History of Variations

In April 2006, Alison Chew and the late Iris Moutter presented a hugely successful Old Tyme Music Hall. The original show was so popular that a repeat performance was staged a few months later, again at Villetoureix Salle Polyvalente.

The success of these performances showed that there was a demand for a music and drama association. The Variations Association was established in September 2006. Alongside the light music and drama, the Chorale was formed.

Variations Ensemble Vocal

The Chorale started with 16 singers. Under Alison’s expert tuition, it became a successful chamber choir and performed as a part of the Variations shows, at weddings and in Christmas celebrations at Chancelade Abbey.

The Chorale’s first complete choral work was Vivaldi’s Gloria, performed with the Hampshire Sinfonietta and conducted by Keith Smith in August 2008. By this time, the Chorale had expanded to a full chorus of more than 40 singers – which became the Variations Ensemble Vocal.

On 13 December 2008, the Ensemble took part in a ‘scratch’ performance of Handel’s Messiah in the Eglise de la Cité in Périgueux. They were joined by a further 50 singers to make a chorus of more than 100 voices with full orchestra, conducted by John Jenkins. This was a charity event organized by Veronica Dare-Bryan on behalf of the Chaplaincy of Aquitaine.

Fauré’s Requiem had been requested by many members of the Ensemble and a programme was planned to include it, organ and vocal duets and orchestral works. Rehearsals began in January 2009 with 58 singers and the concerts were performed in Champagne et Fontaine and St Astier on 17 and 18 April 2009. Three of the soloists who performed in December 2008 – Clementine Lovell, Catherine Walsingham and Daniel Roddick - also took part in this concert, together with the organist Naomi Gregory, and Richard Layton who again led the orchestra.

During the summer of 2009 The Ensemble Vocal were asked to perform at three further events – a concert for the commune of St. Front de Pradoux, which was well received, a ‘soirée’ for the Rotary Club of Angoulême, and an invitation to sing at the wedding of one of our choristers.

In addition a Christmas concert Noël Nouvelet was performed in the Salle Polyvalente Villetoureix on 19th December which included staged poems and readings plus seasonal songs and carols.
An evening of Carol Singing also took place in the beautiful covered medieval market place 'Les Halles' at Villebois Lavalette on 23rd December 2009. This performance has now become a tradition on the 23rd December every year.

Rehearsals for the Mozart Requiem commenced in January 2010 under Alison Chew’s direction with great support from accompanists and singers Keith Lowe and Peter Harle. The performances of this work took place in April in two venues ~ St Astier and Ribérac ~ to maximum capacity audiences. John Jenkins conducted the choir and 31 piece orchestra and the concerts at both venues received standing ovations.

A new Chamber Choir was formed in the spring of 2010 and its debut at a second concert in St Front de Pradoux, along with the Ensemble Vocal, was very well received.

A repeat ‘scratch’ Messiah under the baton of John Jenkins was held in Périgueux on the 23rd October with, as before, additional singers taking part. The following week the Variations choirs gave a concert containing a selection of their repertoire in the church for the Mayor and commune of St Martin de Ribérac.

In December the Variations choirs once again performed, by request, in the Christmas Celebrations in Chancelade Abbey and Villebois Lavalette,

The Easter Concerts in 2011 took place on 15th and 16th April and consisted of both French and English works.The first half celebrated the great English choral tradition in music for royal occasions. The second part of the programme showcased great French opera choruses. We welcomed back our professional soloists and orchestra under the leadership of Richard Layton and conductor John Jenkins.

On April 13th and 14th 2012 the major work for our Easter concerts was the Haydn Imperial (Nelson) Mass and we welcomed back our wonderful soloists; Clementine Lovell, Daniel Roddick and Russell Painter. This year we also enjoyed the addition of a wonderful soloist Ben Williamson performing in the L'Eglise Notre Dame Ribérac as well as L'Eglise St Astier.

  • August 2008,Vivaldi Gloria in Ribérac  in conjunction with the Hampshire Sinfonietta
  • December 2008, Handel's Messiah in La Cité Périgueux.
  • April 2009, Fauré’s Requiem in Champagne et Fontaine and Saint Astier, in conjunction with an orchestra of Vivaldiional and local musicians.
  • April 2010, Mozart's Requiem in St Astier and Ribérac
  • October 2010, Handel's Messiah in the beautiful Chancelade Abbey
  • April 2011, Entente Cordiale
  • April 2012, Haydn's Imperial (Nelson) Mass in St Astier and Ribérac
  • October 2012, Handel's Messiah in the beautiful Chancelade Abbey
  • April 2013
  • September 2013, Feuilles d'Automne Musicales - a selection from  Handel, Vivaldi, Faure, Bach, Mozart, Gounod, Kosma, Offembach in Riberac
  • April 2014, Faure Requien and Mozart Messe in Périgueux and Ribérac
  • June 2014, the Vocal Ensemble sang at the British Weekend in Brantome
  • April 2015,  Haydn's Creation, in Périgueux and Ribérac.
  • April 2016, Vivaldi Gloria and Mozart's Requiem in Périgueux and Ribérac.
  • October 2016, Fete de Saint-Astier, a selecton of well-known pieces.
  • April 2017, Handel's Messiah in Perigueux and Riberac


The light entertainment and drama section, Variations-en-Scène, continues to stage revue-style shows. After the success of the Music Hall in 2006, it started 2007 with a New Year show My True Love Sent To Me, followed by a spectacle appropriately named Summertime which was staged on 16 June. From this was born the Variations Jazz band which performed three times in the summer of 2007 at local restaurants. The year finished with the Christmas Cheer show of Christmas songs, carols and readings.
In 2008 a summer celebration was presented to the Commune of Villetoureix as part of their 14 July Fête weekend. The show was entitled Au Bord de la Mer, written and directed by Variations member Gail Winn. It included French comedy sketches, ‘sing-along’ numbers, a traditional Punch and Judy, and a star performance by French singer Claudine Breteche. This was followed by Vive la Différence in July 2009, also held in Villetoureix.
In December 2011 the en Scéne team performed a staged show Falling in Love Again in Villetoureix, directed by Variations member Jacky Raeburn. This was a celebration of some well known Rodgers & Hammerstein songs from some much loved musicals. This was performed over 2 nights to full houses who enjoyed a two course supper as well as music to sing-a-long to.