Choir History

NCS history described in the 120th concert programme.

With many new members and a young new conductor, Newbury Choral Society brims with the enthusiasm that filled its founder members. It was in 1884 that a group of enthusiastic singers approached J.S. Liddle, the St. Nicolas Church organist and choir master, suggesting they form a choral society. In January 1885 the new choir gave its first concert, conducted by Mr Liddle, with music by Schubert, Bennett and by the conductor himself.

The choir never looked back, with three concerts that first year, and performing every year bar 1940 since. By May 1895 the choir was confident enough to invite Parry to conduct his oratorio “Judith”. Their confidence was well founded. With an audience of 800, the choir and a large orchestra the Corn Exchange must have been bulging at the seams.

1884 advert for singers to form Newbury Choral Society

In 1902 Samuel Colerigde-Taylor conducted his “Hiawatha” trilogy over concerts in April and December.

Mr Liddle must have dominated the early history of the choral society. His final concert, after 36 years as conductor, was in December 1920 – a performance of Elgar’s masterpiece, “The Dream of Gerontius”.

If J.S Liddle shaped the first 50 years of Newbury Choral Society, John Russell, with 31 years in charge shaped the second. He introduced the choir to Finzi, Britten and Berlioz. In 1972 the choir performed Vaughan Williams “A Sea Symphony” to mark the centenary of the composer. The decision to perform the great Elgar trilogy of “The Dream of Gerontius”, “The Apostles” and "The Kingdom” from 1973 to 1976 was a brave one, both artistically and financially, but ultimately vindicated.

The first concert at the Newbury Corn Exchange in 1885

Clive Fairburn had the honour of conducting the centenary concert, a performance of Verdi’s “Requiem”. Clive conducted the choir’s first performance of “Carmina Burana” and took the choir to the Barbican and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.

The choir continues to look forward in the first 20 years of its second century. We have had two young conductors, Jonathan Finney and the current holder of the post, Leo Hussain. Janet Lincé was the first woman to be Musical Director (although Gillian Lovett had conducted at several concerts from 1965 to 1984). Under Robert Barsby, the choir performed with the Japanese choir Laurel Echo in Osaka, Japan.
The choir continues to add to its repertoire - contemporary 20th century music by Fanshawe, Gorecki, Patrick Hawes, Pärt, and Tavener; first performances of highlights of the classical repertoire such as Beethoven’s “Choral Symphony” (a memorable concert with the Newbury Symphony Orchestra) - as well as performing favourites such as “Elijah”, and of course Handel’s Messiah”, the work for the 120th anniversary concert on December 11th. Such variety is the key to the choir’s success. Long may it continue. 


Choir Archive

NCS has an extensive archive of past performancees, concert programmes and committee members. This data can be searched by various criteria including date, work, soloist etc.


Choir Trips


NCS trip to Trondheim, Norway, guests of Trondheim Male Voice Choir (Trondernes Mandssangforening), 25th - 28th October 2019.

As a result of a friendship, that began in Germany in 1958 between a schoolboy from Norway and another from England, Newbury Choral Society were invited to join with the Trondheim Male Voice Choir (Trondernes Mandssangforening) and three other Norwegian choirs to celebrate Children’s Day in the Bishop’s Palace Hall on Saturday 26th Oct and a Choral Concert in the beautiful country church at Melhus on Sunday 27th.

We performed a varied repotoire based on our summer concert and joined forces with the other choirs to sing together Bruremarsj fra Valsøyfjord and Jerusalem.

The 40 strong Newbury choir arrived on Friday and were greeted by their Norwegian hosts many of whom provided accommodation in their homes. The Trondheim Male Voice Choir have their own city-centre rehearsal cellar where they royally entertained the visitors with post-concert festivities. A fantastic time was had by all and we look forward to welcoming Trondheim Male Voice Choir in the near future.

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