Life after Royston Choral Society - Howard Walwyn

I joined Royston Choral Society in 2007 after a rather mixed singing career taking in school choirs, musicals, Bart’s Hospital Choral Society, and ad hoc church congregations. I liked the structure and atmosphere of RCS: the weekly rehearsals, three concerts a year, fantastic music, and man-banter with the other tenors. The people were lovely all round, and many became good friends.

In 2010 I sang in the joint choirs’ Verdi Requiem at Thaxted led by David Boarder. This was a life ambition for me, fuelled by personal associations and a primal love of the piece. It was a breath-taking experience.

After that, work life started to get tougher, and it wasn’t always easy to get back from London in time for 8pm rehearsals. I felt I’d topped out with Verdi and couldn’t get motivated for Carmina Burana. I made the decision to stop.

But what next? Once a singer. always a singer. How to channel the needs, for the music, collaboration, community, for filling your lungs and letting go?

One outlet was a nice little spin off from RCS, Vox Rondo, an acapella group put together by Val Price which rehearsed and gave several concerts in the beautiful, acoustically forgiving St Andrew’s in Wimpole. We sang mainly sacred classics but with smatterings of modern, and even put down a homemade CD of one of our Christmas recitals. It was special - special music and special people - and very rewarding. But didn’t last, I was never quite sure why. Again, maybe, it was just too hard to find the time to commit. And in a small group (two-three voices per part) there was pressure not to let down your fellows, in and outside the singing space.

Later I got involved with Jackie Somani’s annual Christmas sing-outings at the Plough in Shepreth. Again, a lovely crew and very rewarding, the biggest night of the year for pub takings and general good spirit. Sadly, I had to miss the last one just before Covid took hold. This was due to - again - work commitments on the day of the sing and a frantic late-night house negotiation: signs of the times.

And now what? Well, we bought the house and moved to Bury St Edmunds. So this wandering minstrel’s chequered singing career is on hold again. My musical outlet these days is (four decades late) learning the acoustic guitar. Although the sound is murderously bad, like a three-year-old practising violin with a screwdriver, I’m persevering. My wife says I’ll be busking in five years. Maybe even singing along for old time’s sake. But not to the Dies Irae.