1937: Beginnings in North Harrow
The origins of Harrow Choral Society are closely linked with its regular rehearsal venue, St Alban’s Church, North Harrow. It grew out of the choir formed there in 1937, the year of the church’s consecration, when the annual subscription for membership was just 5 shillings. Under its first Director of Music, Richard Miles, the choir’s membership rose to 60 in the years leading up to the Second World War. In 1941, the choir became North Harrow Musical Society and Edgar Broadhurst, appointed conductor in 1942, led the choir through the challenging wartime years. He was succeeded in 1949 by Clarice Brooksbank and by 1960 membership had risen to 100.
Harrow Choral Society is born
In 1960 the choir adopted its present title of Harrow Choral Society and by 1964 membership had risen to 170. The 1960s saw the performance of major works of the choral repertoire as well as participation in several Promenade Concerts. In 1977 Clarice Brooksbank was succeeded by Bryan Fairfax whose innovations included the first of the now-traditional Christmas Celebrations and the launch in 1980 of the Friends of Harrow Choral Society.
Golden Jubilee 1987
By the time of its Golden Jubilee in 1987 the choir had a new conductor, Nigel Springthorpe, and a new Vice President, the distinguished tenor Ian Caley, who sang the title role in a Jubilee performance of Elgar's Dream of Gerontius.
Three Choirs Concerts
1990 saw the first of the Three Choirs concerts in which two other local societies, Harrow Philharmonic Choir and Stanmore Choral Society, join HCS in large-scale performances. The 1992 Three Choirs concert was dedicated to the memory of HCS President, Sir Charles Groves who had died the previous day. He was succeeded as President by conductor Richard Hickox, another distinguished figure of the British music scene.
Innovations and Excursions Simon Williams was already known to members as the choir’s accompanist when he was appointed Director of Music in 1992. During his long tenure Simon introduced several initiatives including the commissioning and performance of works by contemporary composers such as Bryan Kelly’s Crucifixion and Lorna K. Dawson’s Cantata Caledonia. A further innovation was the successful launch of the Harrow Choral Academy and particularly the training choir, Singing for Starters, under the guidance firstly of Hilary Musgrave and later Julie Bale. Under Simon’s leadership and that of accompanist Bernard Barker the choir also enjoyed UK ‘away days’ and many successful overseas tours, celebrating its Diamond Jubilee in 1997.
A New Era for HCS
Simon Williams’s enthusiasm and dedication were crucial in carrying HCS through the difficult period of the Covid pandemic. During the months when rehearsals at St Alban’s church were not possible Simon, with the support of HCS Chairman Peter Miller, led the choir in regular online rehearsals which proved a lifeline for members. In early 2022, having directed the choir for 30 years, Simon announced his departure and HCS launched a search for its seventh Director of Music.
Sam Evans succeeded Simon Williams as Director of Music in September 2022. A former choral scholar of King’s College, Cambridge with wide experience in opera and as a baritone soloist, Sam has also sung with John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir for 20 years. He therefore brings a deep understanding of voice-production as well as wide experience of choral conducting to his new role. HCS is also fortunate to have Paul Ayres as its accompanist. In addition as his work with the choir Paul is also an award-winning choral composer and arranger.