22 October 2018
It’s five years this October since Chris Walker was elected as Chair of Sheffield Bach Choir – and he isn’t likely to forget the date! ’Our eldest daughter gave birth to our first grandchild Elizabeth a few hours earlier.’ said Chris, ‘I dashed to the AGM straight from the hospital – if I hadn’t been standing for Chair I might have played hooky I think!’
Chris was born in California USA but came to Sheffield to study dentistry in 1978 and decided to stay, working at busy practices in Rotherham, then Wombwell. ‘I fell in love with the rural feel to the city and being able to escape to somewhere wooded or green so easily.’ Now retired, he has an allotment near Ecclesall library, sits on five committees, and helps look after Grade 2* listed St James’ Church, Norton.
He joined the choir almost by chance. ‘I was moaning about work-life balance to my Dad, he happened to know someone in the choir and before I knew it I’d auditioned and was in!’ Chris remembers that first audition, given by Dr Roger Bullivant, who heard Chris sing, then took out an old envelope, drew a bass clef and five lines, scribbled a few notes and barked “Sing that!” The choice of singing was no accident though, as Chris had been a boy chorister at Magdalen College Oxford – as was the choir’s current conductor Dr Simon Lindley. ‘I remember walking across Magdalen Bridge in cap and gown – they don’t do that anymore. I wonder how many tourists still have the faded photographs they snapped as we passed by!’
Some 35 years later Chris still enjoys singing bass in the choir. ‘I’ve loved singing the great choral works including an annual Messiah and our three year rotation of Bach’s St John Passion, St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor – maybe one of the greatest pieces ever written. There’s something special about singing with a professional orchestra in Sheffield cathedral, which has a lovely acoustic; it sends a shiver down the spine and you just can’t beat it! We’ve had a fair few younger people joining us recently but we’re still looking for new members so do give us a go!’
Chris is looking forward to the choir’s next concert, Lest we forget, featuring the Armed Man by Karl Jenkins as well as works by Elgar and Blatchly – but he’s anticipating quite an emotional sing. ‘Remembering the Great War is important, and the Armed Man is a good choice; Jenkins wrote it as a mass for peace.’ explains Chris ‘It’s a really popular atmospheric work and a joy to listen to, especially poignant for me as it was played at Dad’s funeral last year. He and Mum were great supporters of the choir and the Agnus Dei from this work was a particular favourite.’