After four-and-a-half years, what Fraser Wilson describes as a “tremendous adventure” will come to an end at Holy Trinity Church, Millhouses on Saturday, the 13th of August.
Music lovers across Sheffield and, doubtless, beyond were taken aback when a round-robin email appeared in their inboxes in early July announcing that the exceptional chamber choir Albion was calling it day.
“We’re really proud of all the things we’ve achieved – from Caves to Ales and touring to festivals – and I think we have done something truly unique,” says Fraser, Albion’s founding director
“The challenge with setting the bar high, though, is that you then have to keep going higher, pushing yourselves to come up with ever more ambitious ideas, but over the last six months or so it’s been increasingly difficult to make time and space for that.
“We’re all busy people with other ‘proper’ jobs and many of the singers have completely different careers. We found ourselves caught between the love and passion we’ve always had for what we do (singing), and the realism of having to acknowledge where we are at.”
What Albion had was unique – or has and is (the final curtain hasn’t quite descended yet)! Around ten voices drawn from a slightly larger pool of singers performing, largely without accompaniment or a conductor, the rich musical and literary heritage of the British Isles.
If a choice text was without music, Fraser Wilson set it and made astute arrangements of texts that had music. Everything was vibrantly performed with expert artistry and sounded newly minted. Little wonder a large, enthusiastic following was quickly established.
He cites wanting to build on the success of Albion’s second subterranean exploits at the Devil’s Arse (Peak Cavern) last year by doing ‘Caves Tour’ of the UK and, perhaps, writing a special piece for performance in the famous Castleton cavern.
“Having established a reputation for pushing the envelope, we didn’t want to slip back into a less ambitious way of working,” admits Fraser, “but both of those are such a step up.
“We spent a long time looking at options but concluded that, because we’ve only ever done this for the love of it, it was better to go out on a high and celebrate where the adventure has taken us.”
Going professional – and Albion is certainly good enough! – was an alternative considered; the suggestion is, though, not for very long!
“It would have compromised the very essence of the group, that this is something to which people bring themselves voluntarily, they give themselves without expectation, they bond and thrive because everyone is there for the love of it.”
Albion bonded and was loved by its audience in an extraordinary way, which lead to a deluge of reaction when the farewell was announced.
“We have been humbled by, and so grateful for, the response to Albion’s musical exploits from our friends and supporters in Sheffield and around the country,” says Fraser
“It has been a privilege and a pleasure to share music with them and a reminder that music truly is a universal form of communication, a way of reaching the parts that nothing else can.”