Celebrating 70 years of choral society

Alan French, Victoria Hamilton, Rosslyn French, George Vass

Alan French, Victoria Hamilton, Rosslyn French, George Vass - Credit: Archant

An ambitious programme of concerts designed to reach a larger audience than ever before is being laid on by St Albans Choral Society to mark its 70th anniversary.

The choir, which held its first performance during World War II on 17 December 1944, is staging five concerts over the season including a collection of hymns and anthems on March 1, an Abbey concert on May 9 and a project involving schoolchildren in a new work about St Alban in July.

But before all that, the singers are rehearsing for their Christmas concert at 7pm next Sunday, December 14, in Marlborough Road Methodist Church.

The society’s longest serving members, Rosslyn and Alan French, joined in the late 1950s and recall many of its conductors over the years, including Keith Swanwick and Peter Clulow.

Rosslyn said: “The style of concert wear also changed. It used to be formal evening wear, so the ladies had to either make or buy a long-sleeved black dress. Then in the sixties, as you can see from the old photos we’ve kept from the Herts Advertiser, we wore short dresses. In those days, trousers were only for the men!”

The soprano-and-bass couple said the choir had been “a big part of our lives” and the source of great friendships.

More recent recruit, soprano Victoria Hamilton, said she was attracted by the wide repertoire and the open and friendly nature of the society’s website. She explained: “Singing makes you feel good. I’ve got quite a stressful job and I love the fact that I can forget about work one night a week and do this.”

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The size of the choir has fluctuated over the decades from as few as 40 to as many as 140 members, and today stands at about 110.

George Vass, who has been music director for the past 20 years, said: “It is a real honour to celebrate these 70 years of musical achievement and contribution to the artistic life of St Albans.

“With an increasingly adventurous repertoire of contemporary works carefully balanced with great works of the past, together with some truly magical singing, I’ve seen the society steadily grow into one of the leading choral ensembles performing in Hertfordshire today.”

Tickets for A Christmas Celebration next Sunday are £13 (£1 for children), available from SACS Ticketline on 07884 231958 or online at allaboutstalbans.com.