The picture we are currently using at the head of our pages is of Neil Webster conducting an informal out- door performance by his choir Newbury Harmony during a Festival in Norwich in the 1980s.
CHORALINKS and the NEIL WEBSTER MUSIC TRUST
Neil and his Music
Neil was always keen on music, and as a teenager was, with other members of his family, a member of a local folk group. In the 1970s he took part in a Christmas concert performed by various young people, including a novice choir. After the concert, Neil asked to join this group, and not long after, decided to start a youth choir himself, in his own town of East Dereham in Norfolk.
He had no musical training, but a good voice and a very perceptive ear for harmony, and from the start used to make his own musical 'arrangements' for Dereham Folk, as his new choir was called. Soon he had gathered together some twenty-five or thirty young people in their teens, and within months they were performing not only locally, but in other parts of Norfolk, and even as guests of the English Folk Dance and Song Society in London.
After Neil had left Norfolk to work in the south of England, he joined a choir in his local town, and brought some of the members, under his leadership, to a choir Festival in Norwich to share a platform with former members of the Dereham Folk. Newbury Harmony, as this new group called itself, stayed together, and never looked back. Before long the choir was winning trophies across the south of England, and even in Europe. Neil had started to transcribe madrigals and other music from old collections in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, as well as making choral arrangements of contemporary pop songs: his choir (which in due course renamed itself Watership Cantabile) was equally at home with Abba and William Byrd, with a repertoire of folk songs of many nations, anthems, motets and songs from the shows.
Sadly, Neil died of cancer in 1998. But Watership Cantabile is still going strong, and Neil's own musical arrangements are still being sung: many dozens of singers look back on their association with Neil as a time of exciting and joyful inspiration.