Choir history and photos

December 2018: Charpentier, Handel & CPE Bach

Photographs by Mike Booth

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December 2015: Handel's Messiah

Photographs by kind permission of Rev. Jeremy Fletcher

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The East Riding County Choir was formed in 1957, originally under the auspices of the East Riding County Education Committee. It has been an independent self-funding body since 1978. 

The East Riding County Choir had its inaugural meeting during the Summer 1957, and the first rehearsal took place in October of that year conducted by Walter Hart, the County Music Adviser. The choir at that time consisted of 35 members drawn from across the County at the personal invitation of Mr Hart. Rehearsals were held fortnightly on Saturday afternoons starting at 2 p.m. and finishing at 7 p.m. with a break during which a cooked meal was provided. Some members travelled considerable distances to attend rehearsals in the days when few people owned cars.

The choir placed emphasis on unaccompanied part singing, and covered an ambitious repertoire from a variety of composers. They gave two or three performances a year in halls and churches in different parts of the East Riding.  They also supported the annual performance of Messiah in Beverley Minster, when local Evening Institute choirs joined together to augment the Choir.

After Walter Hart left the area to take up a post in Leeds in 1961, the choir was conducted by Peter Fletcher. He continued the tradition of singing unaccompanied, but increased the size of the choir to about 50 singers in order to perform larger works with orchestra as well, such as Brahms Requiem as part of the St John of Beverley Festival. After he left in 1966 Douglas Marshall, deputy conductor for many years, trained the choir for a short period before Keith Dixon was appointed in 1967.  He was succeeded in 1969 by Dr. Alan Spedding, Beverley Minster organist and choirmaster. During this time the membership increased to over 100, and most of the major choral works were performed.  

When it was founded, members paid an annual subscription fee of 10 shillings (50p), which was increased to £1 in 1973. Concert deficits were approved by the County Music Committee and paid by the Council, so the choir had no financial worries. However, in 1977, after financial support had been withdrawn by Humberside County Council, it was necessary for the choir to become an independent body. With the bank balance at that time standing at £212.13, and a concert costing around £900, serious consideration had to given as to whether the choir could continue. At the Extraordinary General Meeting, there was overwhelming support from members, who undertook many fund-raising efforts to raise the necessary money as well as approving a 500% increase in subscription. Two ‘Meet the County Choir Days’ took place in Beverley library, when members demonstrated their varied talents, apart from singing, which raised the profile of the choir as well as making money. The choir is now self-sufficient by subscriptions, grants and fund-raising activities.

Following Alan Spedding's death in 2014, Dr. Colin Wright, previously Accompanist and Deputy Conductor, took over as Music Director until retiring in 2020.

The choir still draws its members from all over the East Riding, and, apart from two major concerts in Beverley Minster, occasionally gives smaller concerts in rural churches by invitation. Although it is a very different body from that originally established, Walter Hart’s objective of ‘meeting for the enjoyment of singing’ is still the choir’s aim.