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History of the Society

Picture of Clifford Hartley
Chairman & Conductor until 1974
On the 18th November 1948 an informal meeting was held to discuss the formation of a choral society to present major choral works in Sunderland. The prime movers were the Rector of Bishopwearmouth Church, Rev.J.F.Richardson, and Clifford Hartley, the choirmaster and organist of the church.

The nucleus of the choir were to be the men of the Parish Church Choir and the Senior Girls Choir of the Bede Girls Grammar School, Sunderland, where Mr Hartley was Music Master. These were to be augmented by other singers subject to approval. On the 23rd December 1948 these proposals were formally agreed by a temporary committee and it was proposed that a performance of ‘The Creation’ by Haydn be held in March 1949. The formal name for the choir was agreed as Bishopwearmouth Choral Society (there was already a Sunderland Choral Society in being) though it would have no direct connection with Bishopwearmouth Church.

The concert took place as scheduled, the choir numbered over 80 singers and the soloists included Isobel Baillie. The accompaniment was by organ, played by Dr.Conrad Eden, the organist of Durham Cathedral.The Society began slowly and after five years had become established. Although the Sunderland Choral Society had now become defunct, the Society did not change its name. By 1956 it was performing two concerts per year and using regular orchestral accompaniment. By 1960 with a membership of over 80 the Society was performing in the Empire Theatre, Sunderland, as well as in Bishopwearmouth Church.

Clifford Hartley who had been chairman and conductor of the Society from its inception retired from conducting in 1974, his final performance being that of the Bach ‘B Minor Mass’, the fifty sixth concert by the Society.Since then the Society has continued to flourish. Its membership, which is auditioned, though occasionally variable has remained relatively stable at 80 singers. It has since its inception performed nearly 150 concerts, in addition to some for charitable purposes, and has since 1993 sung under the baton of Mr.David Murray, a highly experienced and professional musician well known in the North East. The Society rehearses weekly on Wednesday evenings, in The Minster Church Sunderland during the months of September to June and performs three concerts per year, all of which are held in Sunderland Minster.

Recent Concerts

1993 - 1994

Songs of the Fleet (Stanford)
A Sea Symphony (Vaughan Williams)
Petite Messe Solennelle (Rossini)
Samson (Handel)

1994 - 1995

Ceremony of Carols (Britten)
Christmas Cantata (Bush)
Stabat Mater (Dvorak)
Gloria (Poulenc)

1995 - 1996

Cantata Misericordium (Britten)
St.Nicholas (Britten)
St.John Passion (J.S.Bach)
English Madrigals (Bennet, Farmer, Wilbye)
4 English Folk Songs (Vaughan Williams)
A “Carpenters Sequence” (arr Murray)

1996 - 1997

Mass in C (K317)(Mozart)
Requiem Mass (K626) (Mozart)
Dixit Dominus (Handel)
Four Coronation Anthems (Handel)
Songs by Gershwin and Copeland, The Chichester Psalms (Bernstein)
Agnus Dei (Barber)

1997 - 1998

Mass in B minor (Bach)
Requiem Mass (Fauré)
Requiem Mass (Duruflé)
Sviati (Tavener)
Song for Athene (Tavener)
Salute another Morn (Watson ) ( Commissioned Work)

1998 - 1999

Messiah (Handel)
Cantique de Jean Racine (Fauré)
Petite Messe Solennelle (Rossini)
Requiem Mass (Verdi)

1999 - 2000

Vesperae Solennes de Confessore (K339) (Mozart)
Mass in C minor (K427) (Mozart)
Song of Destiny (Brahms)
A German Requiem (Brahms)
The Rio Grande (Lambert)
Carmina Burana (Orff)

2000 - 2001

The Dream of Gerontius (Elgar)
Vespers 1610 - (Monteverdi)
Requiem (Rutter) Benedicite (Carter)

2001 - 2002

Dona Nobis Pacem (Vaughan Williams)
Hodie (Vaughan –Williams)
Cantata No.80 -Ein Feste Burg (Bach)
Magnificat in D (Bach)
Miscellaneous works by Gershwin and Jerome Kern

2002 - 2003

Elijah (Mendelssohn)
St.Nicholas (Britten)
Beatus Vir (Monteverdi)
Four Coronation Anthems (Handel) Gloria (Vivaldi)

2003 - 2004

Serenade to Music (Vaughan Williams)
Fantasia on Christmas Carols (Vaughan William)
Three Choir Carols (Terry, Willcocks, Carter)
Three Pieces for choir by Edward Watson
St Matthew Passion (complete)
Beatus Vir (Monteverdi)
Sacred works for choir by Palestrina, Bruckner, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Franck, Fauré. Polovtsian Dances (Borodin)

2004 - 2005

Christmas Oratorio (J.S,Bach)
The Creation - (J.Haydn)
Sea Pictures and The Music Makers - (E.Elgar)
Blest Pair of Sirens and I Was Glad - (H.Parry)

2005 - 2006

Five Tudor Portraits and Five Mystical Songs - (R.Vaughan Williams)
Side by Side - (S.Sondheim)

2006 - 2007

Messa di Gloria - (G.Puccini) and Four Sacred Pieces - (G.Verdi)
Dixit Dominus - (G.F.Handel)
Nelson Mass - (F.J.Haydn) and Come Ye Sons of Art - (H.Purcell)
Abraham and Isacac & Rejoice the Lamb - (Britten)

2007 - 2008

Requiem & Mass in C - (Mozart)
St. John Passion - (Bach)
An Evening with Gershwin and Friends

2008 - 2009

B Minor Mass - (Bach)
Gerontius - (Elgar)
Rio Grande - (C.Lambert)
Carmina Burana - (C.Orff)

2009 - 2010

Messiah Complete Version - (G.F.Handel)
St. Nicholas - (Britten)
Beatus Vir - (Monteverdi)
Gloria - (Rutter)
Motets - (Bruckner)
In Ecclesiis and Jubilate Deo - (Gabrielli)

2010 - 2011

Nanie - (Dvorak)
Stabat Mater - (Brahms)
St. Nicholas Mass and Maria Theresa Mass - (Haydn)
Classics Old & New - (arr. David Murray)

2011 - 2012

Mass in C & Choral Fantasia - (Beethoven)
Requiem & Cantique de Jean Racine - (Fauré)
Panis Angelicus - (Franck)
Calme des Nuits - (Saint Saens)
Dirait-On (from Les Chansons Des Roses) - (Morten Lauridsen)
Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott & Magnificat in D - (Bach)

2012 - 2013

An Oxford Elegy - (Vaughan Williams)
Carols - (Bob Chilcott)
Crown Imperial - (Walton)
I was glad - (Parry)
Belshazzar’s Feast - (Walton)
Five Mystical Songs - (Vaughan Williams)
Carmina Burana - (Orff)