Cranbrook Choral Society

Behind the scenes at Cranbrook Choral

Part one

David Summers explains how the production of programmes and advertising works

Although choir members receive a free copy of the programme for each of our concerts which they eagerly scan to check that their names are correctly referenced, I doubt many are aware of the ‘behind the scenes’ activity that leads to its timely publication 

In particular, the role of Robin Ford (tenor), assisted by Julia (soprano and librarian), who mastermind its production at their home, giving us a flexibility in the production schedule for which a commercial printer would charge us the earth.


This process includes: gathering in and laying out the editorial text and advertising copy; the sub-editing and proof reading; purchase of paper and inks; printing the sheets on their own machinery;  folding  and stapling; and finally the delivery.


We benefit enormously from their generosity in bearing overheads that would cost us a substantial amount if we had to buy them in.  While all this activity merits only scant recognition in our annual accounts, we benefit season after season from their dedication and expertise in publishing  a high quality programme that reflects the standard of  performance that our audiences have come to expect. Some 200 of each edition come off the press.

Our aim is that the programme should be a money making or, if you prefer, fundraising activity for Cranbrook Choral. There are two associated income streams: the sales of the programme itself and the paid-for advertisements we carry. The sales of course also fund the complimentary copies for members and musicians, as well as those provided to our advertisers as  proof of publication.

Over the last two seasons we have taken the decision to increase the price of the programme to £2 to reflect both the increasing cost of materials and the efforts made to improve editorial standards by including more informative text about the works being performed and our soloists. Although this represented a 100% increase, it has not had any noticeably adverse impact on sales, which are, of course, additional to the ticket price.


It is a fact of concert/ theatre going that there is usually only one copy to be sold to each party that attends, whether to an individual or to a group who buy one and pass it round. Some people never buy one because they see it as an unnecessary cost and can be affronted to be asked! We aim to disabuse them of this by providing editorial text that is informative and interesting to read in the lull before the performance and at the interval. Our 2018 performance of “The Armed Man” was proof of that and had record sales – some even bought copies at the end of the concert!

Our programmes contain either 16 or 20 pages. The printing is set up to give four pages to a sheet of paper, hence the precise multiples, with approximately half of the space being devoted to adverts. We sell full page, half page and quarter page advertisements with copy generally being provided by the client “ready to print“ without the need for further type-setting.


We charge £120, £60, and £30 respectively for the whole Season and place the highest priced advertisements in the most prominent positions: inside cover or back cover and facing editorial material so that it catches the reader’s eye. By the ‘‘whole season“ we mean not only our two major concerts but we give them individual acknowledgement in the charity, Christmas and Summer concerts too.  And we love adverts that introduce an element of fun or are creatively original and so do the readers: new advertiser, Mrs T Potts Sweet Shoppe, was a good recent example.


David Summers (tenor) ( ) handles the advertising which involves getting to know local businesses old and new and hopefully taking a subscription for the whole year in the expectation that it will be repeated in future seasons. It’s all soft selling, quite satisfying and you don’t have to have  a  sales background to enjoy it.  I basically sell on the size of the audiences and their demographic composition.


Surprisingly, most advertisers take space to support the Cranbrook community, rather than seeking to measure the return they get for their money. Despite my encouragement – and to my chagrin – they seldom come to the concerts, even with the offer of a free ticket.

The High Street continues to be under pressure with too many empty shops, and many businesses under financial pressure. Lost advertisers have to be replaced, sometimes at the last minute when their promised copy does not materialise. We recognised this last year by reducing our advertising rates, but sadly a couple of those who were new customers last year have still closed.

David always welcomes any contacts that choir members can provide. All you have to do is let him know that someone has registered interest. You hunt and he will try to gather!  We do sometimes offer new “prospects” an initial free space as a “taster” if they feel undecided, provided that we are not already full up.  Our space is governed by filling those 16 or 20 pages – the economics of printing only allow for what are called “even workings “- so definitely no page 17 or 21.

We generally aim to cover the costs of producing the entire programme by the sales of about 100 copies: if we sell more, it is profit. Advertising revenues  therefore also go straight to the bottom line and, in a good year, perhaps add another £1,000 to the choir’s income. And like any business, although the programmes are sold on the day for cash, the ad revenue has to be invoiced and the debt collected.

So next time you receive your programme …

Behind the scenes at Cranbrook Choral – part two

Liz McLaren explains the joys of being the membership secretary

As a previous membership secretary for Cranbrook Choral I had no qualms about returning to the post when the role became vacant as I had just retired from full time working, so perfect timing.

Some have asked why go back and my response is that I enjoyed it the first time around but work constraints meant that I couldn’t continue. I’m very much a ‘people person’ and for me it’s the perfect opportunity to put names to faces, to meet and greet new singers as well as chatting to the old ones and last but not least, to keep busy with admin. Give me a form or a spreadsheet and I’m in seventh heaven!

As the Membership Secretary, there are peaks and troughs of activity. From November to July, I amble along answering odd enquiries, welcoming new members (most join in September), updating attendance sheets and noting who is singing in concerts and attending the CDCS Committee meetings. But from August to October, it all changes!

I start in early August by creating a welcome email/letter and updating membership forms and attendance sheets ready for the forthcoming season. The email/letter is sent out to the previous season’s membership outlining the exciting season ahead … and your emails, calls and enquiries come rolling in along with your subs. I love the buzz of excitement from members looking forward to returning to singing after the summer break.

At the first few rehearsals in September we give out the membership forms and I’m grateful for the smiles and orderly queue as it can be quite frenetic at this time of year. One common enquiry is “Why do we have to complete the application every season as you already have my details?”


There are two reasons for this:

  1. We need you to confirm that the details on the form are still correct. We do try to make it easier by printing out your details that we hold. You simply have to check this information and then sign the form accordingly.
  2. To enable us to keep accurate records on our Gift Aid claims.

Gift Aid makes a massive difference to our income each year, so many thanks to all of you who sign the form to permit us to claim Gift Aid on your behalf.

I always have to chase for missing fees or membership forms but fortunately it’s very minimal.

Like all groups, we liaise behind the scenes with each other but my main partner in crime is Ian Fletcher, our Treasurer, who keeps me updated with incoming bank transfers and, in return, I keep him updated with membership numbers and any outstanding payments. Our four section heads – sopranos, altos, tenors and basses – are always advised of any changes to the contact details for their sections so that they can continue to update choir members with relevant information about rehearsals, concert arrangements and social events.

Outside of choir, I live in Cranbrook with my husband Mac and we have a large blended family between us with four adult children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren who keep us young, busy and poor! We love to socialise and travel whenever we can. I love to sing (and dance, but that’s quite hilarious on crutches), craft, sew and bake. I have a passion for promoting wellbeing and, of course, there’s nothing like a good choral workout, laughing with friends and belonging to such a creative and fun group for benefitting our wellbeing…. as we all know.

I run my own market stall and online business selling haberdashery and the items that I craft and sew.I also volunteer in my spare time and have spent the best part of this year setting up and establishing the Wealden Men’s Shed which is now flourishing. I’m still the Secretary for the group and have been given the title of “Honorary Man”. It does make me chuckle and is good for my wellbeing too.