Barnet is fortunate to have a strong musical culture and we’re able to enjoy high quality performances locally on a regular basis. Here we discover more about one of the area’s finest choirs who celebrate their 50th Anniversary this winter.
In 1973 Finchley Methodist Church found itself with an exceptionally fine choir who were feeling very frustrated. Whilst their counterparts in many Anglican and Catholic churches had weekly opportunities at Sunday services to perform great settings of the Mass, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis as well as splendid motets, Methodist worship limited them to singing hymns and the occasional anthem.
They found a solution when they and their choir master Larry Jenkins decided to give a concert immediately after an evening service to include Vivaldi’s Gloria. This was so successful that a few months later they repeated the experiment with JS Bach’s Magnificat. And so the die was cast.
Since they couldn’t perform such music as part of their services, they decided to set up an independent choir, along with a few friends, just to give concerts, albeit still rehearsing and performing in Finchley Methodist Church. And so, on 11 November 1973, Finchley Chamber Choir was born. Given the success of Vivaldi’s Gloria at their first outing, it seemed appropriate to repeat it at their first official concert. With the talent and ability within the choir they soon found themselves giving regular concerts, not just in Finchley, but also around the country, of a challenging repertoire not often performed by local choirs.
After five years Larry Jenkins emigrated to New Zealand, so the choir appointed David Lardi as their new Musical Director. 45 years on, he’s still leading them. One of David’s first innovations was to take his soloists from amongst the choir’s own members. Not only did this attract some younger singers who saw it as a stepping stone into the profession, but it also provided an opportunity for others leaving professional singing. It also saved money!
From David’s earliest days, FCC was one of the first local choirs to utilise musicians playing on original period instruments, including the Holborn Consort for Renaissance repertoire and the Linden Baroque Orchestra. For the choir’s 10th Anniversary they hit on the happy idea of returning to Vivaldi’s Gloria, a tradition that they’ve continued ever since.
FCC have always performed the most challenging of repertoires including many commissions and other first performances, and have broadcast on BBC R3 and R4 – one recording from the latter being selected for “Pick of the Week” – as well as Capital Radio and television. They’ve given concerts throughout London, including at Alexandra Palace, the Royal Festival Hall and St James Piccadilly, and FCC and have toured abroad. Their regular concert series is given at Trinity Church, North Finchley, sometimes in tandem with Finchley Symphony Orchestra of whom David was conductor for forty years.
Their 50th Anniversary concert, exactly to the day, will be held on Saturday 11 November 2023 and will see them return to St James’s Church, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL. In company with the Linden Baroque Orchestra, they will perform the inevitable Vivaldi Gloria along with Handel’s Dixit Dominus – one of his finest and most challenging choral works – and JS Bach’s celebratory motet Lobet den Herrn.
For more information about the choir and this event, please see their website. They are always happy to welcome new members and continue to have exciting plans for the future.
Photo by Simon Weir.