David and Rachel Musgrove launched Harlequin Chamber Choir in 2013 before moving away from the area in 2018. A core group of friends and work colleagues were attracted by the idea of setting up an ambitious, small, balanced singing group for confident, competent choral singers. The choir is set up as a charity; it has a dual focus on promoting English choral music and nurturing young singers.
The bench-mark was set refreshingly high from the outset—Harlequin surely must have more Music degree graduates per head than any other choir out there! Ex-choral scholars from Wells and Cambridge, graduates from music conservatoires and both specialist singing teachers and classroom music teachers all gathered together for the first term of rehearsals. Day jobs at the time of writing also include a consultant neural anaesthetist, a barrister, a solicitor, a town planning officer, students, IT consultants, editors, retail managers, full-time mothers, teachers… The number of those who enjoy music at an academic level informs everything the choir does, including pub banter.
The choir’s organisational structure has grown since its inception. Catherine Beddison was appointed as our initial music director in 2014 and was followed by Tom Lydon in 2017.
In September 2014 the choir celebrated its first anniversary with a concert at the Electric Theatre in Guildford. Following this Harlequin was invited to perform in the Haslemere Festival and also further afield, as part of the Brandenburg Music Festival which takes place in the Spring across many London venues. It has gone on to make its home in Guildford, and is now part of the concert scene at Holy Trinity Church in the High Street, which also hosts Guildford Shakespeare Company and a host of other prestigious organisations.
At the end of the Summer term, 2015, Harlequin recorded its first cd, Over the rainbow, a selection of songs reflecting its eclectic repertoire. Two years on and the choir is looking forward to recording more repertoire in the Autumn of 2018 with its fully-fledged line-up.
The choir formed a lovely link with the splendid brass ensemble, Surrey Brass. With this sparky group Harlequin has sung in sell-out Christmas performances at the enormous Landmark Theatre in Teddington. Christmases have also been spent carol-singing at Leith Hill Place—the National Trust home of Vaughan Williams—and at Petworth House and the children’s ward at the Royal Surrey Hospital.
Harlequin was busy at the beginning of 2016 with its entry into the Manchester Amateur Choral Competition followed by the Choir of the Year Competition, in which its ambitions came a step closer to being achieved when it jointly won its heat. In 2017 it won first prize at the Portsmouth Music Festival.