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Celebrating the Sargent years.

Byline: VAL JAVIN

CHARMAINE Beaumont was just 16 and still at school when she sang for the first time with Huddersfield Choral Society.

But as she waited in a corridor to go on stage with the internationally renowned choir, the man who was to conduct took time to speak to a nervous new member. It's a moment she has never forgotten and it is one of the reasons why earlier this week, she was one of 10 singers from the Choral who travelled to Stamford, Leicestershire to help honour one of the most charismatic conductors this country has ever produced, Sir Malcolm Sargent. Tuesday was a big day for Stamford. It hosted the Olympic torch relay and paid tribute to Sir Malcolm by opening a room and exhibition in the town hall in his name. It was a perfect choice of day as Sir Malcolm conducted the massed bands and choirs who performed at the opening ceremony for the 1948 Olympic Games in London which were opened by King George V. Sylvia Darley, who was for many years personal secretary to Sir Malcolm, had contacted the Choral to ask if any current members had actually sung during his time as conductor. Ten of the current singers had, including the current president Conrad Winterburn.

Sir Malcolm conducted the choir from 1932 until 1967. His last concert with them was in Huddersfield just before his death. All 10 singers went to Stamford this week, one soprano, five altos, one tenor and two bass singers.

Charmaine Beaumont broke off her holiday and was driven back from the south coast by husband Gareth, also a singer with the Choral, so that she could be in Stamford. Her memories of joining the Choral are vivid.

"I was 16 at the time and I think at that point, I was the youngest person who had ever joined the Choral." she said.

"I was in the fifth year at school when I joined. I had a very high, clear voice and they wanted that so they let me join.

"At the time, all the ladies in the choir wore white dresses and it seemed that the longer you had been in, the more yellow your dress looked!

Charmaine, as a brand new member, was wearing a bright white new dress as she sat in a corridor waiting to go on with the Choral in a concert with Liverpool Philharmonic. "I remember sitting there and seeing Sir Malcolm coming along the corridor. He was wearing an evening cloak, shiny shoes and an evening suit. The cloak billowed as he walked along the corridor and I though he was just going to go straight past.

"But he stopped and he said: 'You're a new member, aren't you?' " "He had huge charisma. I was very intimidated. So I just managed to say yes, I was."

"And he said: 'I hope you enjoy the concert.' " "I thought it was so lovely that he had taken the time to stop and speak to me like that."

Charmaine remembers the atmosphere too that Sir Malcolm created in rehearsals.

"He used to wear half-glasses and he used to just tap his music stand and it went quiet," said Charmaine. "He had great authority."

Sadly, that concert appearance was the only time Charmaine every sang with Sir Malcolm as conductor. He died in 1967, shortly after she joined the choir. "He left an extraordinary impression on me and so I was thrilled to bits to be asked to go to Stamford." Similarly delighted to be involved is Conrad Winterburn. He joined the choral in 1963 as a 22-year-old and still sings with the choir today.

"Ten of us are still with the choir and sang under Sargent's baton. It means they've all been singing with the choir for over 45 years.

On Sir Malcolm, he says: "His reputation preceded him. He was one of the most charismatic and highly regarded conductors. "He was a magnetic person. If he was in a room with 70 people, he would be the person people were drawn to.

"He had a wonderful way with the choir. He treated them very courteously and they wanted to do their best for him.

"He showed great loyalty to the Choral. He had gone from a youthful prodigy to a world wide figure but Sir Malcolm continued to conduct the choir until shortly before his death."

CAPTION(S):

* STRONG MEMORIES: Conrad Winterburn (left), president of Huddersfield Choral Society, with a cuttings book from the era of Sir Malcolm Sargent (below) and some of the others singers who went to Stamford (back, from left) Jayne Preston, Cynthia Daniel, David Croft and Chris Arnold and (front, from left) Susan Wilman, Charmaine Beaumont and Marjorie Swift
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Geographic Code:1U1CT
Date:Jul 6, 2012
Words:790
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