A brief History

The society was founded in 1941 and has been part of the musical life of the area continuously since that time, presenting concerts not only in the Harlequin Theatre, but also in a number of local churches and other venues.The first concert presented was Handel’s Messiah and since then we have been proud to present not only the great choral masterpieces, but new and unusual repertoire which has both delighted and challenged our members and audiences.

Many of today’s top soloists began their careers singing solo roles with amateur choral societies, and we are no exception. The pattern began with our performance of Elijah in 1942, which featured Isobel Baillie as one of the soloists. The trend has continued since then; examples from subsequent decades include John Shirley Quirk in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in 1964, Philip Langridge in Dyson’s Canterbury Pilgrims in 1970, Catherine Wyn Rogers in our 1984 performance of Elijah, and Katerina Karnéus in Bach’s Mass in B Minor in 1994.  The eminent soprano and vocal professor Patricia Rozario OBE is not only a more recent soloist but our current President.

Not all of our previous soloists progressed as singers. Included here are Roger Norrington (now Sir Roger) as the tenor soloist in the 1964 Messiah,who is now better known as a conductor, and Brian Kay, the baritone soloist in the Fauré Requiem we performed in 1971 who now pursues a busy career as a conductor and Radio 3 presenter. Most notable amongst those who have subsequently excelled on the podium is our music director in the 1956 Season, Sir Colin Davis, who was the Society’s President until his sad passing in 2013. Further details of our past performances can be found in the archive; this includes details of the repertoire we have performed, together with details of the soloists, conductor, orchestra, date and performance venue.