MD with a mission!
Helen took over as musical director of Amersham A Cappella in 2005, with a mission to increase its membership from 23! She also planned to boost morale, and improve competition results: restoring AAC back to their previous glory days as barbershop champions.
Today, with a membership roll of over 55, Helen still pinches herself at the many recent successes of Amersham A Cappella: winning a full set of gold, silver and bronze national medals, performances at prestigious events, and continually-improving scores at competition level.
She says: “Becoming champions of the National Barbershop contest was the most incredible feeling. On stage, receiving the trophy with the chairman of the club, jumping in the air, hearing screams from the rest of chorus, leaping out of their chairs hugging each other and crying for joy. It’s hard to imagine exceeding that experience.”
Captivated from a young age
Helen recalls early memories of cleaning the house with her mum singing Georgie Fame’s “Yeh Yeh”, and listening out for her grandfather’s violin solos on old Roy Fox records. Taking to the stage at various school productions, she was cast as The Mikado’s Katisha for her gutsy voice!
As an adult, she performed on stage with a local theatre group, the Radlett Players, and in the early days of motherhood, a fellow-mum told her about Chiltern Harmony (as Amersham A Cappella was then called). Helen went along for an Open Evening, and the rest, as they say, is history!
She says: “The moment I heard them sing, I knew I wanted to be a part of it: to experience the thrill of helping to create the spine-tingling chords and to share their tremendous passion for performing.”
An accomplished musician and music teacher in her own right, Helen sings Bass in the Gold medal-winning quartet, NoteOrious.
Her success and considerable experience means she coaches other choruses and leads training sessions for leaders of music groups to share her unique and motivational approach to singing and performing.
Some words to describe Helen by chorus members:
Inspiring, engaging, vibrant, dynamic, fun, talented.
Little-known facts about Helen:
- If anyone’s offering, she likes her tea “iron brew” coloured according to the HM British Tea Colour Chart taken with anything covered in chocolate – dark choc digestives are a current favourite.
- Her 19th birthday was spent ironing linen napkins in Menton, France, for the restaurant owners for whom she was an au pair.
She worked for several years for a consultancy business, in response to an intriguing advert headed “grow your own job”.
Her favourite music artist is Freddie Mercury.
Her favourite colour is (Amersham) purple.
Her favourite food is artichoke vinaigrette (and crab, lobster, moules mariniere, barbecued king prawns, cauliflower cheese, spinach/garlic mushroom & cheese pancakes from the Hampstead crepe caravan, Cadbury’s milk chocolate).
It feels wonderful at AAC when… Members spring a surprise on the rest of the chorus!
“One instance occurred when we were in rehearsal on the day of a contest; the chairman disappeared and returned with a giant bag filled with polo shirts for everyone, each embroidered with individual messages. Mine said ‘The Boss – Just do as I tell you!’ As each member received their shirt, one by one, there was continuous laughter as each read their own message.”
“I will never forget the year we chose “The Nativity” as our fancy dress theme for the Annual Barbershop Convention. Everyone had a part to play – shepherd, angels, you name it – but little did we know that two of our members had bucked the plan. Instead of angel wings, they’d hired themselves a panto camel costume for the weekend. I felt very proud of their ingenuity and guts, even if they did remain incognito throughout!”