WELCOME TO LUTON CHORAL SOCIETY
A Brief History
Luton Choral Society started in the Autumn of 1866 from an idea
begun by four local gentlemen - Joseph Hawkes, William Eustace, Henry Hawkes and Thomas Underwood.
became the Society's first conductor and gave its
first performance - of a mixture of music from Mozart and Handel in December 1871. The first major work performed by the
Society was Haydn's "Creation" - in December 1871. Since then, under only nine musical directors, it has performed in many
venues within the town and elsewhere. Performances now generally take place at Stopsley Baptist Church, with the carol
concert being given in a more intimate venue, such as St. Augustine's, Limbury.
Mr. Hawkes was succeeded by Charles Inwards
conducted the Society from the 7th to 32nd Seasons
(1872-1899). During this time, concerts were given at several venues in Luton - Congregrational Church, Corn Exchange, New
Wesleyan Schoolroom, Plait Hall and the Town Hall. The works performed included compostions by Barnby, Beethoven, Costa,
Cowen, Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Rossini and Sterndale-Bennett.
From the 33rd to the 60th Season (1899-1931) the Society was
under the baton of Fred Gostelow
, who was also
organist and choirmaster of St. Mary's (Parish) Church and a composer. During this time the Society gave concerts in
additional Luton venues - Assembly Hall, Midland Road Hall and the Wesleyan Church (Chapel Street). The 50th
(Golden Jubilee) Season was marked by a special concert in the Parish Church and during the 60th (Diamond Jubilee) Season,
a special Festival Service was held, also in the Parish Church. The works performed in addition to those previously given
under Mr Hawkes and Mr Inwards included compositions by Bach, Bizet, Brahms, Coleridge-Taylor, Dvorak, Elgar,
German, Holst, Parry, Schubert and Wagner. In addition, guest conductors were invited to conduct their own compositions,
including Sir Granville Bantok, Mr A. Herbert Brewer, Sir Frederick Bridge, Sir Frederick Cowen and Dr. E.T. Sweeting.
Sir Henry J. Wood was also invited to conduct at several concerts.
Mr. Gostelow was succeeded by Mr. John Fry
from 1931-1940 (61st-69th Seasons) and under his direction,
concerts were given at venues in Luton - Assembly Hall, Central Hall (Midland Road) and Luton Parish Church. In addition to
works by composers given previously, works by Bath, Gounod and Walford-Davies were also performed.
Mr Fry was followed by his deputy, Mr. Arthur E. Davies
from 1940-1960 (70th to 89th Seasons).
He introduced a series of concerts known as "Blue Rhapsody", given in conjunction with the Luton Girls' Choir, which was also conducted by
Mr. Davies. Concerts were given outside Luton, notably in Bedford, Dunstable, Eastbourne, Hitchin, Kimbolton, Leicester,
Leighton Buzzard, London, Northampton, Nottingham and Watford. During the Second World War, the Society was associated with
the BBC, who relocated to Bedford for the duration of hostilities, and gave concerts under famous conductors -
Sir Adrian Boult and Sir Henry J. Wood. Sir Thomas Beecham conducted concerts given after the War.
Dr. Kenneth Abbott
was in charge from the 90th-108th Seasons (1960-1979) and during his stay, the Society gave
concerts outside Luton, notably Amersham, Berkhamsted, Bricket Wood, Hemel Hempstead, Henlow and Linslade, in addition to
those visited under Arthur Davies. He also introduced some world famous soloists to the Society - Felicity Palmer,
Sheila Armstrong (Sopranos), Robert Tear, Philip Langridge (Tenors) and John Carol-Case, John Lawrenson,
John Heddle-Nash (Bass-Baritones). Lesley Garrett also sang with the Society as a soprano soloist and has gone on to make
her name in Operatic circles and in her own television series. The Society also celebrated its 100th Season with a
Centenary Dinner in the Halfway House (Dunstable) at this time.
took over from Dr. Abbott and stayed from 1980
until his untimely death in 1989 (109th-118th Seasons). During his time, he established a close relationship with
Luton Symphony Orchestra and also, through Michael Rose and the Bedfordshire County Youth Orchestra, enabled the members
to sing at charity concerts in the Royal Albert Hall.
conductor until the 136th season, continued to perform a wide repetoire of music from the well known choral works of Handel, Mendelssohn
and Bach to the lesser known ones of Vintner, Finzi and Rutter. Under his direction, the Society gave noteworthy performances of Elgar's The Kingdom
(with Jean Rigby as alto soloist) and Dream of Gerontius
(with Bonaventura Bottone as tenor soloist).
RETURN TO TOP
If you have any difficulty reading this page
contact the society's webmaster: