Uttoxeter Choral Society is celebrating its 130th Anniversary with an exciting season of concerts and events. Founded in 1881, Uttoxeter Choral Society is one of the oldest choral societies in the UK and has a continuous tradition of making music which can be matched by very few other societies. Uttoxeter should be proud of its musical heritage! The celebrations begin with a 130th Anniversary Concert at the JCB VIP Visitor Centre in Rocester on 24th November 2012 featuring a traditional performance of Mozart’s Requiem accompanied by a full orchestra and chamber organ.

 Choral Societies became popular in Victorian times as they were seen as a respectable and self-improving leisure activity. Working days were long, and music making became a release from the every-day drudgery, especially in the industrial areas of the North and Midlands. Initially choral societies tended to only be open to men, but by the 1850s using women contraltos became fashionable following the first performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah in 1847. Most societies at this time were fed by local church choirs and auditions were required – rehearsals were very serious and efficient. Societies tended to make use of enthusiastic local choir masters to lead rehearsals and would engage professional conductors for performances.

Uttoxeter Choral Society was founded by Herbert Drury who had also founded the Derby Choral Union in 1866. Initially it was known as Uttoxeter Choral Union and would give joint performances with Stafford Choral Union. It wasn’t until 1924 that the society took on its present name. Singers tended to come from the main local employers, Bamford’s Agricultural, Charles Bunting’s Brewery, Richardson’s Coachbuilders and the corset factory on The Wharf. Originally, the society’s constitution stated that they were to sing Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Handel’s Messiah in alternate years. Fortunately today the choir are allowed a little more variety and sing a full programme from all eras of classical music.

 Uttoxeter Choral Society’s most famous conductor was Sir John Michael Pritchard CBE, who joined the staff at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1947 and then remained there for most of his career. The choir like to think Uttoxeter’s singers gave him a good start on the ladder. In fact, in a review of the concert with him it was said that the chorus was the best that had been heard!

 Two world wars and the changing ways in which we spend our leisure time led to a change in the numbers and composition of the choir and Uttoxeter Choral Society dropped the requirement to audition. It is now an inclusive choir open to anyone who enjoys singing. Choir membership across the country is once more on the rise, thanks to Gareth Malone amongst others, and Uttoxeter’s numbers continue to increase. In contrast to the early days, the choir now has a larger number of female singers and the atmosphere at rehearsals is much lighter with biscuits playing an important part. Despite the lack of auditions, the choir make an impressive sound and receive good vocal coaching from our current professional musical director, Anthony Rose.

 Thanks to the generosity of local businesses, JCB, Mediline Nurses and The Duncombe Arms, the choir have been able to sing their hearts out in this special year by staging Mozart’s Requiem in the way it would have been originally performed. The choir will be accompanied by full orchestra and chamber organ in the impressive surroundings of the JCB VIP Visitor Centre in Rocester. Sections of the choir will be accompanied by a trombonist seated amongst the singers and the choir will be using the Süssmayr score.

 Tickets for the Mozart Requiem 130th Anniversary Concert on Saturday 24th November 2012 at 7.30pm are available online at www.uttoxeterchoralsociety.co.uk , on the door or from Alexandra Scanlon on 01283 732858 and are priced at £10 for the over 16s, under 16s are free. Tickets include interval refreshments. Full Venue Address is JCB VIP Visitor Centre, Lakeside Works, Denstone Road, Rocester ST14 5LS.

Thanks to Alex Scanlon for the info.

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