Our mission statement
At Durham Choral society we are dedicated to celebrating the joy of great choral singing within the North East of England, enriching the lives of our singers and the community.
Who we are
Durham Choral Society is a mixed voice choir with around 120 members who share a love of choral singing. Although we are an amateur choir, we are encouraged by our dynamic musical director to achieve ever higher standards. We sing two major concerts a year in the glorious setting of Durham Cathedral. Our concerts have full orchestral accompaniment, and professional soloists are brought in as required.
The repertoire of the Society is varied, including traditional choral music such as Bach's B Minor Mass and works by more modern composers such as Howard Goodall. We have also commissioned works by local composers such as Durham born Will Todd, and Newcastle-based Will Lang.
In 1946 Conrad Eden, the Cathedral organist, formed a choral society which had 112 members at its peak. By the mid 50s this had dropped to such a low number that the group decided to disband. From 1958-1962, the only society of its sort was the Durham Colleges Choral Society which was more gown than town.
In 1962, Maurice Armsby, a Cathedral lay clerk, found there was a strong desire to re-form a choral society and after a public meeting in June, the society reformed. Rehearsals began in September and the first concert - Haydn's The Creation - was given in Durham Cathedral on 20 November 1962.
The new choir did not have an untroubled beginning. Initial enthusiasm produced a membership of 70 but again numbers began to drop slightly. After three years the conductor moved to Winchester Cathedral. His successor only directed three performances before he too left Durham. In 1966, Raymond Hall, Principal of the Bernard Gilpin Society and a local organist took over as musical director. In 1970 the performing venue moved from Elvet Methodist Church to Wearside School. Numbers dropped to about 40 and audience figures decreased, possibly due to the uncompromising hardness of school chairs! This trend was reversed when the concert venue was transferred to the Town Hall in 1974.
Raymond Hall decided to retire and Richard Brice, who had been assistant conductor for a few years, took over. Under his direction membership began to increase and numbers grew until the only suitable venue was the Cathedral. On several occasions the choir has joined with other local choirs to give performances of works that neither group would have had sufficient numbers to tackle alone, including Verdi’s Requiem and Britten’s War Requiem. The Society has been well served by its orchestra of mostly local musicians, ably led over the years by (among others) Florence Wilson, Derek Downes, Jean Provine, and Sue Innes.
In 2012, The Society marked its Golden Jubilee and Richard Brice conducted his final concert in May. The search for a new Musical Director resulted in Michael Summers joining us in September. Julia Boulton became leader of the orchestra. at this point the choir was large enough to tackle Verdi's Requiem alone.
2012-13 season also saw the retirement of David Crookes as Honorary Secretary after 50 years in the role. What an achievement!
The fates were with us in the period leading up to the January 2017 concert and Durham Choral Society is proud to have performed in the UK premiere of 'Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin' in conjunction with The Defiant Requiem Foundation, and others.
2020 - 2022
Covid-19 came along in 2020 and resulted in a long hiatus in live music making. Online rehearsals and recorded concerts became the norm for a while but we resumed normal-ish service for the 2021-22 season and returned to perform Mendelssohn's Elijah in Durham Cathedral in May
During the 2022-23 season we are marking our Diamond Jubilee and we will sing Haydn's The Creation again.
Here's to the next 60 years!
Our archived material is held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections