Season End 2019-20

Choir AGM 28 May 2019 - Minutes

The 73rd Annual General Meeting of Chester Music Society Choir was held at the Queen's School, Chester on the 28th May 2019.

The meeting commenced at 7.30 p.m. The Chairman welcomed 65 members in attendance to the 73rd Annual General Meeting of the Chester Music Society Choir.

1. Apologies

Apologies were received from 22 members.

2. Approval of AGM Minutes

The Minutes of the previous AGM 15.05.18 were proposed as accurate by David Taylor and seconded by David Willis.

3. Matters arising

There were no matters arising from the last AGM.

4. Chairman's Report

Before delivering his report, Clive Cooper dealt with the membership of the Choir Committee for the 2019-2020 season. Both he and Linda Manning wished to be re-elected to the Committee - in accordance with the three year service ruling - in their roles as Chairman and Rehearsals Coordinator respectively. Both were unanimously re-elected. Clive Cooper outlined his priorities for the next three years: (i) Cathedral issues (ii) maintaining and improving the quality and artistic integrity of the choir and (iii) contributing to the enhancement of the CMS membership as a whole.

Clive requested that Andy Ashton, Lyn Cole, Sue Aston and Yvonne Preece be approved to serve on the Committee replacing Anna Steel, Jon Banks, Connie Telford and Rob Greaves as Social Media Co-ordinator, Publicity Officer, Cathedral Liaison and Librarian respectively. The new Committee members were unanimously approved together with Jane Garrett, Rhiannon Jones and Rob Greaves who wish to serve in an ex-officio capacity. Clive concluded Committee membership business by informing the meeting that the vacancy of Stage Manager is still to be filled following the retirement of Roger Black. He thanked Steve Davis and Gareth Evans-Jones and their dedicated assistants for their commitment and hard work as temporary Stage Managers this year.

Clive Cooper reviewed the 2018/19 season as a period of ‘consistent success and improvement’. There has been a strong membership of 161 singers including several new members.

Clive reported on last year’s Choir Tour to Lisbon and thanked Sue Eales and her team for organising an enjoyable and successful event. The Choir performed three concerts and were admirably accompanied by Graham Eccles.

Clive reported that he felt the Choir’s performances during the season had become stronger and more confident with healthy ticket sales and very positive praise from audiences. Clive thanked David Willis for his superb organisation of in-house concert ticket sales.

The Choir’s in-house charity this season has been the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Clive reported that he had yet to receive the final figures of monies raised but stated that they will be well in excess of £2000. Clive announced that the nominated charity for the 2019-20 season with be Lymphoma Action.

The Chairman’s report was concluded with a vote of thanks to Graham Ellis and Graham Eccles for their unparalleled musical wisdom, personal charm, wit and brilliant talent. Clive also thanked the Committee members who would now be standing down: Anna, Jon, Connie and Rob for their willingness to always ‘go the extra mile’.

5. Music Director's Report

Graham Ellis reported that he had been extremely pleased with the dedication and sensitivity of the Choir during the preparation and performance of the first of the 2018/19 season’s concerts, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius. Graham commented that we were very fortunate to have been joined by the Chester Cathedral Choir who sang the Semi Chorus sections and he praised the singing of the soloists, Nick Hardy, Kathryn Rudge and David Ellis as well as the orchestral support of the Liverpool Sinfonia. The concert attracted an excellent audience who clearly appreciated all efforts.

Graham reported that the Christmas concerts, featuring Ian McMillan and Luke Carver-Goss and supported by the Chester Philharmonic Orchestra, were a sell-out.

Graham praised the student singers from the RNCM for their solo parts in Bach’s St. John Passion – sung in German - which was the March concert this season. Graham also praised Quentin Brown and Rogers Covey-Crump in their roles as Christus and Evangalist. Graham commented that the vocal colours and contrasts of these voices and the chorus resulted in a concert of great quality.

Graham thanked Becky Ford for her work in organising the annual Choir Day in February which this year was a collection of musical items ‘Inspired by Shakespeare’. Peter Edge (baritone) joined the proceedings which were accompanied by Graham Eccles.

The final concert of the season in May was Haydn’s Creation accompanied by the Chester Philharmonic Orchestra. The Choir was joined by three excellent young soloists and Graham commented that overall, it was a ‘sparkling and agile performance’ which entertained a much larger audience than is usual at our late-Spring concerts.

Graham thanked the hard working and dedicated Committee for all their support, particularly Clive Cooper, Connie Telford and David Taylor. He also thanked Graham Eccles for his great skills as an accompanist and David Taylor as Associate Accompanist. Graham concluded his report by thanking the members of the Choir for their continual support and dedication.

6. Financial Controller's Report.

David Taylor explained that the choir is one part only of the general Chester Music Society. David reported that a consequence of this is that his financial report is an interim 'snapshot', and figures may vary slightly when the CMS holds the AGM in December.

David referred to the Treasurer's Report 2019 and explained that the overall turnover for the Society is around £80,000 per annum with the Senior Choir having a turnover of around £60,000. The Senior Choir is now aiming for a break-even budget.

The 2018/19 Choir budget shows that the largest segment of choir expenditure is musical: soloists, orchestra etc. and has a budget estimate of £32,996. A significant proportion of expenditure is for hall hire with a budget estimate of £26,490. Advertising and administration have a budget estimate of £2,200. Total expenditure is in the region of £61,686

Budget estimates that approximately half of our income £33,300 is from ticket sales with a significant chunk of £19,000 coming from subscriptions and gifting. Some monies come from fund raising; £7,500. Programme sales are £1,100 and sponsorship is £1,300. Total income is budgeted at £62,200.

There is a projected budget surplus of £514.00 for the 2018/19 period. David commented that the actual receipts for ticket sales were greater than budget by £3,234. Therefore the estimated real profit for the season would be £514 plus £3,234 giving a total of £3748.

Clive Cooper proposed a vote of thanks to David Taylor for his continued dedication and hard work.

7. Cathedral Matters

Clive Cooper summarised his mailshot of 20/05/19. The key issues are:

(i) The Cathedral is removing all side aisle seating. The loss of seats will be compensated for virtually pro rata by seating in the south transept installed as and when required.

(ii) The Cathedral’s existing staging will no longer be available. Future staging will be provided at cost by an external contractor. The preferred contractor is Prism at a cost to us of £4200 per event with the Christmas concerts counting as one event.

Clive Cooper reported on the meeting he held with the Dean of Chester, Dr. Tim Stratford on Friday 24th May 2019. The key conclusions were:

• The Cathedral is faced with serious issues re its income vis-à-vis its financial liabilities and is thereof undertaking a very substantial reappraisal of how its assets are managed. The changes to letting arrangements are part of this reappraisal. There was an assurance that the Cathedral authorities in no way wish to see this process compromise its contribution to the wider cultural life of the city.

• There is no movement on their decision to sell on the staging which we have been using. The reasons for this are several: it is deemed no longer fit for purpose, it presently occupies space in the bell tower which could be used for raising funds on a daily basis, the Cathedral’s on-costs in verger time taken to erect and dismantle the staging at what are often unsocial hours are becoming prohibitive. The later challenges are also presenting a severe problem in the management of personnel. The lack of movement in the Cathedral’s willingness to retain any use of the present staging means that suggested options of us purchasing the said staging, storing it and arranging for itserection and dismantling are non-starters.

• However, there is some potential flexibility along the following lines: Scirard Lancelyn-Green has informed me that he has staging in storage which would suit our requirements. If we can arrange its use with the Cathedral, the on-costs to us, using professional transport and erection/dismantling services, might be as little as £1000 per event, as against the £4200 quoted by Prism to the Cathedral. The Cathedral is willing to explore this option, even to the point of possibly using Scirard’s facilities to provide staging for all their events, not just our own. Even if this proves to be impractical, the Cathedral is then willing to explore other possible avenues to ameliorate the difficulties we face. There would be little point in exploring these in detail until the possibilities of the Scirard option are fully assessed.

Clive commented further that the situation moving forward re specific budgeting remains fluid although a commitment has been secured from the CMS Board that any short-term loses will be underwritten.

The Chairman then opened the floor to questions before considering possible approaches. There were general questions regarding choice of contractor, use of our own lighting, costs of additional lighting, possible alternative venues and the quality of concerts for audiences in the South Transept. Clive Cooper reported that the Cathedral wish to trial the seating arrangement for a year and intend to re-think the situation if necessary.

Clive Cooper then summarised the possible options for approaching the situation:

• Option 1: The artistic status quo funded by an increase in annual subscription of £75.00

• Option 2: The artistic status quo funded by an increase in annual subscription of £55.00 plus an increase in ticket prices

• Option 3: The removal of the May concert, an increase in annual subscription of £30.00 together with a marginal increase in ticket prices

• Option 4: The removal of the May concert, an increase in annual subscription of £20.00 and a more substantial increase in ticket prices.

Clive also reported that he had been contacted by several Choir members whose opinions were summarised thus:

• There is little enthusiasm for a large hike in subscription even if this means retaining the artistic status quo

• A moderate increase in subscription is tolerable

• Any large increase in ticket prices would be unwelcome

• The move to only four concerts a year was quite popular

• A further popular option would be to move the May concert to a smaller, more affordable venue.

Clive Cooper stated that whilst a decision did not need to be reached at this meeting, it would be useful to obtain further opinions from the floor. A lengthy discussion ensued wherein numerous questions were raised and there was further opportunity for observations, comments and voting on options. Clive Cooper satisfied as many questions as possible and summarised in saying that:

• He would approach Scirard Lancelyn-Green in the first instance.

• If this failed, then he would pursue the option to make a small increase in Choir subs with ticket prices remaining the same.

• He would pursue a move to four concerts per season (there having been a substantial majority in a show of hands)

Clive said that he will report back to the Committee at their next meeting in June and he thanked all of the Choir members in attendance at the AGM.

8. There being no other business, the meeting was closed at 8.55 p.m.

Cathy Brown

Minutes Secretary – 31stMay 2019