As the Paddock Wood Choral Society prepare for their final concert of the season, Eileen Leahy talks to Musical Director Kevin Ashman about the origins of the group – and how you can get involved in it

HIGH NOTES The choral society hold three concerts each year at St Andrew’s Church

As the Paddock Wood Choral Society prepare for their final concert of the season, Eileen Leahy talks to Musical Director Kevin Ashman about the origins of the group – and how you can get involved in it

Please can you tell us a little bit about the Paddock Wood Choral Society? 

We began in 1980, when Graham Dibbens became Head of Music at Mascalls School in Paddock Wood. His remit included using music to reach out to the community, so the Paddock Wood Choral Society stemmed from that as an evening class at the school. The first concert was in March that year. Graham was the first of the five musical directors that the choral society has had so far. 

How long have you been in charge? 

I was appointed in May last year and took over as Musical Director in September – but I’m still the new boy, really!

What attracted you to the role?

I have always loved music. My principal study at Trinity College of Music was the trumpet, but my secondary studies were singing and conducting. I was fortunate to have singing lessons from James Gaddarn, who directed the London Orpheus Choir for many years. My conducting tutor was Bernard Keefe, who was an excellent conductor, teacher and extremely knowledgeable musicologist as well as a frequent broadcaster on BBC Radio 3. 

How often do you rehearse and perform? 

Rehearsals are every Tuesday evening during term time. We rehearse at St Andrew’s Church, Paddock Wood, and generally have three concerts there each year. We are also involved with local community events each season, such as the Fairtrade Christmas one, and this December will also be guest singers at The Salvation Army’s annual Community Charity Concert in Maidstone. 

What do you think being part of the Paddock Wood Choral Society gives members? 

I would like to think that the members of the choir gain a rounded experience of a diverse vocal repertoire and some useful insights into vocal technique. They are an enthusiastic crowd and work very hard in rehearsals. However, they also enjoy being in one another’s company. The social aspect of a group like this is vitally important. 

Can you tell us about your forthcoming concert Around the World in 80 Minutes? 

It will take the form of a whistle-stop trip around the world. We won’t quite manage to hit every country, but it’s a pretty good list! Alongside the variety of nations represented, there are also many musical styles – from madrigals to musicals and opera to oratorio. I hope there will be something for everyone! We also have a superb soloist in tuba player George Harrington, and a few soloists from the choir, too. 

Do you welcome new members, and if so how do they go about joining? 

We certainly do. Ideally it would be at the beginning of a season so they can start preparing the repertoire with the rest of the choir, but we can be flexible! Individuals are welcome to just turn up on a Tuesday evening for a 7.45 pm start. We are a full four-part Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass choir, so there is room for everyone whatever their voice range – and we do not audition new members! 

Around the World in 80 Minutes will be performed at 7.30pm on June 24 at St Andrew’s Church, Paddock Wood. Tickets cost 12.50 (under-19s free). Call 01892 836250 to book