Standing ovation: celebrating 40 years of Barclays House Choir
As the Barclays House Choir prepares for its 40th Christmas concert, we talk to its new Chairman, Siobhan Paulie, about festive preparations, a recent tour to New York and how this talented troupe plans to continue striking the right chord in the community.
“I am feeling the pressure a little bit,” admits Siobhan Pauley, the newly appointed Chairman of the Barclays House Choir.
The 47-year-old Barclays supply manager and part-time soprano is preparing for her first concert in her new role, which is something of a special occasion. The annual Christmas concert forms part of the choir’s 40th anniversary celebrations – and it’s quite the crowd-pleaser.
“The Christmas concert is such good fun to do and the audience absolutely loves it,” says Siobhan. “It’s nice to get them singing along with the classic carols, but we’re also performing a wide range of pieces in different languages and styles, including a version of ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ that was specially arranged for us.”
Based in Poole – and named after the city’s iconic Barclays House building, also 40 years old this year - the choir receives funding from the bank, which, along with revenue from tickets, goes towards venue hire and the choir’s professional accompanists, some of whom are from Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
Having joined the choir three years ago, Siobhan was immediately impressed by the sense of community. “I sung in a choir when I was young, but I didn’t have the opportunity to do it again for a very, very long time,” she says. “So my challenge was getting the confidence back.
“When I joined everybody was so friendly and supportive from the moment I walked through the door. There’s a wonderful friendly community feeling among the members. It means everyone steps out of rehearsal with a real sense of enjoyment. Even if I’ve had a mad day, I always feel so much better for going.”
Being in the choir also teaches the discipline of working together in a team towards a common goal, says Siobhan.
“All the hard work that goes into rehearsing for a concert and then producing the final performance gives you that overwhelming feeling of achievement.”
Flying the flag for Barclays
The hard work paid off earlier this year when members of the choir were chosen by English composer Howard Goodall to sing in the New York-premiere of his piece ‘Eternal Light’ in the world-famous Carnegie Hall.
“Twelve of us went over to form part of the combined choir,” says Siobhan. “It was an amazing experience.”
While the New York performance is an obvious highlight in the ensemble’s recent history, the Barclays House Choir began life in 1976 with 10 members who all worked for the bank in Poole.
Today, the choir also welcomes local singers who are not Barclays employees. Siobhan, who moved to Poole from a branch in London to work at the Barclays House office 20 years ago, says three quarters of the members are current or former employees, including some singers who have been with the choir since 1976.
The choir has begun hosting ‘come and sing’ workshops for the public to encourage more people to give it a go. “It’s very much my mission to promote the choir as much as possible and to take opportunities to broaden where we perform,” says Siobhan. “I would love it if extra-curricular activities like this spread to other parts of the business. It would be brilliant to have other choirs around the country and bring them together to sing.”
It’s clear Siobhan is passionate about singing and keen to grow the choir, but what are her hopes for the future?
"It may be our 40th anniversary, but it’s very important we continue this tradition for another 40 years. Personally, I love seeing new members join. It shows that this choir is going somewhere!
"As long as we continue to grow with new younger members, I don’t see any reason it won’t carry on, whatever happens."