Welcome

Caritas Harmony is an award-winning ladies’ voice choir based in Stopsley, Bedfordshire. Founded in 2003, we perform a wide repertoire of music. Friendship and a love of singing remains at the heart of the choir’s desire to raise funds for charity.

 

 

 

 

Summer is coming

We are practising hard for our summer concerts.

 

Be sure to come to our concert at the Hitchin Festival on 23rd July.  See the above poster for ticket information.

 

Next is a concert at St. Francis Church in Luton on 5th August.  See our Get Tickets page for information.

 

Our final concert of the summer will be at the Priory Church in Dunstable on 26th August.  This is a free concert and Margaret Blenkin’s final concert with us.  Please come along and enjoy a spendid evening of music celebrating 20 years of Caritas and Pasque Harmony music.

 

 

 

 

 

The ladies of Caritas Harmony would like to thank all the people who came to our concert in Harpenden and gave so generously to the Hospice of St. Francis.

In case you’re wondering, this is the end of our song The 12 or So Days of Christmas!  Such fun!

 

Peter, an ambassador and volunteer at the Hospice of St. Francis told us his personal experience with the Hospice and encouraged people to give generously – which they did.

Caritas Singers gave a spirited rendition of Cantemos a Maria at Harpenden.  Apart from asking us to sing in Spanish, we had to master the tricky merengue rhythm in the clapping – well done to those who managed it!

We were delighted to be able to send £400 to The Hospice of St. Francis.

 

Barcelona Tour 6 – 10th October 2023

After a ridiculously early start, we all arrived at Heathrow airport for our 6 a.m. check-in.  What a sight for the other passengers passing through – 30+ ladies dressed in our new raspberry polo shirts.  We drew many puzzled looks and comments, but we were so happy to be finally on the way to Barcelona.

After a relatively short wait and easy pass through passport control we were on our way.  The other passengers on the plane were pleased that we were all sitting together at the back. as we were all very excited and all talking at the same time – not singing.  We were saving our voices for the concerts ahead.

After a short flight we arrived at Barcelona and were met by our Rayburn Tour reps Lucy and Tim, who had organised the tour and were going to be with us every step of the way.  Our first trip was a visit to the Freixenet Cava Winery. 

Nolly, Bev, Clare and Jenny sampling the delicious Cava – Cordon Negro.

We drove to Barcelona along the Autovia and many were happy to snatch a quick snooze when we were jolted awake by the driver slamming on the brakes.   A car had cut in front of us and missed by a whisker.  How the driver of the coach managed to keep control of it was a miracle! Thankfully we reached Calella and our hotel for the stay with no more mishaps.

We had a quick rehearsal in a room set aside for us in the hotel and then enjoyed our first meal of the day.  Early bed for many as we had to be down for breakfast at 8 the next day.

Day 2 

Today we were doing two concerts.  It was very unfortunate that our two concerts which included the whole choir were on the same day, but it couldn’t be avoided.  Our first concert was outside in the famous Pueblo Espanyol.  The sun was shining and it was very hot.  We were dressed in shades of pinks and lilacs, a change from our usual black and white.

Here we are singing The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.  The view of Barcelona behind us was amazing and lots of people came and took pictures and videos of us.  A few lucky people who managed to get a seat in the shade stayed for the whole concert.  We were lucky to have our own band of groupies with us, Eric, John, Ian, Dave, John, Andrew, Simon, Joe and Adam, as well as friends Fay, Norma, Wendy and Jo.

Back on the coach for the next venue.  Margaret’s sister-in-law, Carmen, sings with Trencacors and we were delighted to be sharing the concert with them.  We arrived at the beautiful old church and had a quick rehearsal before Trencacors had theirs.  We changed into different pink tops for this concert, more fitting for a church setting. 

 

Trencacors began the concert with a Spanish cantata accompanied by keyboard, clarinet, guitar and saxophone.  Their sound was so different to ours, with the more typical SATB set up.  They had brought many supporters with them and the church was quite full. 

Then it was our turn.  Carmen introduced the choir and was very emotional in her speech.  We had to take deep breaths and calm down before we sang!!! The acoustics in the church were really amazing and when we finished each number, especially ones like How Great Thou Art, the last notes echoed like never before. As you might expect, the Spanish audience really appreciated Hail Holy Queen with the addition of the tambourine.  Shouts of ‘Bravo!’ made this a very special number.

We all agreed this was a unique experience which we’d all remember for years!  As the audience and Trencacors applauded, there were more calls of ‘Estupendo!  Bravo!’ which all added to the enjoyment of the occasion.

Back to the hotel, very tired, but ready for dinner.  We had had a packed meal prepared for us, but most people didn’t eat it at all, preferring to go out in Calella in the evening and then socialise in the bar.  Another early start tomorrow.

Rayburn Tours prepared flyers for our visit and handed them out in the places where we sang.  Castanets were bought to add to the singing in the bar!!  The flower, a lisianthus, was one from the bouquet given to our lovely accompanist, Sue Trost, who, as usual, played beautifully as well as joining us to sing in Monserrat and La Sagrada Familia.

Christmas Gala Concert 2023

Our Gala Christmas was a great success.  The mood was set in the rehearsal when we all donned festive wear to get us in the mood for the concert ahead. 

We were delighted to be back singing in St. Mary’s Church in Dunstable, which is a Grade 2 listed building.  The acoustics are amazing and we were trying out a new beginning to the second half of the programme, singing Gaudete with surround sound.  We even had our own five angels singing from the balcony

The audience was delighted with the choices of music this year and even had to join in with The Holly and the Ivy, words and actions!!   We loved singing the final number with Buccinate Brass Ensemble, Joy to the World.

Getting ready to start the concert, all in our finery and bling!!  We performed a very varied selection of songs and carols this year, including the opening song from Frozen, Eatneme Vuelle.  The most ambition piece was This Little Babe from Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, and most humorous was the 12 or so Days of Christmas.  I wonder if the audience caught the musical references to The Swan from the Carnival of the Animals or The Marseillaise as we sang about Three French Hens?

Some of the helpers manning the bar for the interval.  We also held a raffle, all to help boost the funds for Macmillan Cancer Support.  One of our choir members told her personal experience of using them and encouraged everyone to give generously.  The concert was given in memory of Dave Simpson, a staunch support of the choir and Macmillan, and his wife Deborah drove up from Somerset to be part of the concert.  

Delighted to be able to give £800 to Macmillan

We were in the coach ready to depart for Monserrat at 8:30.  This was to be a drive of over an hour.  We made a comfort stop at the foot of the mountains then proceeded up the windiest road to the Basilica.  We met so many cyclists powering their way up it made overtaking perilous.  The views were curtailed by driving through low cloud and we really only appreciated the view when we got to the top.   As it was a Sunday, Monserrat Basilica was full of tourists and some of the choir attended Mass before we sang. There is a boys’ choir there who sang and it is very unusual for another choir to sing in the Basilica.  We felt very honoured.

As numbers were restricted, only some of the choir sang here.  We sang three songs, Lift Thine Eyes by Mendelssohn, Ubi Caritas by Ola Gjeilo and Ave Maris Stella by Grieg.  The church was very full and the congregation listened intently to our singing, applauding after Ubi Caritas and Ave Maris Stella. There were also screens in the courtyard for those who couldn’t get into the church. We sang for less than ten minutes, but what an experience it was.  Some of our supporters were moved to tears.

This was another very hot day, but we were pleased to have time to appreciate views, which by this time had lost all the cloud.  We all changed our tops to be more casual for a visit to Barcelona.  The journey back was much more picturesque. 

When we got to Barcelona we had free time to visit Las Ramblas and take in the sights of Barcelona, saving La Sagrada Familia for tomorrow.  Dinner in the hotel for most people and then we went to the bar and people regaled us with their Barcelona stories, one of which included being given a litre of Sangria each instead of a glass!!!  We all agreed that this had been a great day

We had a leisurely breakfast this morning and then made the move for the coach.  One of our party is wheelchair bound and we had a special coach with a lift, so that she had access to all the events.  The drivers were wonderful!  However, Barcelona has many roads being dug up, especially round La Sagrada Familia, and we had to be dropped further away than we would have liked.  We had booked a tour of the Basilica for 12:00 and went in two separate groups, those who were singing and those who were listening.  The Holy Family church is being built by public donation, hence the reason it has been being built for 140 years.  The guide was most informative and we were glad to have ear pieces to hear her as the inside of the Basilica was full of dozens of groups of people each having its tour in its own language.

There is only one choir a day allowed to sing in the church, so again, we felt very special.  The inside of the Basilica is huge and we stood at the end facing the high altar to sing.   This was the most emotional of all the performances as it was Margaret’s final official chance to conduct us.   There was a sizeable audience listening to us and they applauded at the end of each song.  There were lots of tears at the end, but we were all agreed that we would take this memory with us forever.

Our final visit of the tour was to Parc Guell, a showcase for more mosaics by Antoni Gaudi.  It was set on a hill and offer wonderful views over Barcelona, but we were all very tired with the heat, the performances and the emotion.  We were pleased to meet up by the ice-cream seller and enjoy the shade before getting the coach back to the hotel.

After dinner we met in the bar for the final time.  Lots of celebrating, but also moments of reflection that this really was Margaret’s finale with the choir.  We sang a few songs as a last hoorah!

Our last day involved nothing but relaxing.  Some went into the town, some went to the bar and people watched and some even went to the beach and had a swim.

We arrived home to a very quiet T5 at Heathrow and said our goodbyes, all looking forward to seeing each other’s photos and reminiscing about our wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Many thanks to our fabulous conductor, Margaret, whose brainchild this trip was.  We will keep in touch!!

 

Please go to the photos page to see more of our adventures in Barcelona.

 

Hasta luego!!

Hilton Garden Inn was the venue for our final Anniversary celebration.  We were provided with a delicious buffet and treated to music from Jack the Lad.  We boogied the night away!  However, we did take the opportunity to say farewell to two long-standing members, Rita and Mary who will not be joining us in September, and two of our committee members are also stepping down, Sheila and our chairman, Geraldine.  Margaret thanked them all for their services to the choir and presented them with gifts.

 

Geraldine served the choir as chair for five and a half years

 

Caritas Harmony was delighted to sing in the Parish Church of St Mary in Hitchin on 22 July.  We have been regular participants in the town’s annual music festival in recent years and this is one of our favourite concerts.  This year it was extra special because it was our first concert of 2023, previous performances having been cancelled because of our MD Margaret’s health issues.  We all agreed that it was a wonderful evening under her amazing leadership.  We were also really pleased to welcome Tracey Andrews back into the alto section for this concert, while Fay Benning provided  excellent  programme notes from the pulpit.

We were thankful that so many people turned out to watch and listen to us sing, especially as it was pouring with rain.  It didn’t escape our notice that Margaret’s wedding,  the same weekend 16 years previously and where many of the Lovely Ladies sang, had also taken place in heavy rain.  The audience was very appreciative of the lively and varied programme, and donated generously to our chosen charity, Tilehouse Counselling.  A representative spoke briefly to explain the role of the charity and how our donations would be used.

The choir was sad that this was Margaret penultimate concert as MD of Caritas,  but was delighted that our new conductor, Cassandra White, was in the audience.  This was her first opportunity to hear us sing live and in earnest since her appointment.  We sang our hearts out, so hope she was impressed .

St.Mary’s Church Hitchin

 

 

Farewell Margaret, for now!!!

 

Well, what a day and what an evening!   First of all we had to make sure that we had seats for more than 300 people who had tickets for our Anniversary Concert.  It was a tight squeeze.  Apologies to those of you who had a restricted view, but we did our best!!

 

It was always going to be an emotional evening, but when Margaret Hale-Owens introduced Margaret and the choir, we were all trying very hard to keep our emotions in check as she gave the history of the choir, including her friendship with Margaret.

 

Once the concert got started, we were ok.  Margaret kept pulling faces at us to make us smile, and indeed, the Deputy Mayor of Dunstable said that she had never seen such joy in anyone’s faces.  She was attending her first Caritas Harmony concert, but we hope it won’t be her last.

 

It was very interesting to hear the rationale for the choices of music in the concert, especially the ones chosen by the past chairs.  However, the one we will always remember was sung by a very small group of the original choir members ‘Lost without your Help’.  This was the closing number sung at the very first concerts, 20 years ago, and included a beautiful solo, this time, sung by Stephanie Musgrove.  There was hardly a dry eye in the church.

 

Another highlight, especially for the choir, was to be accompanied not only by our wonderful resident accompanist, Sue Trost, but by Vivien Powles, Alistair Sharp, Margaret Johnson and Martin Hart, who is the organist at the Priory.  Imagine our delight when we heard the introduction to Climb every Mountain played on the organ.  It gave a wonderful ending to the first half.

 

Margaret gave a very touching speech at the end, and we were all very pleased when the concert came to a rousing end with the singing of One Day More.  Then the emotions flew!!!

 

Thank you to all the helpers on the door, on the bar, the tidying up at the end and the taking of photos.  We would be delighted if you would share any photos with us, at Caritas.Harmony@gmail.com

 

And last, but not least, thank you to all the people who have supported us during the last 20 years. We hope to have raised a good amount for Keech Hospicecare.  Watch this space!

 

Finally THANK YOU, AND BEST WISHES FOR THE FUTURE, MARGARET BLENKIN.  A TRULY REMARKABLE LADY AND FRIEND.

 

 

 

 

                    

 

What an evening!  Listening to one of the best brass bands in the world and getting to sing with them will live forever in the memories of the ladies of Caritas Harmony

Before we started rehearsing Caritas Harmony went into the Grove Gardens and had some photos taken on the band stand.  Thank goodness the sun was shining!  Then a quick change for a rehearsal with the band and with the drummer and double bass player who joined us for I’ve Got You Under My Skin.  We had a sneak preview of the band rehearsing and knew we were all in for a real treat.

Another quick change and the ladies of Caritas Singers went into the foyer and sang 5 numbers as the audience was arriving.  So many people – thank you all so much for attending!

Black Dyke Band was given a huge round of applause as it took to the stage and the concert was well and truly underway, with a French Military March.  Their Musical Director Professor Nicholas Childs then introduced the band and its next three numbers, including Melody of the Heart, with a stunning Cornet solo played by Richard Marshall.  

Then it was the turn of the ladies, introduced by Tom Quinn.  The choir started with an old favourite, Chattanooga Choo Choo and finished with Anthem, accompanied by our wonderful Sue Trost, before joining the band to sing the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves. We were all delighted that our conductor was asked to do the honours and conduct for this number.  She was amazing!!  

The final number of the first half was Riverdance, where the percussionists were really able to show off.  I’m sure the audience would have been in awe of the virtuosity of the band players in this number.

Act two started with the band and then Caritas Harmony returned for three more numbers.  I’ve Got You Under My Skin was made all the more special with the addition of a double bass, played by Helen Boyea and drums played by Gareth Hand from Black Dyke.  We finished with the rousing How Great Thou Art and then were treated to a night at the movies from the band, with Harry Potter, For Your Eyes Only and Pirates of the Caribbean before they finished with Zigeunerweisen, with a  beautiful euphonium solo by DanThomas.

Then the finale – Land of Hope and Glory.  The ladies returned with flags at the ready and joined the audience in this most patriotic of songs.  What a way to end the concert – of course, we did it twice!!

This concert was performed in aid of the Ukrainian Appeal and we hope to be able to donate a good amount to this very worthy cause.

Many thanks to all our helpers behind the scenes and on the day.  You all did a fantastic job.  Roll on the next time!!

 

 

Songs for Ukraine

What a night!  St. Augustine’s church was packed and it was so good to sing to a full house again.  We started with Another Op’nin’ Another Show – what could have been more suitable.  Tom Quinn then took over the reins as a very entertaining MC.  Peculi8 stunned the choir and the audience with their version of Here Comes the Sun and Lullaby of Birdland.  Immediately, everyone knew this was going to be a fabulous concert!  A new number for the choir was I’ve Got You Under My Skin.  I think it has become a favourite already!  Lux Aeterna by Peculi8 was so moving towards the end of the first half, but the show-stealer was the finale – Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat, a joint number by both choirs.  It was so energising singing with Peculi8 and very different for us singing with men’s voices.  

The second half started with Sing a Song of Sixpence, a version of the traditional nursery rhyme in the style of Handel!  The fun element of Peculi8 came with the singing of Under the Sea from the film, The Little Mermaid.  The cheers at the end nearly lifted the roof off – but the best was still to come.  The finale was a version of One Day More – the amazing first act finale of Les Miserables.  We ended a wonderful concert with a standing ovation and a call for an encore – a big ask as we had given everything in what we thought was the last number!  However – we were also all buzzing from the performance and so the second rendition was just as good as the first – if not better.

Thank you to all the helpers for the evening.  We have raised an amazing amount of over £1,000 for the DEC, which will receive our cheque as soon as possible, once the final figure is known.

Singing together is so good for physical and mental health and we hope listening was too.

 

Do you Hear the People Sing?  So good we sang it twice!!

 

 

Sue Trost will be with us in September to work with our new MD Cassandra White.  She is also coming to Barcelona with us in October, which will be Margaret Blenkin’s last concerts with us.

 

 

Sue Trost at the keyboard

Meet the choir

Cassandra White
Musical Director

Cassandra White
BA (Hons) MMus MMP Guildhall Artist
Musical Director
Cassandra studied as a soprano at the Purcell School under the Government Aided Music and Ballet Scheme, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and then as a postgraduate with Professor Susan McCulloch at Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
 She joins Caritas Harmony as Musical Director in September 2023, along with Highgate School, and enjoys a busy career as a conductor, performer and educator.

Sue Trost
accompanist

Sue started to play for Caritas Harmony in 2017.  Originally from Yorkshire, she studied the piano and viola at the Royal College of Music, London.

Vivien Powles
Guest Accompanist

Guest Accompanist, Vivien Powles, holds an LTCL Performer’s diploma and a Postgraduate Certificate in Accompaniment from Trinity college of Music.

Join Us

If you like singing and think you might like to join the choir, why not come along to one of our rehearsals at Stopsley Baptist Church, St Thomas’ Road, Luton LU2 7XP and see if Caritas Harmony is for you. We meet on a Monday evening at 7.30pm. 

We rehearse with music but always perform without it. 

For more information regarding joining the choir please contact Tina Graham 07830 346968

Charitable Support

 

Our Christmas season, 2023 will see us supporting The Hospice of St. Francis and Macmillan Cancer Care

 

The Charities we have recently supported are Rachel’s Rainbow Dashers, a children’s cancer charity, The Hospice of St.Francis, Berkhamsted, The Friends of St. Lawrence, Abbots Langley, Prostate Cancer UK and DEC, raising money for Ukraine. Our two summer concerts, 2023  supported Keech Hospice Care and Tilehouse Counselling.