Bristol Choral Society soars high after winning Making Music award

Joi Demery and Val Williams of member group Bristol Choral Society talk to us about their choir's trajectory after winning a Making Music award in 2021.

On 24 June 2023, the Bristol Choral Society (BCS) performed the world premiere of 'A Memory of the Ocean', a newly commissioned piece written by Grace-Evangeline Mason, a young new composer. Our Musical Director (MD) Hilary Campbell had helped us learn the piece with her usual detailed, enthusiastic and joyful approach. We made it – and we think we did the composer proud. Certainly the applause received from the audience resounded through Bristol Cathedral, and the melodies from Grace’s lovely music are still in our heads! 

Little did we think when we joined BCS that we would be involved in such an amazing project. Like most big city choral societies, Bristol Choral has traditionally performed most of the well-known repertoire from baroque to romantic - even a regular Handel’s Messiah every year during the 134 years the choir has existed! Everyone loves a good mass or requiem, but this opportunity to perform a piece newly commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS), supported by the Vaughan Williams Foundation, was unique. 

members of BCS sitting down in the cathedral

Members of the Bristol Choral Society enjoy a quiet moment

This opportunity built on the success that BCS and Hilary have had since winning both Best vocal group music director and Best project with a focus on new music at the 2021 Making Music Awards. These awards recognised the hard work done by the choir and Hilary during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The best project award was received for our online Mary Otty Carol Composition Competition which we had started planning in December 2019. 70 submissions were received from all over the world and whittled down to a shortlist of five, which - following the Covid restrictions in place - were rehearsed using specially made rehearsal tracks with members recording themselves at home, submitting their voice tracks to be combined into a virtual choir. The online finale in December 2020 sold 400 tickets for charity. (You can listen to the winning entry on YouTube).

Following the Making Music awards, we were delighted to be nominated for the 2021 RPS Inspiration Award alongside our MD - and we were honoured to win it, particularly as it was decided by public vote!

'We were delighted to be nominated for the 2021 RPS Inspiration Award alongside our MD - and we were honoured to win it, particularly as it was decided by public vote!'

This led directly to an invitation by the RPS to premiere 'A Memory of the Ocean' in June 2023. As well as this amazing live performance, we are planning to record the piece in the autumn and this is being helped by the £500 prize we received from the Making Music award.

In a century’s time, we trust that music lovers will look back and say 'Ah, that Mason suite about water had a great success at its premiere with Bristol Choral Society in 2023'. And it all started with Making Music. 

Find out more about Bristol Choral Society on their website and follow them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.