Sheffield singers who took part in a landmark recording of Elgar are performing it again with The Hallé, reports Bernard Lee.
THE Dream lives on for nine members of the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus who will be singing in Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius with The Hallé at the City Hall tonight (Thursday).
Over three days at the end of December in 1964, just after Christmas, they and 51 other Phil members commuted daily by coach to Manchester’s Free Trade Hall to join 60 Hallé Choir members in what was to become a landmark recording of the work.
Conducted by Sir John Barbirolli, nearly 50 years later it is still widely available (EMI Classics label) and regarded by many as the definitive recorded performance of the work.
Barbirolli, incidentally, conducted The Dream – as he always referred to the work – for the first time in Sheffield on April 26, 1946.
Two of the nine singing tonight, Bill Smyllie and George Swindells, just missed out on singing on the occasion, having joined the chorus in 1947 and still going strong.
Bill, who has gathered tales of the chorus in a copiously illustrated book: Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus – 1935-2010, to celebrate their 75th anniversary this year, says: “It’s amazing to think that all these years later I have the chance to sing The Dream again with my friends in the chorus.
“Those of us remaining who took part in that exceptional recording have differing highlight memories of the recording sessions in Manchester, of Sir John Barbirolli and of the soloists, Janet Baker, Richard Lewis and Kim Borg – but then it was nearly 50 years ago!”
Stella Jockel, who joined the Phil in 1952, says: “This recording and the concerts of that time were some of my first with such a large body of singers. It was a wonderful experience then and it still has the same thrill today.”