The driving force behind Hastings Philharmonic Choir believes his singers can now compete with any amateur choral group in the land.
Brazilian Marcio da Silva – who has been wielding the baton at the Philharmonic since 2012 – is a perfectionist who has been moulding the choir with his particular brand of musical direction - and his methods are paying off.
In the choir’s 91st year, Marcio reckons it is a force to be reckoned with.
He said: “There are now people coming down who know us and want to sing and play with us and the warmth I feel in Hastings is simply amazing.”
So much so, that he moved here with his family and lives and works in the town, only leaving to fulfil other musical commitments.
“I am investing here in my vision for the next ten years. No one can say how it will pan out but my methods are getting results.”
Marcio rehearses in the round – creating a circle of sound with him at the epicentre – and has done away with the traditional 15 minute warm-up.
He said: “It is not to everyone’s taste, but if they have had a hard day at work the last thing they want is a warm-up which wastes time. We sing and we go over the passages until they are right. I am a perfectionist and people who want a traditional approach might not like it but now I think the choristers are enjoying their time with me.”
The HPC is an amateur group which sings to a professional standard using paid soloists as guest artists at concerts. But Marcio has also formed a smaller chamber choir, a baroque section and the Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra – all of which are now growing in reputation.
Marcio explained: “The tradition of the amateur choir in the UK is strong, possibly stronger than anywhere in the world and we can compete here in Hastings on any level.”
What the choir has given him is total artistic freedom; Marcio chooses their music, and he has 100 per cent autonomy.
“I have never had this kind of chemistry with a group in all my musical career,” he said.
Marcio studied for voice, choral and conducting at the Conservatoire in Toulouse, obtained his BA in conducting from the Hochschule in Germany and his masters from the Royal College in London. As well as directing the HPC he is MD of the Grange Choral Society, Woodhouse opera festival, the ensemble Erquesta and has worked with many international orchestras and choirs.
“Of all the work I do, I sincerely think that my work here in Hastings is the most rewarding, it is my main musical focus, at present. Anyone is welcome to come and sing with us and check out my methods,” he added.
The choir’s first concert of the year is on Saturday November 10 at Christchurch and will be Handel’s Messiah. Tickets available from the Tourist Information Centre, The Book Keeper in King’s Road or from www.hastingsphilharmonic.com, and under-18s or students go free. For further details and membership contact Hilary Baker on 01424 431442. By Tony Harris.