History of The Wellesbourne Choral Society

 

The idea of forming a choral society was the brainwave of George Faulkner, organist at St. Peter’s Church in Wellesbourne, who had recognised how much local musical talent there was following works performed in the church. A notice was put out, asking anyone interested in forming a choir, to attend a meeting at Wellesbourne School in January 1974. Enough enthusiastic singers came forward to enable the choral society to be a possibility and their first work was The Crucifixion by John Stainer, performed in St. Peter’s Church that year.

Following the success of this performance, a formal decision was made to launch the society, with its constitution stating that its object was “ to give pleasure and enjoyment to its members and others in the study and performance of music in all its aspects”. George Faulkner was elected Musical Director and a committee was formed.

The first president of the society was Roy Smart, a talented musician and composer, who was very supportive of the society from its inception. Roy composed many works, some of which were written especially for the society, including an Easter work, which the society performed in 1977.

Rehearsals have always been on a Tuesday evening and in the early days, were held at Wellesbourne School. Since then, over the years, the society has also used the Church Hall, the Methodist School Room, the Village Hall, the Church Rooms, the Methodist Church and even the first floor Music Room at Pitt House in Chestnut Square, which belonged to its then president, Judge Lind-Smith.

Rehearsals began at 7.30pm and usually finished at 9.30pm although if they were going badly, they might even go on until 10pm! Auditions for new members were held before the rehearsal started in both September and April, with the annual subscription being 50p.

Concerts were performed, and indeed still are, three times a year with content to suit the season – Christmas, Easter and in the summer, a collection of music on a lighter theme. One performance would be in Wellesbourne with a second or third at another venue, often by request. Most of these concerts have been used to raise money for charities and many thousands of pounds have been donated over the years. A request was also received from the ‘International Friendship League’ for the society to participate in a service of Nine Lessons and Carols to be held at the Guild Chapel in Stratford-upon-Avon. This annual event was to continue for almost thirty years.

Initially, the choir had no uniform but by 1976, they had decided that this should be rectified. A large quantity of maroon material was purchased and each of the ladies made their own full–length pinafore dress, underneath which they could wear a white blouse in the summer or a jumper in the winter. The gentlemen wore a dark lounge suit or a dinner jacket, a white shirt and a red bow tie to match the ladies dresses. This uniform continued until the 1991/2 season, when, because the society no longer had material to make up dresses for new female members, the ladies made the change to a long black skirt and a white blouse.

The number of members of the society has fluctuated over the years. Within the first two or three years of its formation, the singing members totalled fifty five but there have generally been between thirty and forty. Supporters of the society were encouraged to become patrons and by paying an annual fee, were then able to have concert tickets at a reduced rate. Free life membership could also be conferred on anyone giving outstanding service to the society.

The society has had many of its concerts reported in the local press and from an early stage, it was decided to keep a scrapbook of these, along with a copy of the programme. After more than thirty six years, this is now a valuable record of the history of the society.

In 1999, after twenty five years as Musical Director, George decided to hang up his baton. However, the society was fortunate in having a very able deputy, in Margaret Cox, who was willing to continue with the work that George had started.

Wellesbourne Choral Society has been described as “The best thing that happened to Wellesbourne”.  All of the members would agree with that.