It was an absolute joy to get the opportunity to listen in to Foot Notes, Durham’s newest a cappella group, in final rehearsals for their first solo concert this Sunday 9th December at 8pm in Castle Great Hall. Having heard beforehand of the society’s ambitious choice in diverse and challenging repertoire, I came into the rehearsal with high expectations. That said, I was taken aback by the quality and standard of the choir, their well-balanced intonation and consistently cohesive musicality across contrasting genres.

This Sunday, Foot Notes will be performing a huge range of popular, jazz and Classical music with a hint of Christmas added in. Amongst their chosen repertoire includes ‘Valerie’, featuring Victoria Bezuidenhout’s soulful mezzo soprano sound as soloist, Purcell’s ‘Hear My Prayer’, ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, ‘Take My Breath Away’ arranged especially for the choir by member Megan Cunnington, Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ featuring soloist Finlay Gordon and, to finish, a fantastically heart-warming ABBA medley. And this is only a selection of the music they have chosen! I spoke to Musical Director, Gabrielle Raw-Rees about the diversity in repertoire:

“The reason Tara and I set up Foot Notes was because we wanted a space where our singers can do a huge range of genres in one choir. Across our singing histories, we also found that audiences responded really well to mixed repertoire. When we auditioned at the start of this term, we looked for people who were happy to sing anything. Performers obviously have a natural inclination towards a particular style, but we wanted singers who would be happy to develop their skills across a wide stylistic range and learn from each others’ strengths!”

Already this term, Foot Notes have performed at Palace Green Library’s ‘Catch Your Breath’ exhibition and they are singing at a wedding at the end of term. For an executive committee of only three with a completely new ensemble, this shows a fantastic drive and commitment to the project. Foot Notes president, Tara Munnelly, describes it as a ‘labour of love’:

“When we were auditioning we were looking for adaptable voices and good sight reading skills. But also we were very keen on finding a friendly group that would gel well together. There isn’t a single person in the choir who I wouldn’t call my friend! They’re all just lovely.”

Gabrielle continued:

“I’d not had any experience as a musical director before but, if I make a mistake, they’re very sweet about it! It’s a really nurturing environment.”

The choir’s response to Raw-Rees’ leadership in rehearsal was particularly impressive to see. Her corrections were well communicated in a clearly collaborative rehearsal space. I asked Tara about the choir’s plans for the rest of the year:

“The theme for next term’s concert is ‘A Capella through the ages’. We’ll be starting with Bach then working through the decades of 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, to a modern piece. Final term is still undecided; but we’re considering going on tour!”

Buy your tickets for Foot Notes premiere solo concert this Sunday here.