Old Farnhamians' Association

2010 Farnham Lecture

Balancing the Scales 

David Victor-Smith

L to R: Tony Gatfield, Chris Nash, Cyril Trust David Victor-Smith, Stephen Pritchard and Michael Horner

30 September, 2010

The twenty-second Farnham Lecture, given by David Victor-Smith, founder and leader of the very successful Farnham Youth Choir, was described by Cyril Trust, chairman of the Farnhamian 400 Trust and the organiser of the event, as ‘just magical’. Presented at the Performance Hall at Farnham College, a good sized audience was entertained by an interesting and thought-provoking talk by the leader of this choir, with vocal support from almost twenty singers.

David Victor-Smith outlined his early life at home and at university and explained how his love of music grew throughout this time. He met his wife, Jill, who shared his passion for music, and he amused the audience by playing tracks of both him and his wife singing at an early age. After their marriage they arrived in Farnham over forty years ago and David initially led the choir at the Thomas the Bourne Church as well as teaching music at Ash. He eventually took the position of Head of Music at Farnham College and in 1984 David and Jill founded the Farnham Youth Choir.

Over the years, the choir has become one of the most successful in the country. He believed in offering young people the opportunity to sing all types of music and in a variety of languages. To emphasise this point he asked the singers to perform sections of their favourite songs and the listeners sat in wonder at the beautiful singing of songs from Hungary, Latvia, America etc. He also linked the lessons to be learned by a good singer in a choir to the lessons in life in general. Young people needed to have the discipline, the work ethic, the confidence and the ability to be team members in life as well as in a choir. He gave an example by saying that a young person would not be overawed at an interview with a prospective employer if they had sung in front of thousands of people.

The speaker was critical of some of the modern pop music and the young age that some singers are marketed to the public. Young voices could be ruined for ever if they are subjected to being asked to sing over heavy backing groups. He believed that voices must be nursed in the early years. He felt that whilst he liked almost all types of music the overpowering rock and pop market tended to offer young people a restricted choice of music and listeners missed the opportunity of hearing other types available. He asked his singers to sing a variety of songs, from complicated choral singing to an Abba song to show that people should try to hear a complete spectrum of music.

David Victor-Smith said that as the Farnham Youth Choir became more successful it brought many rewards. The choir had sung at the Royal Albert Hall and the Festival Hall, they had sung in China, Australia, Italy and many other countries and were regularly asked to sing at venues across the world. He had worked with many top composers, conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and received an MBE from the Queen. They now had several CD’s on the market and a busy programme ahead with their next concert at St. Andrew’s Church on 16th October.

The speaker had given a thought provoking lecture, and the listener could hear that he stood up for all types of music for everyone and not just the narrow choice on offer by the TV and radio. Here is a man who loves his work and has the ability to get the best out of his singers. It is rare to hear such lovely music, and the audience sat spellbound and listened to the fruits of his labour. As the organiser said at the end, “This has truly been a magical evening”.

The 2011 Farnham Lecture, presented by the Farnhamian 400 Trust, will be given by mountaineer and adventurer, Tess Burrows, on Friday 3rd June, when she will speak about taking part in the Amundsen Omega 3 race to the South Pole at the age of 60.   



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