A LONG-RUNNING choir from Andover is collaborating with a renowned Chilean composer for a special concert in Whitchurch, more than 20 years since they first worked together.

Andover Museum Loft Singers are currently working with Chilean musician Mauricio Venegas-Astorga in a symphonic performance of his Misa de los Mineros (The Miners’ Mass), to be staged in Whitchurch and London next month.

Loft Singers perform unaccompanied harmony arrangements of folk music and local music from Hampshire and from the rest of the world.

Members of the choir first collaborated with Mauricio in the mid-90s when Roger Watson, who was later instrumental in forming Andover Museum Loft Singers, brought him to Wherwell Primary School for a project.

Loft Singers member Sheena Smith, who was part of the Wherwell project, said it was a “wonderful song-writing project” called ‘My Village-Your Village’.

“I first met Mauricio in 1995, when we worked together, with Roger,” she said.

“My Village-Your Village created a cultural link between children in Wherwell, and Mauricio’s home village of Maule, Chile. The project involved children creating song lyrics about their life and environment, set to traditional melodies from their respective cultures.

“Video and audio recordings were made and exchanged between the two communities.”

Around the same time, Roger Watson was introducing the concept of community choirs to the area, and a short time later the Andover Museum Loft Singers choir was established.

Roger remained musical director of the Loft Singers until current director, Paul Sartin took over in 2001. Paul had also collaborated with Mauricio in the 90s.

“Mauricio and I worked, alongside drummer Musa Mboob, on schools projects for Traditional Arts Projects,” Paul said.

“I was pretty fresh behind the ears but Mauricio was a kind and generous mentor.”

Paul is now a leading folk musician, best-known for his role in the barnstorming big band Bellowhead.

For Sheena and Paul, it was a great delight when Mauricio made contact with them early this year to propose that the Loft Singers should provide the choral parts of a new production of Mauricio’s acclaimed composition Misa de los Mineros.

When the pandemic struck, Mauricio felt the need for new cross-cultural collaborations, to find a way to bring people out of the dark days of lockdown, and the idea of a new, symphonic arrangement of the Miners’ Mass was formed.

The invitation from Mauricio in February this year provided light at the end of what had felt like a very dark lockdown-tunnel for choir members. Besides Quimantu and the Andover Museum Loft Singers, concerts will feature the Cecil Sharp House Choir and The Alkyona Quartet.

Andover Advertiser: Quimantu with Mauricio Venegas-AstorgaQuimantu with Mauricio Venegas-Astorga

Paul added: “It is wonderful that we are all coming together again in another exciting project.

“The choir has built a strong reputation in performances over more than 20 years, but there is no doubt that this is our most challenging work yet. We are eagerly looking forward to the concerts in November.”

Mauricio said the work takes the form of a choral mass, but performed in a Latin American folk style.

“The liberation theology movement in Latin America inspired us to combine ideas of spirituality, Christianity, freedom and social justice,” he said.

“The focus of the work is the experience of coal miners in my home region of Concepción, southern Chile. In 1999 we performed it in my hometown – a very moving experience for me – and I’m happy that it has become a part of the folk tradition in the region.”

Concerts will take place at All Hallows Church in Whitchurch on November 6, and St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, London on November 12. Tickets are available now from voceschilenas.com.