Choir singing in Royal Hall - click for larger view
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Harrogate
Choral
Society

A Brief History of Harrogate Choral Society

A review of the Harrogate Choral Society in the Harrogate Herald of 1881 recorded 'The success of the Harrogate Choral Society is now no matter of conjecture, for as at present there are considerably above one hundred members enrolled, its future prosperity may be considered assured'.

HCS Committee 1948/49
Harrogate Choral Society Committee 1948/49.
Front row from left: Mabel Richard, Joe Sheppard, Lottie Jebson. Second row: Gwen Sheppard, Kathleen Bishop, Fred Wood (President), Olive Dobson. Back row: Horace Kay, Peter Lee, Vic Richard, George Bainbridge.

Unfortunately world events affected life in Harrogate as elsewhere, but in May 1948 the choir sang Elijah to celebrate the official formation of the Society. The first Harrogate Choral Society was an amalgamation of the choirs of the Air Ministry, Ministry of Aircraft Productions and the Ministry of Supply. Membership grew rapidly, the repertoire was increased and performances were given, generally in local churches.

By 1953 the society was established in the Lounge Hall, Harrogate with occasional orchestral accompaniment. In the sixties the concerts moved to the Royal Hall under a new conductor Joseph Nicolson. The first concert in the Royal Hall, which was also the first concert with full orchestra, was the Messiah in 1965.

In 1970, Mr Nicholson was succeeded by Ian Linford who directed fifty major concerts. It has been the policy of the Society to be adventurous in its choice of works as well as to present well established favourites. Thus in Ian Linford's final six years as conductor we performed Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony, Fricker Vision of Judgement, Fauré Requiem, Handel Messiah, Berlioz Requiem and Te Deum, Orff Carmina Burana, Beethoven Missa Solemnis, Bach Mass in B Minor, Tippett A Child of Our Time and Monteverdi Vespers of 1610.

John Gulley, our conductor between 1986 and 1991, continued this adventurous trend. His first concert as conductor was Honegger King David with Richard Baker as narrator. We reached a milestone on 11th November 1989 with our first performance of Britten War Requiem commemorating the anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. In John Gulley's final year we performed the Requiems of both Brahms and Verdi.

For fourteen years, from 1991 to 2005, our Music Director was Jeffrey Wynn Davies who, with excellent support from our Deputy Music Director Marilynne Davies, led us with great imagination and flair, moulding the quality and character of our choral sound to achieve an ever increasing standard and flexibility. Performances under his baton included repertoire as diverse as Monteverdi Vespers of 1610, Bach St Matthew Passion, Elgar The Dream of Gerontius and Britten War Requiem which we performed for a second time in November 1995, 50 years after the end of World War II. Sadly on 26 October 2002 we performed in the Royal Hall for what seemed like the last time. The structure of the building was crumbling to such an extent that it had to be closed for health and safety reasons.

In the Autumn of 1995 we made a recording of Christmas Carols at Fountains Abbey, our nearest National Trust site, subsequent sales of which have supported both ourselves and the National Trust. We were asked to sing Carmina Burana in the massed choir at the Proms 98 choral day at the Royal Albert Hall. We have also taken part in two commercial Opera Gala Nights for the Raymond Gubbay organisation in Harrogate and Sheffield and have been the 'backing group' for Russell Watson in late 2000/early 2001.

The Choir currently numbers in the region of 130 members and we are greatly enjoying working with our Music Director, Dr Andrew Padmore, who joined us in September 2005. After many years of hard earned fundraising the Royal Hall Restoration Trust were proud to announce the successful re-opening of the Royal Hall in Spring 2008. Harrogate Choral Society's concert there on 3rd May 2008 was the first performance by a local amateur group and was a huge success.

In recent years we have successfully collaborated with the Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir as 'Yorkshire Voices' in Leeds Town Hall, the first in June 2008 - singing Verdi's Requiem, the second in September 2009 - performing Jenkins' The Armed Man and Fanshawe's African Sanctus, and most recently in June 2016 to perform Beethoven's magnificent, and very difficult, Missa Solemnis.