David Temple Hertfordshire Chorus

For those of us who love numbers a look back at the last 20 years of David Temple’s association with Hertfordshire Chorus is a box of delights.

There have been 108 concerts. These have included a stellar Mahler’s Eighth Symphony at the Royal Festival Hall, and a performance of Elgar’s The Kingdom hailed by the Elgar Society as the best the reviewer had ever heard.

We got to grips with 153 works. This isn’t including music for Christmas concerts which would need a whole page of its own as there have been 39 of them. We regularly perform four or five Christmas themed events each December, so can turn out to sing carols at the drop of a hat.

We loved every minute of the seven Rochester Castle Proms we sang in. The fireworks, cannon and clink of the glasses from very merry audiences made these concerts memorable.

We were involved in many BBC broadcasts – including a World War I centenary, a BBC Easter transmission – At the Foot of the Cross, a performance of the music from War Horse at Coventry Cathedral and Music to Die for at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Hertfordshire Chorus record Michael Hurd at St Judes ChurchWe released three major recordings on CD. Codebreaker and Ode to a Nightingale which made it to the top of the Classical Music chart the year it was released, Songs from the Cage, Mass in Blue, the music of Michael Hurd, and On Christmas Night. The recording process is always exciting and it has been fantastic to work with highly regarded professionals such as Nigel Short, Julia Doyle, Will Todd, James McCarthy, David Charles Abell, Guy Johnston, Mike Read and Nicholas Daniel.

Concerts have been performed in 29 venues and some of them are regular favourites, especially St Albans Cathedral. We also had the privilege of performing at the Royal Festival Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Milton Court, Sage Gateshead, King’s Place, Haileybury College, Hatfield House and Barbican Concert Hall. Our concert at King’s Place in London was their inaugural choral concert.

The Chorus travelled on tour 11 times under David’s baton. Our musical experiences on tour have been extraordinary: Spem in Alium sung to a packed audience in a tiny church in the wilds of Sicily and busking in the Piazza de Campo in Siena where we were almost arrested. The joy of singing our hearts out to spell-bound locals in a village hall in Bruges. We have explored new and exotic locations, the music has been a joy and the parties exuberant.

We have sung with 30 orchestras and ensembles. It is awe-inspiring to watch David bring so many professional musicians and our Chorus together to create spine-tingling performances. It is a rare skill to be able to conduct both orchestras and choirs to the same standard and David is a master.

Our singers have been involved in several recording projects ranging from working with the Coldstream Guards to providing backing for the BBC’s Hidden Kingdoms. We have even recorded backing tracks for Heavy Metal band Neverlight and choral pieces for a collection of Michael Hurd’s lovely but less known music. You can’t say we don’t get the full spectrum of musical experience with David. We’ve even been on TV acting as choirs in Spooks and Murder Prevention.

We have a reputation for commissioning new choral music and have seen eight of them come to life under David’s direction. He has a passion for the commissioning process and we worked with some amazing composers. Some of the works that David supported have become globally recognised, including Will Todd’s Mass in Blue and James McCarthy’s Codebreaker. 

David has an extensive address book and we have benefited from his contacts. Some of our singers even went on the High Flying Birds tour with Noel Gallagher.

The numbers are impressive but they don’t tell us everything. Over the last 20 years we have learned so much. David brings musical talent, passion for his work, drive and energy to push us just a little further than we think we can go. He has created wonderful programmes that introduce us to unfamiliar music and some that is new to the world. He has pushed us to improve our singing individually and as an ensemble. Rehearsals are always exciting and full of background information that help us see the works we are singing in a historical and social context. He doesn’t let us get away with anything less than brilliant and he keeps us on our toes. There have been many, many jokes, some of which have actually been quite funny. My personal favourite was ‘You are singing about the opening of the gates of hell, not a cat-flap!’ David has eaten several hundred sausage rolls on our regular bake sale nights – a personal sacrifice for the good of the Chorus that we appreciate.

David is a brilliant conductor, chorus master and teacher. He is also a friend, a true supporter and an excellent colleague. It has been a privilege and we look forward to at least 20 more years to come.

Some very talented people associated with the Chorus have put together a wonderful video showcasing David’s twenty years with us. Thanks to Richard and Robin Seaman for this.

Lesley Blankfield
Chair, Hertfordshire Chorus