Chipperfield Choral Society
Chipperfield Choral Society 1947 – 2010
The Early Years
Written records of the early days of the Society have disappeared, but through speaking to some of the founding members we discovered that a small group of keen singers, some professional, got together just after the end of the Second World War, to sing madrigals, meeting in one of their homes. The founder and leader of the group wasJoyce Herman Allen, a local singing teacher.
As membership grew the meeting place was changed to the Old School in Chipperfield. Funds were augmented by choir members singing at local weddings and soon enough money was raised to buy a piano! Concerts were given and the annual Carol Concert, held then in the Village Hall, was to become very much part of the Chipperfield tradition. Through her professional contacts, Joyce usually managed to engage a well-known soloist. Frank Olegario was a regular visitor, as was John Heddle Nash.
Joyce was not happy about conducting the choir plus an orchestra in large-scale works, but since the Society was continually being asked to join with other local choirs the members had the opportunity to sing in as many as ten concerts in a season! The choir formed particularly strong links with Dr. Kenneth Abbott, Director of Music at Ambassador College in Bricket Wood, performing many concerts with the College choir in Watford Town Hall and recording Handel’s Messiah with them.
Also at this time the Society often gave concerts in St Paul’s Church, Chipperfield at the invitation of the vicar, sometimes accompanied by a small orchestra composed of local musicians (one being our Musical Director, Delia Meehan).
Records indicate that Joyce was thinking seriously of retiring in 1969, but at that time no replacement could be found. Whilst not wanting to conduct large-scale works, Joyce nevertheless felt that the Society could put on major concerts itself, under a “star” conductor, and with a really first rate orchestra. With this in mind, events were organised to raise funds for this kind of expensive venture, and Joyce held many garden parties at her home, and of course there were the inevitable Jumble Sales! And so it was, on 11th March 1973 in the Hemel Hempstead Pavilion, under the direction of Antony Hopkins, that the Society performed Bach’s B Minor Mass with the Thames Chamber Orchestra. The Society was supported by members of other local choirs. Such was the success of this concert that Antony Hopkins suggested performing Mozart’s Mass in C the following year, with the same orchestra.
A New Era (1974 – 1979)
It was at this time that Adrian Davis arrived in the area as Director of Music at Berkhamsted School and at last Joyce felt she was able to retire, safe in the knowledge that with him as her successor the choir would be left in good hands. On 27th April 1974 the Society gave Joyce a splendid retirement party and this was followed by her final concert with the choir – a performance of Parts 2 and 3 of Handel’s Messiah given in St, Paul’s Church, Chipperfield on 28th April.
Adrian Davis took up his appointment with the choir in September 1974, and this marked the beginning of a new era when the choir “stood on its own two feet” so to speak, regularly organising its own programme of three and sometimes four concerts a year. With Adrian the choir tackled the Requiems of Duruflé and Fauré, and also works by Charpentier and Poulenc among many others. The Society gave a highly successful and exciting performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana in Hemel Hempstead Pavilion accompanied by the Oxford Pro Musica and with considerable help from members of other local choral societies.
In the early rehearsals of Carmina the Society ran into trouble when many members left because they did not like the work being performed and the very existence of the Society was brought into question. Joyce, who by then had become our President, rallied the troops and enough support was maintained for the Society to carry the concert through and make it one of the most successful the Society had ever done. It also assured the survival of the choir.
1979 – 1986
Adrian remained with the choir for five years and was succeeded in September 1979 by Tony Metcalfe, who was then working locally in education administration. It was Tony’s idea to move the Christmas Concert from the Village Hall to St. Paul’s Church in order to make use of its splendid organ and this has continued to the present day. The Society put on two joint concerts in the Hemel Hempstead Pavilion with the Berkhamsted Choral Society, performing Elgar’s Music Makers and Mendelssohn’s Elijah.
In order to accommodate the growing membership the Summer Concert venue was moved to the Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley, giving more room for the audience, choir and orchestra. Tony also introduced what came to be known as the “Summer Choir” – a small group of enthusiastic members who carried on singing after the season had officially ended. This group performed to other members and guests at the Society’s end of season summer party.
1986 – 1991
In 1986, Tony Metcalfe received a promotion at work which resulted in a move to Cheshire. There followed a series of conductors, Neil Kelly, Stephen Harris and Harvey Eagles. The 40th Anniversary concert was given on 30th May 1987. This was both a happy and sad occasion as Joyce Herman Allen had recently died and the concert was performed in her memory.
From 1991 to our Diamond Jubilee
None of these conductors were local, hence travel was often a problem and costly, as also was bringing in orchestral players from a wide area. The choir funds became dangerously low, membership fell and once again the existence of the choir was in the balance.
When Harvey Eagles left, an extensive advertising campaign failed to find a suitable conductor. As a result of a chance conversation with a committee member, Delia Meehan was asked if she would consider taking on the choir. Her initial reaction was to refuse, but she agreed to attend a meeting to advise and assist the committee in finding someone local who would have the well-being of the choir at heart. Delia came away from that meeting having agreed to take the choir for one term only. That was in 1991!
Under Delia’s inspirational leadership the choir has gone from strength to strength. Her extensive contacts in musical circles have enabled the choir to perform major works with the best young soloists and orchestral players. The outstanding find was Emma Bell, who made such an impression when she performed with the Society in Brahms’s Requiem in 1999 and Haydn’s Creation in 2000 that she was invited to become Patron, which, happily, she accepted. Other highlights have been Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, Beethoven’s Mass in C, Les Misérables, Elgar’s The Music Makers, Fauré’s Requiem, Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, Puccini’s Messa di Gloria and anacclaimed and memorable performance in 2006 of Handel’s Messiah. All these and many other works covering a wide range of musical genres have given the choir a most extensive repertoire.
Now the choir puts on three concerts each year, though the Carol Concert in St Paul’s Church is so popular that it has to be performed twice and is also repeated biennially at Mount Vernon Hospital to raise funds for Cancer Research.