Chiltern Choir


Choir History

The Chiltern Choir was formed in 1980, from a nucleus of singers who had sung as a small madrigal group since 1968, under the umbrella of Chorleywood Community Arts Centre. A complete list of concerts is available (compiled by Michael Currey).

Our Musical Directors

We have attracted a series of talented musical directors:
  • Peter Dodd, Chief Assistant Controller of BBC Radio 3.
  • Stephen Jackson, who became Chorus Master of the BBC Symphony Chorus.
  • Simon Williams, who moved on to concentrate on his appointment as Director of Music at St George's, Hanover Square.
  • Mark Hindley, who left us to take advantage of a prestigious job offer in Scotland.
  • Michael Cayton, our current director, joined us in 2003. Since then has also taken on the posts of Director of Music at St John’s Wood Church and organist at Belsize Square Synagogue. He has been Musical Director of the Watford Philharmonic Society since 2014.
Our founding musical director, Peter Dodd (1930–2015) conducted the first performance of the St Matthew Passion at Watersmeet using authentic instruments – well in advance of the subsequent popular interest in early music. He never missed a rehearsal (and was frustrated when others did!), and never received any payment, Choir members expressing their gratitude with gifts of book tokens.

Landmarks

The Choir released its first professional recording in May 2017. Prozone Music Recordings set up its studio in St Mary’s Church Hall, Rickmansworth, the previous November, when we recorded Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem, accompanied by four hands on piano instead of an orchestra. The pianists were Anna Le Hair and John Byron, with soloists Emily Rowley Jones (soprano) and Benjamin Seifert (baritone). The sleeve artwork 'The Long Journey' was gifted to the Choir by Neil Wax, a loyal supporter and Honorary Member of the Choir.

In March 2014 the Will Todd trio, together with Bethany Halliday, accompanied us throughout the evening as we performed Will's flagship jazz mass Mass in Blue, and gave the first performance in this country of his Songs of Love.

Our Christmas 2013 concert saw us give the world premiere of Malcolm Archer's setting of Awake my Soul and with the Sun, commissioned in memory of former chairman Jim Darby. Furthermore, as well as marking the 10th anniversary of Michael Cayton's musical directorship of the Choir, this was also the last concert in which a founding member of the Choir performed; Patricia Parkes convened the original 'signing group' from 1968, and now becomes President of the Choir.

For our 2013 Summer Concert we took on the challenge of David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus, an unconventional version of the traditional Latin Mass, which incorporates African rhythms and sounds. It was especially gratifying that David’s widow, Jane, was able to join us on the evening.

In 2005, we performed The Kestrel Road, composed by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. This was commissioned by 47 member societies of Making Music, the National Federation of Music Societies.

In 1993/94, we celebrated our Silver Jubilee with a performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor, and commissioned and performed Bryan Kelly's Crucifixion.

We have commissioned other works by Bryan Kelly and Anthony Le Fleming.

In 1992, we received the Performing Rights Society's Enterprise Award.

Collaborations

We enjoy collaborating with other choirs on a regular basis. Collaborations have included joining with other Hertfordshire choirs to sing Mahler's 8th Symphony at the Royal Albert Hall, in aid of the British Council for Prevention of Blindness (October 1999), and joint performances with Harrow Choral Society at St Alban's Abbey: Verdi's Requiem in March 2001, and Bach's B Minor Mass in March 2012.

In 2015 the Choir traveled to Dardilly, Chorleywood’s twin town in France, to sing with the local choir, Ensemble Dodecaphonia. In 2016 the Ensemble made a return visit to Chorleywood for a joint concert.

We also joined forces with Harrow Choral Society in May 2005, to perform Brahms's German Requiem under the baton of Simon Williams. This was prefaced by Stanfords's Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in A, under our own Michael Cayton.

We have enjoyed a number of overseas trips, to perform in collaboration with choirs in Honfleur, Amsterdam, Copenhagen (2012) and, on one especially memorable occasion, at Chartres Cathedral.

In 2001, we were fortunate in having the opportunity to sing Evensong at Norwich Cathedral, and in 2005, we were invited to sing the Eucharist and Evensong at St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, as one of the teams of choirs that give the local choristers August off – St Patrick's giving two sung services a day, 365 days a year. It was wonderful to sing a mass as part of a service, instead of as a performance.

Social Events

Social events are a regular feature of the Choir calendar, with activities ranging from summer barbeques and walks to murder mystery evenings and quiz nights.