TRBC’s final May concert

28 May 2024

TRBC’s final May concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 12 May was a joyous occasion, if tinged with regret. The Really Big Chorus will continue to perform at the RAH but, from 2025 onwards, only with Messiah from Scratch®. More about that later.

We concluded in some style! The all-Mozart programme opened with Eine kleine Nachtmusik, which gave the strings of the English Festival Orchestra the chance to shine. Horn soloist Ben Goldscheider then joined the orchestra for the Third Horn Concerto, demonstrating why he is in such demand as a soloist throughout Europe. After the interval it was the turn of The Really Big Chorus, 1,700-strong on this occasion and ready to tackle all the varied moods of the much-loved Requiem. Our soloists were Rachel Speirs, Bethany Horak-Hallett, Ruairi Bowen and Ossian Huskinson. Programmes were sold in aid of the Royal Society of Musicians raising almost £8,000 for their charitable work.

May concerts – with at least one rehearsal – have enabled a real rapport to build between conductor and singers. A chance to know the music better, improve the singing, enjoy the conductor’s sense of humour, and to get to know your fellow singers. We shall miss these occasions, but we remain grateful to the RAH for supporting us for the past 50 years.

The loss of our May date can be attributed to the Hall’s receiving no government support during the pandemic, unlike some venues. In order to stay afloat, they took out a £20 million loan, which they must now pay back over 20 years. With £1 million a year of additional costs, they have had to make some tough financial decisions. One of these is that promoters must now guarantee 90% capacity, as a large part of the Hall’s income is commission on ticket sales. Sadly, our traditional May and July events don’t meet their criteria, particularly as our numbers are still not back to their pre-pandemic levels. And it’s not just we who are suffering – many other classical music promoters are in the same boat.

We have looked hard at other possible venues, but none are really practical. Central Hall Westminster came close, but they cannot accommodate a large orchestra, so we would have to limit our repertoire. And the hire costs, once we factor in extra lighting and sound systems, just don’t make it financially viable.

We are delighted that TRBC’s final May concert was such a huge success. It was also a wonderful present for our Principal Conductor, Brian Kay, who celebrated his 80th birthday that very day. During the afternoon orchestral rehearsal, we surprised him with ‘Happy Birthday’ sung to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus. Click here to see the video which we posted on our Facebook Group, and watch his reactions. 

TRBC’s final May concert
Brian Kay acknowledges the applause at the end of our final May concert at the Royal Albert Hall, which also happened to be his 80th birthday (photo: Catherine Slater)