Bedford Choral Society -  150th Anniversary  - Outreach and Future

Celebrating 150 Years of Singing

Bedford Choral Society -  150th Anniversary
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Outreach and Future

During this 150th Anniverary Year we are actively promoting the choral society - to increase public awareness of the choir and to encourage both overall new membership and, in particular, to tempt more younger people into the choir. As we know, there is medical evidence nowadays on the overall advantages to health of singing - escpecially when this is part of a choir where singing becomes a social activity as well. Here are some of the ways in which we have sort to promote the choir.

Schools choral workshops

During our anniverary year we have made a concerted effort to engage more with younger singers and would-be singers in the Bedford area. One approach has been to provide a number of short singing workshops at various local schools. These were led by our Director of Music, Ian Smith, and assisted by a number of vounteer members of the choir. The schools chosen included Biddenham, Thomas Moore and Mark Rutherford. We have worked with music teachers in these schools to encourage young people to sing and for the teachers to keep the Choral Society in mind for the future musical development of their students. We have suggested that individual singers might like to join the choir at our annual University Carol Concert which we hold in St Paul's Bedford during Devember in which we support staff and students in their singing. We also may have a stall at Freshers' Week at the University of Bedfordshire. More of these choral workshops may be planned for 2018.

The Society's Chamber Choir

Members of the Chamber Choir at a rehearsal and at a performance.
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We have an active Chamber Choir made up of singers from the Choral Society. We perform at weddings and other special events throughout the year. Before Christmas we have a regular booking at Woburn Abbey where the Chamber Choir provides carol singing for various social events that are held there. We also perform annually at St Paul’s church in Bedford as part of the Christmas carol service held for Bedfordshire University. Both staff and students of the university take part in this service. We also usually sing at Bedford Hospital during the Christmas season.

Bedfordshire Festival of Music, Speech and Drama

The Bedfordshire Festival of Music, Speech and Drama was founded in 1921 and provides a showcase for the wealth of talent in the amateur performing arts in Bedfordshire and the surrounding area. The Festival offers a wide range of classes for all ages covering most musical genres including Classical, Musical Theatre, Jazz and Asian music, as well as many varied Speech and Drama classes including Verse Speaking, Acting, Mime and Improvisation. It features categories for school groups, Special School groups, orchestras, wind bands, junior and senior choirs and group creative performance. The Festival takes place at the Bedford Corn Exchange during the first week of March each year. The Choral Society sponsored an award at the Bedford Festival of Music and Drama for the best-performing junior choir. This year, 2017, the award was made to Bedford Modern School Junior Choir This choir will be invited to join us for our Christmas concert. See: www.bedfordshirefestival.org.uk

Social events

Each month the choir now make part of our regular Monday rehearsal a social event with time to members (and prospective new members) to chat, drink tea or coffee, eat cake (generously made by members of the choir) and get to know each other better. We regard this as an important new initiative (missed in the past) and it has become both very popular and is genuinely seen as benefical to the choir. A number of choir members have banded together to compile a super recipe booklet called 'Cakes for the Choir' based on recipes for the many delicious cakes made for a our social event. It is felt that this has given the choir rehearsals a more releaxed and informal nature and this has been happily received. We make a point of welcoming new members. A special 150th Anniversary garden party was held during August for all members of the choir - past and present.

The Higgins Museum, Bedford

A spendid display has been created in the Higgins Museum, Bedford, called "Great Bedfordians" and this has included a specific display on the story of Bedford Choral Society since its creation in 1867. The choir's time-line of 150 years and included a young women's choir in the 1920s (the Mary Palmre Choir). Here are some pictures from the exhibition:

The text panels show our connections with local schools and businesses, the BBC and international musicians. There is even a photograph of the organ that the choir sponsored long ago in the Corn Exchange - sadly removed some years later.

The choir would like to say thank you for all the careful research done by Mike Benson on the choir's history, early planning by Ian Smith two years ago, and further hard work by Lydia Saul with the talented staff at the Higgins Museum and Bedfordshire Archives.

The exhibition should run to the end of 2017 and is well worth a visit to learn just how many people created, maintained, revived and sustained our Choral Society, all for the joy of singing.

For more information, please look at the website for the Higgins Museum at www.thehigginsbedford.org.uk

Choral singing workshops

Also, as part of an on-going programme of vocal training for members of Bedford Choral Society, the choir holds at least one vocal training day each year. This year in November we welcome the return of Ben Goodson to lead an all-day rehearsal of Elgar's 'The Kingdom'. Details appear elsewhere on this webste.

Earlier this year (March) we were pleased to hold a vocal workshop lead by Christine Bunning which was useful, highlyenjoyable and well-received by the choir.

Bedford Choral Society have also agreed to run a choral singing workshop in September 2017, during the student induction week, at the University of Bedfordshire a s part of the college's Health and Wellbeing programme. Choir volunteers will help the students with the singing. Tim Grant-Jones our Assistant Chorus Master will lead and accompany the workshop. Our aim is to encourage students to sign up to improve their health and wellbeing through singing. We will offer advice if the students want to set up their own university choir and invite any who are able and interested to come and sing with Bedford Choral Society.

Our concerts over the next few years

  • March 2018
    Brahms – Song of Destiny
    Brahms – Academic Festival Overture
    Vaughn Williams – ‘Toward the Unknown Region’
    Fauré - Requiem

  • June 2018
    Rossini – Petite Messe Solennelle
  • November 2018
    Haydn - Creation

  • March 2019
    Dvorak – Stabat Mater

  • June 2019
    Bizet – Te Deum
    Bizet – Symphony in C
    Puccini – Messa di Gloria

  • November 2019
    Schubert – Magnificat
    Schubert – Symphony No.5
    Schubert – Mass in A flat

  • December 2019
    Carol Concert

  • March 2020
    Dove – Köthener Mass
    Elgar – Serenade for Strings
    Holst – 2 Psalms (86, 148)
    Purcell – O sing unto the Lord
    Stanford – Magnificat
    Finzi – Dies Natalis

  • June 2020
    Gershwin – Porgy and Bess selection
    Disney selection
    Rogers and Hammerstein selection

  • November 2020
    Haydn – The Seasons

Page updated: August 2017

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