The world's oldest choral society. Making music continuously since 1817

Welcome to Halifax Choral Society

News — 2020-2021  –  the 203rd season



The Rt Hon. the Lord Shutt of Greetland OBE

Halifax Choral Society was greatly saddened to learn of the death on 30th October 2020 of its Board Chairman, Lord David Shutt of Greetland. David had been admitted to hospital suffering from a serious infection, but not the initially suspected Covid -19 virus. Given the current restrictions, his wife was only able to visit him there intermittently for short periods, over the relatively short period of his serious illness.

Lord Shutt was an outstanding man of great kindness, enthusiasm, integrity and wisdom who gave the Society and its music-making his enthusiastic and imaginative support. He was appointed Chairman of the HCS Board of Management in Autumn 2017. During his all but brief period of tenure he proved himself to be a beneficial force of nature, providing firm leadership and direction in a pivotal time in our Society’s history. He will be sorely missed.

The Choir extends our heartfelt sympathy to his wife and three children at this sad time, and David is very much in our thoughts and prayers.



Our singers were busy during lockdown earlier in the year with weekly online rehearsals.  This was something of a learning curve but one the Choir was ready to embrace as it allowed us to carry on singing!

Not only that, we also produced this magnificent online performance of the famous chorus The Heavens are Telling from Haydn’s oratorio The Creation.  Each singer contributed an individual performance, recorded alone at home using an accompaniment recorded especially for the project by Jenny Martin our accompanist.  Special thanks are also due to Jenny for the careful work of combining the performances together to produce the final video, interspersed with fine views of Calderdale.

This was the very first work performed by the Society back in the spring of 1818.

Covid-19 – Although our 2020-21 performance season has been suspended due to the pandemic, we were able resume Covid-safe rehearsals during September and October 2020.

We will resume our concerts when circumstances permit. 

Our third century of unbroken performance.  This makes the Society unique, no other choral society in the world has been in regular performance as long.  When the Society was founded Napoleon Bonaparte was living in exile on St Helena! 

 


Philip Collin  Conductor and Artistic Director of Halifax Choral Society

Following the retirement of John Pryce-Jones in the autumn of 2019, the Society appointed Philip Collin to be our new conductor and artistic director in March 2020

Philip Collin was Organ Scholar of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.

He then took a post-graduate diploma in piano accompaniment at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he studied with John York while taking part in regular classes with Iain Burnside and Graham Johnson.

Since then he has worked extensively as a vocal coach, repetiteur, adjudicator, organist and conductor, and performed as a song accompanist throughout the UK and Europe.

As an accompanist he has been a champion of English song, twice performing the complete works of Gerald Finzi in 2006 (the fiftieth anniversary of the composer’s death) and giving the first performance of many songs, most notably by Ian Venables and Elaine Hugh-Jones and some unpublished songs by Ivor Gurney.

He has had a varied career as a performer, including playing and singing on a number of pop recordings, playing the organ on the Academy Award-winning soundtrack to Gravity and piano on the 2014 film, Fury.

As a choral conductor, he has previously been Musical Director of Manchester Bach Choir, West Barnes Singers and Carshalton Choral Society and Director of Music at several churches, most notably St Peter’s, Streatham, home of one of the finest church choirs in the country.

Since relocating from London to Yorkshire in 2017, he has been Musical Director of St Peter’s Consort, one of Yorkshire’s premier chamber choirs and Director of Music at St Matthew’s, Carver Street, Sheffield as well as working as a full time maths teacher at UTC Sheffield. 


CATALOGUES OF CONCERTS and WORKS PERFORMED since 1818

We are delighted to offer a comprehensive catalogue of concerts from 1957 to the present day.  Click here to view:  Catalogue of Performances from 1957

We would very much like to hear from anyone who perhaps has memories of some of the older concerts or even old programmes or other such material.  Click here to email us: past concerts message 

A simpler list of the works performed each year from 1818 until 1957 can be found here: Works performed each year between 1818 and 1957 

The Society’s inaugural public performance was on Monday 9th February 1818 in the Old Court House, Halifax (now the site of the Borough Market).

Board member Nigel Castledine writes (July 2020),

“In its earliest years, at its public performances, HCS usually performed a ‘selection’ of choruses chiefly from Handel oratorios. It was necessary to repeat music as the chorus had to sing from memory, printed scores of choral music being scarce and very expensive for the average working man or woman. Records are inevitably incomplete, although Messiah (either in a ‘complete’ form or as selected sections) has been sung annually by HCS for over 200 years. In the earliest days, solos were sung by members of the choir. This is how one of the HCS sopranos, Mrs Susan Sunderland, began her remarkable professional career as an acclaimed soloist, to be later awarded the title of ‘the Queen of Song’ by Queen Victoria after she sang in Buckingham Palace with other members of HCS.

Generally, audiences were intentionally small, with both performers and listeners paying a subscription to attend these quite frequent performances, very often in the assembly rooms of the Talbot Inn in the old Woolshops, Halifax.

The HCS had its own amateur orchestra, made up of local musicians, including the founder, William Priestley. He hand-wrote the programmes until printed programmes (known as a Book of Words) were introduced in 1822. He also copied out the musicians’ parts by hand, until musical scores became much more widely available, as the number of societies like HCS gradually increased and flourished across the UK.

It is significant that Monday remains the night on which HCS meets to sing, a tradition that links the present day with the earliest days of the choir and its first performance.”


 

The Society is proud and delighted to be taking ‘centre stage’ in the new West Yorkshire Archive Service exhibition – Treasures of The Archive.  Admission is free.  The exhibition will run until autumn 2020 and may include special events such as family fun days and lectures from time to time (please check with the venue for the latest news).  The exhibition will focus on much previously unseen archive material featuring Halifax Choral Society.  A unique event!

Venue – West Yorkshire History Centre   127 Kirkgate  Wakefield WF1 1JG
Email: wakefield@wyjs.org.uk    Tel: +44 (0)113 5350142
Opening hours  Monday 9.30am-5.00pm; Tuesday 9.30am-5.00pm; Thursday 9.30am-5.00pm; Friday 9.30am-5.00pm

Web: West Yorkshire History Centre website  – for full venue details, further news and updates!

[Due to pandemic restrictions please contact the Archives using the details above before planning a visit]


Yorkshire Post interview with historian Dr John Hargreaves – author of Every Valley Shall Be Exalted, the comprehensive official history of The Society.  In this interview John Hargreaves discusses some interesting facets of the Society’s story, including the links between our founder, William Priestley and Anne Lister, ‘Gentleman Jack’ of Shibden Hall, Halifax.  Read it here: the story of Every Valley Shall Be Exalted 
 
A few copies of the book are still available – to enquire please visit our online shop by clicking here: shop

Localgiving   Our Localgiving page is here (link opens a new page/tab)Please donate to help us to keep singing for another 200 years


Its members come from many walks of life but share a true passion for bringing music to life.

Throughout its long history, the Choir has performed almost every major choral work in the repertoire.  Halifax Choral Society has always aimed high and performed with first-rate orchestras, soloists and conductors.  Looking through the annals of the Society is to turn back the pages of musical history of the past two centuries.  If you are interested in singing with us, complete the form on this page to receive more information, or contact the Administrator

Twitter social media linkFacebook social media linkGoogle+ social media linkLinkedin social media linkLink to the hcs blog