pitt.
The choir are currently meeting in Tavistock Town Hall on Tuesday evenings to practise for their Gala Concert taking place in St Eustachius’ Church on the evening of Saturday, May 13.
And this year, these female vocalists and their musical accompanists Mary and Kamila Mazur Park have a special guest soloist in West End musical theatre performer Simon Thomas, who grew up in Tavistock. He is returning to the town for the concert with the choir, of which his mother Sue Doidge is a member. Simon’s West End roles include Legally Blonde The choir will also have some other male voices added to the mix, courtesy of The Sultans of Sing, which includes husbands of choir members. The programme will include a theme tunes from James Bond films as well as a Norwegian song and a blessing in Hebrew.
This is the choir’s 15th season. They always start rehearsing for the next May’s concert in October, keeping faithfully to their weekly practice dates. Members come from a wide area around Tavistock, with one member coming from as far afield as Highampton. This is a return to the pre-covid days of a full concert in the parish church on the second Sunday in May after last year’s shorter afternoon programme.
‘We have some sacred things, for example John Rutter, but it is a mixture,’ said Rosemary. ‘I like to mix and match, it is not one sort of music, it is all different genres.’
She said this had ‘always’ been her intention with the choir, when she founded it back in 2006.
‘You don’t feed people just one single diet because that might strengthen them in one way but not another. So we have all sorts of things. And every year I set them a bit of a challenge. This year it is ‘Sing Gently’ by Eric Whitacre. Within choral music, he is a very very well-known American composer and for the choir it is hard, because you are singing discords and you have got to be bang in tune, even though the effect is what we call a ‘scrunch’ in the music. They have got to be bang in tune on the notes they have been given and that is very hard if your ear is telling you something else.
‘We sing in other languages too. Our welcome is in Hebrew and basically the words are saying how lovely it is for us to sing together.’Their programme also includes a protrest song, a ‘vibrant’ sacred piece and a set from James Bond. This was originally going to be a highlight of Vocal Harem’s May concert in 2020 which didn’t happen because of Covid. ‘We are doing about five numbers from James Bond,’ said Rosemary. ‘We are doing Skyfall, No Time to Die, Goldfinger and you will hear The Writing’s on the Wall. That is really our second half, our finale. We are also do folk songs from different countries, some American folk songs, and we are singing one song in Norwegian. I like to have a balanced programme and sometimes we do things from the musicals. That is what Vocal Harem is about, it is a broad spectrum. We do hope people will join us on the night.’
The concert is at 7.30pm on Saturday, May 13 at St Eustachius’ Church. Find out more on the Facebook page Vocal Harem Choir or from Rosemary Turner on 07866 488630.