Choir History: Here's to the next 60 years!
The Warwick & Kenilworth Choral Society was founded in May 1953, when the then
separate Warwick and Kenilworth choral societies merged, following a joint
performance of Handel's
at the first Warwick Festival. The Festival
founder, Tim (Thomas) Tunnard, accepted the invitation to become conductor of
the new Society, and its first concert, Bach's
, was given on
New Year's Day 1954 at St Mary's Church, Warwick, where Tim Tunnard was
organist and choirmaster. Since then the Society has given three further
performances of the
. Other performances of works by Bach
include three of the
St Matthew Passion
and five each of the
B minor Mass
St John Passion
, together with numerous secular and religious cantatas.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, Handel is the composer to have been performed most
frequently over the last fifty years. The records show there have been at least
27 performances of
in Warwick or Kenilworth, with excerpts of that work
featuring in several other concerts.
has been performed three
times; at the second performance in 1980, the soprano soloist was a certain
Lesley Garrett, who had also sung on several earlier occasions with the
, the most popular works performed have been Fauré's
(seven performances each), Haydn's
(six each), with perhaps surprisingly, Rossini's
Petite Messe Solennelle
scoring four performances, ahead of Elgar's
with three each.
There have been numerous other works performed in a total of 171 concerts
recorded in the archives to December 2006, spanning composers from Arne to Zoltan
Kodaly and the years from the twelfth to the twentieth century. The tradition
performances at St Nicholas' Church in Kenilworth began in
The 50th Anniversary Concert performance of Verdi's
in November 2003
was Ronald Binnie's thirty-third concert with the Society. Having been
rehearsal accompanist from 1993 and conducting a concert in 1994, he succeeded
Jeremy Dibb in March 1996.
Ron Binnie continued with the choir until December 2008 when Andrew Jones took
over the baton in January 2009. During the three year period of
time with us, Andrew conducted a total of twelve concerts and
quickly established a strong rapport with the choir. At rehearsals,
he demonstrated his excellent musicality together with good humoured
patience and expertise. Andrew was able to respond in a positive way
and this was much appreciated by the choir. It was with sincere
regret that due to Andrew having to move through a change in
employment necessitating a move to London, his stay with us was cut
short. We are sincerely grateful to Andrew for his leadership over
the time with the society and we wish him all the very best for his
success in the future.
Colin Druce, our present rehearsal accompanist and
répétiteur, joined us on a regular basis in September 1999; he also takes
sectional rehearsals, and occasionally deputises for the conductor. Colin
has also performed piano concertos by Grieg and Mozart at our concerts,
as well as organ music by Widor and Liszt.
gave his last concert with the Society in 1958, and the longest serving
conductor to date has been Russell Lovick, who conducted his first concert in
May 1960, continuing until May 1974, although he remained a singing member for
many years after that. The baton passed to Anthony Metcalfe in 1974, and he
was followed by Andrew Fletcher in September 1977, Kipps Horn in January 1981,
and Timothy Hone in 1982. Stephen Perrins took over from September 1987 until
1989, and after a short interim Jeremy Dibb took charge in September 1990.
In addition to Lesley Garrett, the Society has worked with many musicians who
have achieved national and international acclaim. A brief list would include
Reginald Jacques, Jennifer Vyvyan, Norma Proctor, Heather Harper, Stephen
Varcoe, Christopher Keyte and John Noble.
Having started off with 95 paying members, the Society's membership ranged from
about 40 to 60 through the Fifties until the early Eighties. From the mid-1980s
to the late 1990s it grew to some eighty or so, and in the last few years the
Society has continued to prosper, its membership increasing steadily to its
present strength of a chorus of well over a hundred in most concerts, of which
there are four each year. It is a pleasure to record that one soprano, Margaret
Battersea, joined the Society fifty years ago and still sings with the choir
today. The male singer whose membership goes back the furthest appears to be
bass Barry Young, who joined a year or two after the Society was formed. They
both appear in the old photo at the top of the page.
This picture shows the agenda and accounts for the first AGM of the Society,
held on 2 June 1954. The opening balance for the newly formed Warwick &
Kenilworth Choral Society was £11.2.6d (£3.8.1d from the Kenilworth Society and
£7.14.5d from the Warwick Society). Subscriptions were 7/6d and 5/-, total
annual receipts being £34 from 95 paying members.