From classical Handel to hits by Pharrell Williams: Sixty years of City Sounds Choir

The songs of ABBA, Queen and even Pharrell Williams will be lifting the roof at the sixtieth birthday of City Sounds Choir this weekend. Taranaki Community News caught up with the choir’s musical director Sue Lupton to find out more.

Hi Sue, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I trained as a primary school teacher but now have a wonderful work/life balance teaching music and two school choirs at Central School three days a week, as well as private piano students. This leaves precious days off to spend in my garden and with my family and my dog!

You’re the musical director of the City Sounds Choir. Can you tell us more about the choir and what they do?
The choir is for anyone who likes to sing. We are not elite or exclusive, and there are no auditions.

To me, choirs are for getting the best sound we can out of the members we have. I love the inclusive, friendly nature of City Sounds. People of all ages and from all walks of life come together and make a glorious sound.

Sue likes to pick songs for the choir that are lively and filled with audience appeal

Our members range in age from 11 years to 80+, and we have around 55 members and will always welcome more.

It’s changed a lot in 60 years! The first performance was The Creation by Handel under the conductorship of Mr Ian Menzies. Now we sing secular and well known tunes from the last 60 years, as well as new music from current composers.

I tend to go for lively, syncopated songs with audience appeal. Some choir members look horrified at my song choices initially, but I win them over in the end! If you’ve ever seen the movie, Young At Heart, that’s us!

The choir is about to hit a milestone birthday. Are you celebrating?
We are celebrating 60 years this year! We are having a concert this Sunday. We are singing a range of songs – stage musical, African, jazz, and pop. There’s everything from Irving Berlin to ABBA and Pharrell Williams. I think my favourite song is The Show Must Go On by Queen, but it’s hard to choose!

Pharrell Williams’ song Happy hit number one in 24 countries.
Credit: Shawn Ahmed

We have wonderful guest artists in Sam Mitchell, the Jubilate Singers from New Plymouth Girls’ High School, and my two choirs from Central School- The Central Singers, and the Central 1st XV.

We are also having a 60th Jubilee cake made, and City Sounds Choir members past and present are welcome to come to afternoon tea afterwards.

The City Sounds Choir has been busy rehearsing for this weekend’s concert

What is your background with music and how did you become involved in the choir?
I have always loved choirs, and ran my first choir as a 7th former at Wanganui Girls’ College.

I’ve always run a children’s choir in whichever school I taught in, but my first venture into adult choirs was with the Wanganui Community Choir, which I conducted for eight years before moving to New Plymouth in 2009.

I joined every choir I could here, until I found my niche, singing with Living Harmony. I was approached by City Sounds to conduct a bracket of songs in a Christmas concert, and then took over the role of conductor upon Gabrielle Barr’s retirement from the choir at the beginning of 2013.

City Sounds Choir has been hitting the high notes for sixty years

Do you have a favourite musical memory?
I used to love singing around the piano as a little girl, with my Dad vamping out all the old hits from the war years. He couldn’t read a note, but boy could he play!

Since moving to New Plymouth a music highlight was being part of New Plymouth Operatic Society’s Sister Act in 2016. I was singing in the pit, as part of the off-stage chorus. What a brilliant show. I was so proud to be part of it.

City Sounds 60th Jubilee Concert
Sunday June 9, 1.30pm
St Andrew’s Church
Tickets: $15. Children: free