About The Society
President: Roger Harvey OBE
Conductor and Artistic Director: John Pryce-Jones
Halifax Choral Society is proud to be one of the most eminent names of the UK choral tradition.
The Choir is fast approaching its bicentenary season in 2017-18, and has ambitious plans which include a completely new full-scale oratorio commission from composer Philip Wilby, and some truly splendid concerts featuring the very best of choral music.
When the idea of a permanent large choir was first suggested in 1817 by founder William Priestley (eminent Halifax musician, antiquary and literary gentleman wool-merchant) he could hardly have foreseen that the Halifax Choral Society would still be going strong into the Third Millennium. Nor could he have envisaged it surviving to become the world’s oldest amateur choral society with an unbroken record of performance.
Throughout the nineteenth century the choir played a prominent part in the musical and social life of Halifax, a growing mill town, contributing to the many civic and national celebrations which typified Imperial Britain. The twentieth century brought the choir the major challenges of keeping going through two world wars, and the challenges of the advent of radio, TV, the gramophone, and now the internet, CDs and DVDs, in their era all new avenues for the Choral Society to explore and use to reach new audiences.
Since its inception, the HCS has been associated with the highest order of music making. A list of conductors (by no means exhaustive) needs no further comment: Hans Richter; Sir Henry Wood, Malcolm Sargent; Owain Arwel Hughes; Stanford Robinson; Sir Charles Groves; Sir Hubert Parry; Sir George Dyson; Richard Hickox; Paul Daniel; Mark Elder. Nor is a representative list of soloists any the less impressive: Heddle Nash; Walter Widdup; Isobel Bailey; Webster Booth; Elsie Suddaby; Stiles Allen; Roy Henderson; Gladys Ripley; Robert Easton; Owen Brannigan; Janet Baker; Brian Rayner-Cook; Raymond Herricx; John Mitchinson; Jill Gormez; Robert Tear; John Shirley Quirk; Peter Pears; Sir Thomas Allen; Michael Chance.
Throughout its long history the Society has also worked with first class orchestras including the Hallé, Northern Philharmonic; CBSO; many of the BBC’s orchestras, the Hanover Band, the Orchestra of Opera North, the Manchester Concert Orchestra, the Northern Sinfonia and the North of England Concert Orchestra. The HCS has also enjoyed a close professional relationship with the world famous Black Dyke Band whose base is just up the road from Halifax.
JOHN PRYCE-JONES HCS Conductor and Artistic Director
Born: South Wales
- Penarth,Worcester Royal Grammar School andCorpus Christi College Cambridge.
- Studied with George Hurst and Rafael Kubelik.
- Worked with: Welsh National Opera, Opera North (founder Chorus master) Scottish Opera (Head of Music), D’Oyly Carte Opera Co.(MD), Northern Ballet Theatre (MD), Artistic Director NOEL (Northern Orchestral Enterprises Ltd.) which runs the Yorkshire Youth Choir and Orchestra and many singing groups.
- Has conducted throughout the UK with many of the major orchestras, and overseas in eleven other countries
- Is an Honorary Doctor of Letters of Huddersfield University.
- Has received several awards for his recordings including a record of the year award from the Gramophone magazine in December 2000 for Northern Ballet Theatre’s ballet Great Expectations.
- In 2005 led an International Conductor’s master class in Italy and in the same year conducted the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra in the Bangkok Music Festival.
- John is married to a musician, Alison, who teaches and conducts numerous choirs, and has two children – a son, Rodric, who plays lead guitar in the successful rock band Idlewild, and a teenage daughter, Catrin, who is studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
DAVID HOULDER Principal Accompanist
David Houlder was born in Liverpool but is also a proud Prestonian being educated at Preston Grammar School. There he studied organ with John Robinson, gaining his ARCO at the age of 16 and FRCO a year later.
He read music at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge for his M.A. degree, continuing his organ studies with Arnold Richardson in London.
He embarked upon a teaching career as music master at Wirral Grammar School for Boys. From 1981 to 1999 he was Director of Music at Liverpool’s historic Blue Coat School.
In 1987 he was appointed Sub-Organist of Liverpool Cathedral. In 2001 he enjoyed a stint as acting Assistant Organist of York Minster.
During the course of his career he has played the organ at every English cathedral, the last one being added to his tally in 2008.
Currently, David is Sub-Organist at Leeds Parish Church. He has appeared in television broadcasts with the LPC Choir and recorded several CDs under the genial baton of Dr. Simon Lindley.
He is a regular organ recitalist at all the major venues in Yorkshire. He also specialises in organ and piano transcriptions of orchestral scores.
In addition, he directs the Choral Society at Leeds College of Music.
His non-musical interests include shipping, railways and photography.