Wellington Choral Society is marking its 75th anniversary with a concert in St John’s Church on 28 March. The programme includes Mendelssohn’s ‘Hymn of Praise’ and excerpts from Handel’s ‘Messiah’ conducted by Laurence Blyth.
The society was founded in 1940 but choral singing in Wellington was already well-established, going back to the founding of the Harmonic Society in 1871 by William Manley, a local schoolmaster, and cornet player Henry Crowe. However, for more than a decade before that their vocal and instrumental concerts had been taking place in the Town Hall.
By 1931 musical tastes had begun to change and the society was under threat from falling membership. In 1940 it was revived and renamed ‘Wellington Choral Society’ by Andrew Brunton – an industrial chemist employed at Fox Brothers who was well known in the town for his fine tenor voice – and his fellow singers and musicians. In January 1941 Brunton made his debut as Conductor of a concert version of Edward German’s ‘Merrie England’ in Wellington School’s Great Hall.
In 1942 the society and members of the armed services billeted in the town took part in the BBC Forces programme of community hymn-singing broadcast from the Toc H Services Club and introduced by Tiverton-born Frank Gillard, a well-known voice on radio in war-time Britain.
Recruiting new members, particularly for tenor and bass sections in the early years, was often a problem and, from the 1960s onwards, the Society was augmented for some public performances by pupils and staff from Wellington School. As a 15-year-old pupil David Suchet sang in the bass section in a 1962 concert of music by J.S. Bach.
It is worth remembering that, in the past, performances by choral societies provided perhaps the only opportunity for audiences to hear great choral works performed live and Wellington Choral Society played its part in maintaining that tradition. Now, in 2015, thanks to the drive and commitment of talented Music Directors and members’ response to them, the society is able to celebrate its 75th anniversary.
Tickets for the 75th Anniversary Concert on 28 March can we obtained from Nurtured by Nature in South Street, from www.wellingtonchoralsociety.org.uk or from the Information Centre in Taunton Library.