Words Amicia de Moubray Photographs Alasdair Nicolson
Faversham is a veritable hotbed of musical talent. Indeed, is there any other small English market town that can boast such a wealth of regular musical events?
On 29 February, more than 150 singers from six local choirs will take part in a concert of a variety of musical genres – classical, folk, pop, and sea shanties – all celebrating the haunting beauty of the Kent marshes and the history of Faversham. The concert will range over Faversham’s origins as a small settlement at the head of the creek, and its many indigenous trades: boat building, the gunpowder industry, brewing and brickmaking.
The choirs include Lissie Bayford’s Cantiana (see Faversham Life 7 December 2018), Lowering the Tone and Mustard Seed, a choir for people with mental health problems, and they will be accompanied by musicians from Faversham’s Assembly Project. Each choir will perform its own short programme and the evening will culminate in the premiere of ‘Waterways,’ by the distinguished local composer David Knotts, specially written for the concert.
‘There is fantastic work being done by choirs in Kent,’ says David. He set up Faversham Voices in 2015 as a joint venture between Faversham Music Club and Faversham Town Council, to perform Toads on a Tapestry, a large-scale cantata he composed to celebrate the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta. ‘There is such a lot of enthusiasm that five years on the choir is still going strong. It now has about 90 members.’ It is fun and friendly – anyone is welcome regardless of their singing experience. There are no auditions. Faversham Voices regularly hold Soup Sundays, when they meet for a sing and a chat over a bowl of soup. ’It is a brilliant way of becoming part of a community.’
‘Waterways is a collaborative event,’ says David proudly. Tickets are available from All Stitched Up (see Faversham Life article 8 November 2019) in the Market Square. ‘It is not all about money but embracing the local community.’ The concert is at St Mary of Charity at 7.30.
David speaks passionately about the subtle nuances which distinguish each of the choirs, ‘There is no such thing as a standard choir.’ He has been involved with a multitude of choirs over the past 25 years – the Royal Academy of Music Young Voices choir, the London Symphony Choir and the HSBC choir to name just a few. ‘I write music tailored to the particular strength of the individual choir.’ Waterways will be a ‘huge sharing pot’ as each choir brings its own loyal band of devoted followers and supporters.
More often than not, professional musicians grow up in musical households, but not so David. However, he remembers aged five or six regularly making up tunes on a neighbour’s piano. ‘It felt very natural.’ He began formal lessons at the age of seven. From the age of 14 he spent every Saturday at the Royal Academy of Music before going on to study music at Cambridge and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In 2007 he was made an honorary associate of the Royal Academy of Music where he has taught since 1994. He has twice been a finalist in Young Musician of the Year. His most recent choral work, Von Herzen, Zu Herzen, will be premiered at the South Bank in April.
Text: Amicia de Moubray. Photographs: Alasdair Nicolson