Aims

Harrogate Male Voice Choir has two principal aims –

  • To offer a meaningful and rewarding experience to male singers in Harrogate and the North Yorkshire region by rehearsing regularly and giving performances as and when requested by charitable organisations or members of the general public.
  • To raise funds for local and national charities and local community projects by performing wherever and whenever invited.

Rehearsals are held on a weekly basis (Tuesday evenings) at Woodlands Methodist Church Hall on the Wetherby Road in Harrogate, since 23rd April 1986. The members rehearse and perform around 10 – 12 concerts per year between late August and the end of the following May. The choir is organised and administered by a main committee of seven members as well as a small number of sub-committees, created mostly for specific occasions or activities.

The President of the choir is Marilynne Davies BA, MEd, LRAM, PGCA, FRSA
and the Vice President is Michael Clipston – a long standing and very supportive member.

Musical Team

The current professional musical team which leads the choir is made up of the Musical Director Patrick J. Lee and Pianists/Accompanists David Mawson and David Ward Campbell.

Accompanist

David Ward-Campbell

Musical Director

Patrick J. Lee
GRSM, LRAM, MTC

Accompanist

David Mawson
PhD, LRSM, LTCL, LMusA

Early beginnings

A male voice choir existed in Harrogate at the beginning of World War 1, probably started in 1913. The advent of the war meant that many members volunteered to join the army and the choir was wound up.
It was re-established in 1918 and became a strong choir of more than 80 members but, after only a few years, the choir had to finish again, having lost many members to other choirs.
A Harrogate Guild of Singers was formed in 1946 and this lasted for approximately ten years; the Musical Director was Eric Godley.

The Harrogate Male Voice Choir (in its present incarnation) began on Monday 6th October 1969 and the first public performance was given at Tag House, Bilton, Harrogate.

Past Musical Directors have included
Dudley Waddington (1969 onwards), George Rodham (? – 1977), Fred Tingle (1977-1986),
Horace Kay, Tom Bury & Stephen Hamer, all between 1986 and 1991, Kay Bromhead (1991-1998).
Bernard White (1998-2013), Anthea Shepherdson (2013 -2014), Patrick J. Lee (2014 to present day).

Pianists have included
Nora Cooper (1969-1980), Harold Swift (? – 1983), Alice Wardman, Olive Thompson, Ian Christelow, Kay Bromhead, Pam Young, Jean Willmot, Joe Brockett (all between the years 1991 and 2001),
Avril Leeming (2001-2016), David Mawson (2016 to present day), David Ward Campbell (2018 to present day).

Types of Music

The choir’s repertoire is made up of works from every musical genre, many modern items being included amongst the more traditional male voice choir numbers. More recently the choir has included in its repertoire a number of bespoke arrangements, created by our Musical Director.

Community and Joint Concerts

Whilst most public performances are held in local community halls or churches, the choir has sung in cathedrals, castles, country houses and, on several occasions, in the Royal Albert Hall alongside other male voice and ladies’ choirs from all round the UK, raising funds for Cancer Research. The choir also enjoys hosting joint events with other choirs, recent visitors having been The Sally Barnes Singers, The Yorkshire Saxaphone Ensemble and Dursley MVC.  One of the most ambitious projects recently undertaken was the “Sing Out” project, reaching out to and involving children from local primary schools in joint performances.  Central to this is a new, specially commissioned piece of vocal music called Here and Now, written for children’s choir and male voice choir with piano accompaniment, by Patrick Lee and libretto by Zimbabwean poet Penny Sylvester.  This short vocal piece was the centre piece of the choir’s annual concert 2017, which was shared with singers from Bilton Grange and Richard Taylor primary schools in Harrogate.

Special Occasions

The choir is also available for, and has performed at a variety of, private functions, including weddings, landmark birthdays, anniversaries and corporate events.

Harrogate MVC Support for
Cancer Research UK : Festival of Brass & Voices

In April 1979, two Brass Bands and four Male Voice Choirs from the Huddersfield area performed in Huddersfield Town Hall on two weekday evenings, the proceeds from which, including sales of “records”, generated some £9,000 for Yorkshire Cancer Research.
This sum represented about 75% of the charity’s total revenue for that year and thanks to the foresight of a small band of people associated with those concerts, the idea of promoting similar events at national rather than local level was developed to the point where on November 21st 1987 twenty five MVC’s and the Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band took to the stage of The Royal Albert Hall in an event esoterically named “1000 Yorkshire Male Voices”, notwithstanding the fact that a large number of them were neither Yorkshiremen nor from Yorkshire. This made little difference to the reaction of participants or audience, however, Yorkshire Cancer Research subsequently benefitting to the tune of £35,000, including the proceeds from record and cassette sales.

Thus was the foundation stone laid for the subsequent series of triennial concerts which culminated in the final event on November 3rd 2018, the more recent ones having expanded to include ladies’ choirs and having Cancer Research UK as beneficiary.

Harrogate MVC and Yorkshire neighbour Steeton MVC are the only two choirs to have taken part in every one of these concerts since 1987 and only one member from each has sung in every one, Mike Hopkinson from Steeton and our very own Vice President, Mike Clipston. In recognition of this Mike Clipston, on behalf of HMVC, received a commemorative plaque, from Myles Godfrey, a senior member of Cancer Research UK.

14 singers from Harrogate MVC together with a number of supporters left for the final concert and after a relatively trouble free journey, punctuated by a lunchtime stop at a service centre being used by about five other choirs on the same mission, arrived at the Novotel London West Hotel.

November 3rd dawned cool but bright and at 8.30am the singers boarded another coach which, after a detour to a nearby hotel to collect members of another choir, deposited us at the Albert Hall to join the other 1400 + participants for the pre-concert rehearsal. The rehearsal followed the traditional pattern of performances ranging from “good” to “bad” via “could do better” but the persuasive efforts of conductor Bill Relton prevailed to the point where the majority of us left the rehearsal with that universally accepted upbeat feeling that “it will be alright on the night”.

Suffice to say that the atmosphere created by members of 26 male voice and 34 ladies’ choirs accompanied variously by two world renowned brass bands, a first class pianist and an equally accomplished organist, together with interludes featuring a group of Scottish fiddlers, all performing to a virtually full Albert Hall, was more than enough to inspire everyone to give of their best and the result could only be described as highly successful and very rewarding for all the performers.

Whilst the final figure for 2018 is not yet known, the total sum raised by this series of concerts up to 2015 was well in excess of £500,000 and everyone who has participated over the years can be justly proud of their contribution to such a worthy cause.

Neil DuncanNovember 2018

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