MALVERN MALE VOICE CHOIR 1922 - 2022
Coronavirus has changed our plans for our forthcoming centenary. When things are more settled our plans will be detailed here.
CELEBRATE WITH US!
Schedule of events and activities will be listed here
Above: The earliest known photograph of the MMVC, taken in 1926, just four years after the choir was started.
Above: Taken in 1944 with the three American Servicemen who joined the MMVC while based at RSRE. Conducted by Dorothy Bayman LRAM.
OUR HISTORY (In Memoriam Don Sumner)
In 1997 our then Chairman, Don Sumner compiled the following account.
The Choir began as a Quartet in Malvern Wells in 1922. The original members were Messrs F Holbrook (baritone), B Hirons (2nd tenor). AF Evans (bass) and L Woodward (1st tenor). Mr H Gauntlett was their conductor.
Within a year the Quartet expanded to become the Malvern Wells Male Voice Choir with the Quartet continuing to sing at concerts and in competitions. The Choir won the Ainsworth Cup at Leamington in 1924 and Mr Gauntlett won the Conductor's Challenge Cup. At the same festival in 1926 they won the Grason Challenge Cup.
The Quartet also had successes in the same events winning the Bennett Challenge Cup in the Open Competition in 1923 as well as 1924 and 1926.
The Choir at that time had a strict rule regarding attendance at practices. The Minutes for 1934 include a motion 'Any member absent from practice for two consecutive weeks without reasonable excuse shall be dealt with by the committee'. A probationary period of three months before a new member could take part in concerts came in force in 1934.
In 1936 Mr Gauntlett, who had been conductor since 1922, resigned and a Mr Stockall took charge, to be paid £10 per annum. It is on the record that he returned £5 saying he thought the funds could riot stand the full £10!
A crisis hit the Choir that year since a Special Meeting was held in April to discuss 'the lack of interest shown by the small numbers present at the last few rehearsals and to give members an opportunity to express their views'. It appears that the members had no confidence in the new conductor and resignation followed. His place was taken by Mr JA Davison.
For a couple of years the Choir, now known as the Malvern Male Voice Choir, continued to give many concerts but the members became divided over the amount of time devoted to choral singing as opposed to the normal male voice repertoire. A compromise was reached and arrangements were being made to participate in a festival at Cheltenham when the outbreak of war brought the activities of the Choir to an end, although it is possible that members did keep in touch. The Choir was re-started in 1944 with some American servicemen from the near-by establishments taking part. The conductor was Dorothy Bayman LRAM who was known professionally as Dorothy Leatherdale.
A programme of a concert given for the Duke of Gloucester's Penny-a Week Fund shows that the American trio sang some Negro spirituals. A photo of the Choir at the time is held.
When Mrs Leatherdale returned to Essex in 1945, Mr Harold Broadbent took charge. The Minutes of the AG.M welcomed back members returning from the forces - Messrs Barber, Tompkins and Hinton.
In 1946 the Choir commenced its long association with the Baptist Church. As had been the procedure pre-war, the AGMs were always preceded by a meal. On December 1st 1947 this was held at the Promenade Restaurant presided over by Leonard Blake who had taken over the conductorship in 1946 when the Boys College returned to Malvern from Harrow on the Hill. He was the Musical Director at the College and this began a long association between the College and the Choir. At the AGM the use of lounge suits as uniform was adopted due to the evening suits becoming somewhat well worn and replacements not available. A BBC broadcast was made on December 29 from the Baptist Church but no details are available (further broadcasts were to be made in 1948 and '49). The contents of the latter are in the archives.
During the next few years entries were made, with some success, in competitions at Cheltenham, Leamington and Bristol. The Treasurer's Reports of the time make interesting reading. The 1952 balance was £6.11.7d "thus continuing the solvency which has been a feature of the Choir from its beginning." The annual subscription was fifteen shillings and the music bill for the year was £8.16.4d (today one piece of music for 25 members could cost over £50.
After nine years Mr Blake resigned as the conductor to be replaced by Mr Hindmarsh. However, Mr Blake became the Choir's President, a post he held until his death in 1989. In 1955 the Choir joined the National Federation of Music Societies and had a success at the Bournville Competition. It was also the year the Choir commenced its long association with Lawnside School.
One of the principal concerts in 1957 was a joint concert at Malvern College with the Malvern Scots Club, Malvern Swordsmen and Folk Dancers from Provence.
In 1958 the Choir again won the Grayson Cup at Leamington, as it had done in 1926 and 1951. A concert was arranged in October 1962 for the British and Foreign Bible Society. 650 tickets were sold and a sum of £92 was raised. Also in that year the Choir won the Bournville Shield. A photograph of the Choir with the Shield appeared in the Malvern Gazette. At the end of the year the Choir lost the services of Mr Hindmarsh when he left the College to become Director of Music at Brighton College.
Once again the College provided a replacement in Mr Gordon Lawson.
A new venue for the Choir in 1963 was the Llangollen Eisteddfod where they joined choirs from many countries including Germany, Italy, Norway, Yugoslavia, Greece, Canada, USA and of course Wales. No prizes resulted but the Minutes state 'it had been well worthwhile and a most interesting experience'.
In 1965 the Choir competed at Cheltenham and for the third time also obtained the Bournville Shield. A joint concert was held in aid of the British Empire Cancer Campaign. The other organisations being the Malvern Light Opera Society and Malvern Opera and Ballet Club. There was a full symphony orchestra conducted by Albert Webb.
1966 saw the Choir win the Taylor Cup at Cheltenham but this success was tempered by unexpectedly coming last at Boumville. That this should happen to the Choir just before Mr Lawson left was a cause of regret for the Choir. As did his predecessor he took up the post of M.D. at Brighton College. Mr Blake stepped in to conduct until Mr David Hart, from the Chase School, took over. He arranged the first of two Christmas concerts with the Malvern Junior Music Makers conducted by Raymond Mills. Soloists were Shirley Lewis and Carol Hart. The following year the Choir was successful in gaining the Trophy in the Open Class at Bristol Eisteddfod.
Early in 1972 Mr Hart tendered his resignation after a period of six years to become conductor of the Worcester Operatic Society. The Choir's accompanist, Mr Robert Smith (again from the College), stepped into the breach in what was the Choir's 50th Anniversary Year and so a busy one. Celebrations included a concert in the Priory with a 'get together' afterwards at the Abbey Hotel attended by serving and ex-members, local dignitaries and others who had helped the Choir in the past. Early in the year the miners' strike caused the postponement of a concert due to heat and light problems. It is worth noting that two of the original Quartet were still members - Basil Hirons (78) and Fred Holbrook (86), the latter having been Secretary and Treasurer throughout the fifty years! During the year a success was achieved at Hereford. September saw the departure of the conductor to a post in Wales. The year ended with what was probably the first joint concert with the Chase High School Brass band (conductor John Harris).
Once again the College provided a new conductor – Mr Robin Wedderburn who was to stay for five years. Mr Holbrook's service with the Choir came to an end in 1974 when he died aged 88. Another long-serving member, Arthur Hinton, took over the dual role of Secretary/Treasurer. The next five years saw the Choir continuing to give many concerts, most of them for charities and Church funds.
1979 saw the end of the long association with the College when Robin Wedderburn was succeeded by Nigel Edwards as conductor.
The Diamond Jubilee of the Choir came in 1982. The year commenced with a success in the preliminary round of the 'Severn Sound' Male Voice Competition. Following on from this the Choir joined with others in forming a Regional association of Male Voice Choirs with a mass concert following in Cheltenham. A later concert in Hereford Cathedral, where a record was made, had an audience of 2,500. The eight Choirs were joined by the Band of the Royal Marines, Flag Officer Plymouth (proceeds were for the 22 SAS Regt. and HMS Antelope Fund).
In October the Choir competed against the Hereford Police Choir in the 'Severn Sound' final, winning the Challenge Shield. The year was rounded off with a dinner at the Worcestershire Golf Club preceded by a concert in St Peter's Church, Malvern Wells.
The last remaining member of the Quartet, Mr Basil Hirons, died aged 89 after a short spell in hospital. On the same day, March 5, the Choir were in a massed concert at Tewkesbury Abbey. The year ended with a Festival of Remembrance Concert at the Festival Theatre with members of other Choirs, totalling about 300 voices. This was the first of such concerts which have continued to this day although the number of voices is now less.
The next five years contained the usual concerts but no competition work. In February 1988 the Choir was shocked by the sudden death of Arthur Hinton bringing to an end a period of 66 years during which they had had only two Secretaries and Treasurers. The posts of Secretary and Treasurer were taken by Stan Hayman and Jim Holt respectively. Arrangements had to be made to transfer the music library from Mr Hinton's house to the Baptist Church Room. A new departure that year was a joint production by some of the men with the Lawnside School to sing parts of Handel's Messiah. A second innovation was to hold a 'master class' at the Adult College in an attempt to obtain new members. Two Association concerts were held - one in Worcester Cathedral and another in Bristol - the latter causing some disquiet for a number of reasons. Two more events were taking part in the Elgar Festival and the now traditional concert at Lawnside.
After 44 years association with the Choir, Mr Leonard Blake passed away in the summer of 1989. At the following AGM Carol Holt, who had been associated with the Choir as soloist, accompanist and 'stand-in' conductor was elected President. For a number of reasons outlined in the Minutes, the Choir resigned from the Association.
Stephen Shorthouse staged the first of a series of 'themed' concerts in 1990, the title being 'Swing low', tracing the development of the Negro Spiritual. It was a financial success raising £232. A cheque for £120 was sent to St Richard's Hospice.
Due to pressure of work at BBC Hereford and Worcester, Nigel Edwards was reluctantly forced to give up the baton after a spell of 11 years. His place was taken by Simon Holt. His first major jobs were the Remembrance Concert and a Memorial Concert to Leonard Blake, when the Choir was joined at the College by the Festival Chorus. Mr Blake had been the conductor of the Malvern Musical Society, the forerunner of the Chorus.
After a long time without a permanent accompanist, Mr Philip Holland now filled that post and a great rapport was struck between him and Simon. Their piano duets were memorable. Stephen's second production 'A-Roving' used the sea as its theme. Again it was a success and a cheque for £200 was handed over to St Michaels's Hospice. Regretfully, soon after, Simon informed the Choir that he could no longer carry on as conductor after December due to lack of time to devote to Choir work. Our President found a new conductor, Mr Anthony Digger, who took over in January 1992.
Despite shortage of members, the third 'themed' concert ‘Just a Song at Twilight' was staged based on Kilvert's Diaries and with a Victorian setting. Philip Holland had to take over the conductorship at short notice due to Mr Diggers's absence overseas. At the Remembrance Concert the Choir were joined by Colwall Ladies.
The following year at a concert in Leigh church, Alan Tonks now aged 90 and still singing, was presented with a tankard, scroll and birthday cake. The major concert took the form of a 'Musical Tour of the British Isles'. During the year the Choir was again without an accompanist and Cherry Gray was 'volunteered' by her husband John, to sit in on a temporary basis (this was to last until 1996 when Sue Jones joined as accompanist).
In 1995 the devastating news came of the death of our President Carol Holt aged 55. Her association with the Choir went back over 20 years, but the Choir was fortunate to have her son Simon agree to take on the Presidency. Another sad blow was the death of Bert Rodway after 57 years membership as a valuable first tenor. On the concert scene another cooperative effort was with the Colwall Ladies Choir when Faure's 'Cantique de Jean Racine' was jointly sung. The increase in membership, commenced in 1994, continued with more new members - including welcome tenors.
At the Remembrance Concert we were joined by the 'Minor Chords', a ladies group who sing a mixture of comedy, close harmony, classical and folk music. A concert in aid of the Association for the Blind was given following the earlier death of Ken Longmire who had close links with the Association, due to his mother's blindness. Two new venues for Christmas music were Worcester City Street Fair and Madresfield Garden Centre.
During 1996, the membership stood around 25 with, for the first time, the number of tenors equal to basses, giving a much better balance. The now much younger average age was very welcome and augured well for the future.
Again the Choir was saddened by the passing of a valuable member, Stephen Shorthouse.
OUR HISTORY (The Last 25 Years)
Don finished his report in 1997 with the following:
And so to 1997. At the time of writing we have this Anniversary Concert (March 21st), a concert at the Priory for the Malvern Lions, followed by a concert with the pupils of Tewkesbury Church of England School. The annual Festival of remembrance will be led by ourselves and the Malvern Hills and District Brass band on Saturday 1st November and we intend to organise a dinner and group photo. It is also hoped to make a record and perform a specially commissioned work. On April 12, members will be joining the Cradley Singers and others in the Priory in a concert to commemorate the life and work of Carol Holt.
In conclusion I would like to wish the Choir every success in the next 25 years to come.
Encore. A quote attributed to the formidable Mr Gauntlett when he first heard the Quartet in 1922: "If they stuck to it for another 10 years they might be half as good as they thought they were."
Further sections will be added soon to bring this account right up to date for our Centenary in 2022
On the right can be seen the programme for that 75th Anniversary Concert in 1997. Only 3 pieces are in our repertoire for the current season.