It is the most extraordinary privilege to find myself conductor of Eye Bach Choir on the occasion of its fortieth anniversary. I have been forming and conducting choirs for longer then that, which tempts me to feel qualified to comment from a breadth of experience on this special choir.
So now, after seven years here, I am more than happy to add my thoughts. What makes Eye Bach Choir a joy to work with is its sense of continuity, with a clear vision and purpose as night and aspirational now as forty years ago; a continuity symbolised by Merlin’s generous and encouraging attendance at just about every rehearsal. I can’t tell you what a joy and honour it is to have Merlin amongst us as we work together – the choir which his vision, enthusiasm and energy created from nothing. And never once does he say to me ‘I wouldn’t do it like that…” or ‘why don’t you take it a bit slower here?” … or anything of that kind, not even when we are working on music of which he printed the first editions and which I am exploring for the first time. He is the professional’s professional, and his generous encouragements (which are many) are beyond price.
What is more, Eye Bach Choir is superbly led. The particular combination of expertise, gifts, skills, and understanding shared by its committee gives the choir clarity of direction and competency of action. Committee members have long experience and depth of understanding which means they are the masters of some highly skilled tasks. They can, for example, select solo singers, engage orchestral musicians, edit music, even design and build a stage ideally suited to its location and to getting the best musical results – and much, much more besides, all of which provides the conductor with the freedom to focus on preparing performances of distinctiveness and leading the drive for choral excellence. An ideal partnership.
In forty years an enormous amount has been achieved. We celebrate that achievement with a concert of EBC ‘firsts’, and we look forward with excitement to all that is to come.
Leslie Olive, 2014, on the occasion of the Fortieth Anniversary Concert Programme