Huddersfield Choral Society
The Huddersfield Choral Society was founded in 1836 by sixteen local musicians and recruited its members mainly from the mixed choirs of nonconformist churches. The original society of about seventy signers and instrumentalists met monthly for rehearsals and gave quarterly performances for friends and subscribers. Today's choir consists of around 200 singers (having reached a peak of 400 in the 1930s) and enjoys a wide repertoire which includes concert opera, popular music and contemporary works as well as oratorio and religious music. The choir's busy schedule involves public concerts all over the UK in addition to its annual subscriber concert season, for which demand continues to outstrip supply with a waiting list of over two years for some seats.
Under distinguished regular conductors which have included Sir Henry Coward, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Sir John Pritchard, Owain Arwel Hughes, Dr Jane Glover, Martyn Brabbins and chorus masters Herbert Bardgett, Nina Walker, Brian Kay, Jonathan Grieves-Smith, Paul Leddington Wright and Joseph Cullen, the choir has developed an international reputation for all that is best in the British tradition of amateur choral signing. Guest conductors have included Vassily Sinaisky, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Sian Edwards, Nicholas Cleobury, Harry Christophers, Mark Elder, Elgar Howarth, Charles Mackerras, Odaline de la Martinez, Vernon Handley and Paul Daniel.
In addition to its regular concerts in Huddersfield Town Hall, the Society has been a regular visitor to London since 1887. It took part in the 1951 Festival of Britain celebrations in the Royal Festival Hall and in recent years has appeared in several Promenade concerts in the Royal Albert Hall. The choir also gives an annual performance of Handel's Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall, an event which has proved highly popular with London audiences in recent years. The choir often performs in other parts of the UK and has also given concerts in many of the world's great musical centres including Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Boston, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bratislava and Brno.
As well as performing the standard choral repertoire, the Society has gained a reputation as a commissioner of new works. Most recently, our Millennium commission from Colin Matthews, entitled Aftertones - Three Landscapes of Edmund Blunden, received its world premiere in May 2000 to great critical acclaim and it set to become a contemporary classic. The society was also responsible for the commissioning of Walton's Gloria for its 125th anniversary in 1961, as well as Vaughan William's Dona Nobis Pacem, Paul Patterson's Stabat Mater, and David Matthews' Vespers.
Other highlights in recent seasons have included a 150th anniversary performance of Mendelssohn's Elijah in Birmingham, several concerts during the opening season of Manchester's Bridgewater Hall, two Centenary performances of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius in 2000, operatic galas with Jose Carreras and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Classical Spectaculars in Huddersfield's McAlpine Stadium and the Newcastle Arena. Ever versatile, members of the choir provided the backing vocals for popular tenor Russell Watson in the first televised concert from Leeds' new Millennium Square in May 2001.
Last season's busy musical calendar also included a concert and CD recording of Walton's Belshazzar's Feast and Gloria under Paul Daniel, a Good Friday radio broadcast from Ely Cathedral, and a welcome return to Cardiff for an appearance in the Welsh Proms to perform the Verdi Requiem at the invitation of our former principal conductor Owain Arwel Hughes.
The choir's reputation is known beyond the Concert Hall through its many CD recordings, and its concerts are regularly broadcast on BBC Radio 2, 3 and 4, including a live Radio 2 broadcast from Huddersfield Town Hall last season. The choir has also been featured on television, including a Royal Variety Performance, a gala concert of Verdi's Requiem, and several Songs of Praise productions - most recently a special Advent edition in 1999 and three consecutive programmes in June 2001. The Russell Watson concert from Millennium Square was also broadcast on prime time BBC1 television on the Spring Bank Holiday in May 2001 reaching an audience of 3.7 million.
In recent years the Internet has opened up new possibilities for international communication, revealing that admirers of The Huddersfield Sound are spread far and wide. Our website attracts regular visits from all over the world and messages of praise are received by email from as far afield as Australia, the USA and ... Halifax (Nova Scotia!) - along with many requests for The Hymns Album, which at last we are able to satisfy with the recent re-release from HMV.
As well as performing in concerts and taking part in recordings, members of the choir participate in regular vocal training sessions with professional singers, occasional workshop weekends and a variety of social events. The choir also supports two successful junior choirs, The Huddersfield Choral Society Youth Choir and Young Voices.