STORY OF HALIFAX CHAMBER CHOIR

HALIFAX CHAMBER CHOIR

HALIFAX, WEST YORKSHIRE, UK

The Edwardian Era


In this period the choir was in great demand, performing concerts across the North, its membership increasing to over 120 singers.

As far as we can tell, it was a largely middle class membership — mill owners, managers and teachers.

Programme from 1905

The Edwardian Era — Picnics!

These photographs of a day trip to the country with Harry suggest that it was a sociable society.

The moving spirit behind the inauguration of the choir was Harry Shepley, who brought together two choirs which he already conducted, the West End Glee Union and the Square Music Society.

The choir gave its first concert in 1899, a performance of 'Hiawatha's Wedding Feast' by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

Harry was to conduct the Madrigal Society with great success until his death in 1942.

International Music Festival, Paris, May 1912

Yes, Paris!

The choir gave a performance in front of none other than the President of the French Republic.

“The highly-organized training of the Halifax choir told at every point. The technique was perfect... the six-eight fugal passage on the significant words 'La, la, la,' etc. was sung so delicately and clearly that one might have been listening to the finest string quartet.” — The Musical Times

Victories at Blackpool 1913


A photo taken about 1913. The choir are showing off the Blackpool Challenge Shield, which they had won three times in a row.


Still in 1913 — A command performance at Windsor in front of King George V and Archduke Ferdinand, whose assassination the following year prompted the First World War. The choir sang various works including two pieces by Max Bruch.

Account book


The choir still possesses a big old accounts book, begun in 1914. It tells us, for example, that in 1915 the Choir gave a total of £45 to 'Local War Relief Funds' —The Mayoress of Halifax Fund, the Mayor of Halifax Local Relief Fund, and the Halifax Belgium Relief Fund.

The accounts book also gives us a record of the principals paid to perform with the choir — here are some...

Harpist Miriam Timothy

Contralto Louise Kirkby-Lunn

Haydn Wood, most famous for having composed 'Roses of Picardy'

Flautist Edith Penville

Edna Thornton

Cellist and composer Cedric Sharpe

Frank Mullings

At the Proms


In 1923 the choir had the honour of being the first to perform at a Henry Wood Promenade concert.

And not a taxi in sight.

Between the Wars


More principals in the twenties and thirties...

Violinist Manuel Quiroga appeared with pianist/organist Berkeley Mason and Mignon Mirada

Norman Allin

Roland Hayes — 'the first black male to win acclaim in America and Europe as a concert artist'

Sopranos Olga Haley, Dorothy Silk and Dora Labette

Irish-Australian tenor Alfred O'Shea

Welsh baritone Mostyn Thomas

12th March, 1925:


Norland-born operatic tenor Walter Widdop

Bass-baritone Harold Williams

Singer John Coates

Soprano Joan Elwes

Baritone Keith Falkner

Arthur Cranmer

Baritone Roy Henderson (teacher of Kathleen Ferrier)

Pianist, entertainer and whistler Ronald Gourley (1935)


There are records from 1919 to 1934 of an 'Entertainment Tax' being levied. In December 1921, for example, £34 7s 7d was paid for a concert at the Victoria Hall, Halifax.

Postwar


Some principals from the forties and fifties...

Soprano Doris Gambell — for TV anoraks, to become Harry Worth's housekeeper in Here's Harry

At the Alexander Hall, Halifax, the soloist was bass Owen Brannigan.

At the Marlborough Hall, Halifax, the soloist was Violet Carson — she was paid £31 10s 0d.

Ena Sharples of Coronation Street, of course.

...and from the sixties and seventies


Soprano Margaret Curphey

Bass Philip Ravenscroft

Tenor Eric Baskeyfield

Contralto Jacqueline Veazey

Doreen Walker

Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Gale

David Fieldsend

Anne Sessions and husband Ralph Mason

Scottish tenor Neil Mackie and soprano Kathleen Livingstone

1989 - A New Name


By 1989 the name 'Madrigal Society' was considered to be off-putting, and the name 'The Halifax Chamber Choir' was born.

This also reflected the range of music it tackled — Renaissance polyphony, anthems and motets, more modern works — and of course madrigals.

The Halifax Chamber Choir in 1997

In 1999, for the Grand Centenary Concert, it was only appropriate that the choir should once again perform 'Hiawatha's Wedding Feast'.

Centenary programme

CONDUCTORS

Graville Whitehead

1955-1968

K.P.Rodwell

1969-1975

Keith Horsfall

1975-1983

Keith Rhodes

1983-1988


Lawrence Killian

1988

Graham Coatman

1989-1992

Mirian Walton

1992-1996

Margaret Edwards

1996-1998

Michael Murphy

1998-2003

Daniel Bath

2004-2008

Bridget Budge

2008-2013

Alex Kyle

2014 and 2015

Aljosa Skorja

Current conductor since 2015