Mozart Requiem by Candlelight
Brandenburg Choral Festival
Mozart – Adagio and Fugue in C Minor
Mozart – Eine kleine Nachtmusik
Mozart – Requiem
Wimbledon Choral Society
Brandenburg Baroque Soloists
Neil Ferris Conductor
An article in the Wimbledon Courier and District Advertiser dated Saturday 3 April 1880 advertised “The First Concert” of the “Wimbledon Choral Society” as taking place on the following Monday 5 April 1880 in the Drill Hall on St. George’s Road, so it would appear that the origins of the choir go back 120 or so years. Click here if you would like to read more about this. However, no data seems to exist about any activity after that date and it is only in October 1914 that we see the seeds of the re-birth of the Society. World War I had just broken out, Belgium had been invaded and numbers of Belgian refugees were finding a home in Wimbledon. A group of singers was formed to take part in a ceremony on Wimbledon Common called “Salutation to the Belgian Flag” and later gave a concert in honour of Albert, King of the Belgians. This choir was established on a permanent basis thereafter and the Choral Society has given regular performances of choral music in and around Wimbledon and London since the end of the First World War. You can read more about this by clicking here.
Past Presidents of the Society have included Ralph Vaughan Williams, Sir Henry Wood and George Malcolm CBE. The current President is Ian Partridge CBE, the internationally renowned lyric tenor, who sang with the choir earlier in his career as did Janet Baker, the mezzo-soprano, back in 1975.
Concerts were performed in the Wimbledon Civic Hall from its opening in 1932 but this hall was demolished in 1990 as part of the redevelopment of Wimbledon town centre. Since then the choir has been without a permanent home and has had to move to more ambitious locations, all outside of Wimbledon. Venues used since 1990 include the Fairfield Halls (Croydon), the Royal Festival Hall, Southwark Cathedral, the Barbican, Guildford Cathedral, St. James’ Church, Piccadilly and St. John’s Church, Waterloo, and Cadogan Hall near Sloane Square. For a while there was talk of the possibility of a new concert hall being built with private financing in the heart of Wimbledon and the choir supported this proposal whole-heartedly in the hope it would come to fruition. With little support or enthusiasm from the local council this, sadly, is unlikely to see the light of day.
The choir’s Royal Festival Hall début was in 1990 in the first British performance of Gabriel Pierné’s Les Crusades des Enfants and later in December 1993 in the Ernest Read Music Association Christmas Concert. In 1998, as part of its television coverage of the World Cup, the BBC asked the choir to record an adaptation of Fauré’s Pavane as the programme title music, heard by millions of people and later released as a CD. Members of the choir also took part in the BBC TV’s annual Sports Review of the Year in December 1998 and were seen by more than 9 million viewers. Nearly every year since November 2000, Wimbledon Choral Society has made up half of the Festival Chorus for the Royal British Legion’s annual Festival of Remembrance in the Royal Albert Hall, broadcast on BBC TV and in the presence of the Royal Family. On several occasions it has been invited by BBC TV to participate in recordings of Songs of Praise when recorded in London and twice now has sung on the pitch of Wembley Stadium as part of the pre-match entertainment or preparation for the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final and Four Nations Tournament.
Membership of the choir stands at around 160 with healthy recruitment and a good and regular intake of younger singers in all voice parts. All members are auditioned on entry and at regular intervals thereafter. The musical season runs from September to June and usually consists of three main concerts in and around London with a Christmas concert in the Wimbledon area. Performances are given with professional soloists and orchestra. In the past decade Wimbledon Choral Society has worked with orchestras of the calibre of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Charivari Agreable and also with the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra which uses instruments made in the early part of the 20th century. It has also worked with the exciting New London Soloists Orchestra (now known as the Trafalgar Sinfonia) comprising some of London’s most talented young musicians and, under Neil Ferris, has extended its orchestral links with the Salomon Orchestra, the Brandenburg Sinfonia, the London Mozart Players and Florilegium.