One Year On…
It hardly seems credible but twelve whole months have passed since Taunton lost one of its greatest contributors to the music scene in our town and county, Dr. John Cole. Over many decades he selflessly devoted his energies to his professional career as a doctor, and to his other great love, the making and promotion of music. He founded the Somerset Summer Chorus, and conducted both Taunton and Wellington Amateur Operatic societies. As musical director of Taunton Choral society he conducted fifty concerts, and also many memorable performances by Somerset Opera. Most recently he founded not only the chamber choir Amici, but took the amazingly bold step of creating OrchestraWest, a fully professional symphony orchestra right here in Taunton.
His path was not always an easy one – sad to say there is a disturbing lack of interest in great music and drama in this county town of ours. There are many fine musical organisations in Somerset, but the sparseness of audiences at so many events often causes despair among those who make such huge efforts to present these works. John never yielded to that despair, and he was an inspiration in many dark hours. He had an unswerving goal which he always set for every performance – to produce the best possible musical experience for performers and audience alike.
Sadly one year ago he lost a gallant fight against the cruelty of motor neurone disease, and it has taken some time for those of us whom he left behind to pick up the pieces and re-light the flame he nurtured so diligently. Three of the organisations with whom he had the longest and closest associations have come together under the name ‘Partners in Performance’ (PIP) to present a concert in his memory and this will take place on Saturday 5th April in King’s College Chapel.
Elgar’s ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ was always a great favourite of John’s and it is this work which will be performed by the combined voices of Taunton Choral Society and Amici, supported by the wonderful
sound of OrchestraWest. The three soloists are also very closely linked to John – Gerontius will be sung by tenor Rupert Charlesworth, a young performer who made us all sit up and listen when he first sang for John at Amici’s Easter concert in 2010 (Bach B Minor Mass). Return visits in 2011 (St. Matthew Passion) and 2012 (Mozart Requiem) confirmed John’s opinion that here was a singer to watch. John said that he wanted to be there when Rupert sang his first ‘Gerontius’. Unfortunately this is not to be, but when the April concert was being planned, the choice of tenor gave the PIP committee no difficulties.
Baritone Eddie Wade and mezzo-soprano Alison Kettlewell have been closely involved with John for many years, and members of both choirs know them well and regard them as friends as well as fine performers. Both are professional singers of the highest calibre, with outstanding international careers in the fields of opera, oratorio and solo recitals. There was no doubt in the minds of everyone involved in the concert planning that in these three we have a ‘dream team’ of soloists.
The performance will be conducted by Stephen Bell, currently musical director of Taunton Choral Society. He is working closely with Andrew Trewhella, who took over Amici, and Martyn Owen who currently directs OrchestraWest to ensure the best possible performance of this magnificent work. A recording is planned, to produce a permanent reminder of the legacy of John Cole in these three groups, all of whom in their own way are doing their utmost to go on giving Taunton the very best in musical performance.
This is a concert not to be missed – Taunton lacks an auditorium capable of handling very large audiences (another dream of John’s!) so tickets will be limited. They will soon be available via the websites of the PIP members, from Taunton Tourist Information Centre and from Gillian Greig Music.