A Brief History of the Choir
Society was formed in the spring of 1967 by a group inspired by
Mrs Doris Jeffries and ably supported by Bill Dixon and Tom Roberts.
The first concert was performed in July at St Hilda's Church, Whitby,
and the first concert in Guisborough at Park Lane Infants School
in 1968 Miss Celia Matthews was appointed as Conductor, and in the
next few years the Choir competed successfully in many Festivals
and competitions. The most notable achievement was in winning the
national Music Festival in 1973. The first major work to be performed
was Handel's "Messiah", in 1971.
Society has had a long-standing relationship with Botton Village,
beginning in 1972. We have participated in their celebrations, notably
the 50th Jubilee years of the Camphill Trust in 1990 and of Botton
Village itself in 2005, and we welcome their residents as regular
members of our audience.
first performance with an orchestra was Haydn's "Creation".
For a number of years we had the services of various Youth Orchestras
and local Brass Bands, but since 1991 we have been delighted to
find that there are many talented musicians in the area who can
be brought together to form the "The Priory Symphonia",
usually under the leadership of Christopher Haigh. Often there have
been talented young musicians in the ensemble, who have gone on
to rise in the music profession.
a brief spell of leadership by Miss Janet Pearson (now Mrs Janet
Harbottle) Mr Ernest Dale became our conductor in 1979 for the next
ten years, expanding our repertoire to include several large-scale
works, and bringing a series of young professional singers as soloists.
1988 Sheila Stubley became our Conductor. Sheila had earlier formed
the Langbaurgh Youth Choir and Orchestra, who shared the programme
and joined us often thereafter, especially at Christmas. Sheila
continued the pattern of performing a variety of concerts featuring
major and minor works until she was forced by injury in a car accident
to retire in 1997.
Pritchard then joined us from the Stockton Vocal Union, "on
a temporary basis" for the next six years; a special feature
of his leadership were his arrangements of Christmas carols.
Stuart Buckton, was appointed in 2003. Stuart is also Director of
Opera Nova, and a teacher of singers. In 2006 it was our privilege
to give the first performance of his composition "The Wonders
November 2007 the society was very luckily able to draw on the considerable
experience of one of their members, Olwen Cameron, when Stuart Buckton
was unable to continue due to ill-health. As well as bringing the
choir up to the required standard for the then imminent Christmas
Concert, Olwen went on to conduct the following three very successful
concerts in 2008.
January 2009 Michael Summers, head of Music Technology at St. Thomas
More Catholic School, near Durham, took up the role as Conductor
of the society, introducing us to the delights of singing Duruflé's
- Requiem and Quatre Motets, followed, in the Autumn, by Mozart's
Requiem and Britten's Choral Dances from Gloriana. Michael's final
concert with the Society was in May 2012 when he conducted Eric
Whitacre's Five Hebrew Love Songs and John
Rutter's Magnificat, accompanied by the Innominata String
Quartet and scratch orchestra of ten other instrumentalists, plus
organ. Michael left the Society to become Musical Director of Durham
was succeeded by Angela Bennett who took up the baton on 23rd May
2012 and lead us through, very successfully, into our 50th Annniversay
year, in 2017.
current conductor, Rebecca Johnson, took over on 6th September 2017,
to close our 50th Anniversay season with Handel's Messiah, the twelth
time the society has performed this great work.
extend our thanks to all those wonderful conductors and accompanists
who have served us so well over the past 50 years, to the members
who have shared the responsibilities for running the Society and
putting on concerts, and to the patrons and audiences who have supported
the work in many ways.