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History

© Peter Bradshaw

Bath Choral Society can be traced from 1819, performing at the opening of the Freemasons' Hall in York Street. A further three concerts were organised during the autumn months when "all the other amusements in Bath are suspended"!

The trail goes quiet until 1830 when Bath Choral Society gave another concert, again in the Freemasons' Hall, in aid of the newly created Royal Victoria Park. There is evidence to suggest that this Society performed between 1828 and 1850 (we are lucky enough to have a programme cover dated 1837). Various choirs - the Bath City Choral Society, Bianchi Taylor's Choir and the Bath Choral Union - now competed for public approbation for the next thirty or so years.

Fortunately we have continuous records for Bath Choral Society from 1884, when a choir led by Emilio Pieraccini gave its first concert in the New Assembly Rooms. At much the same time Henry Sims formed the Bath Orchestral Society. After a period of subdued activity these two groups were wedded together in 1890 and called Bath Choral and Orchestral Society.

In 1951 Bath Choral Society featured in the film The Magic Box starring Robert Donat about the life of William Friese-Greene. It celebrated its centenary in the season 1981/82, based on the view that the Society was established in 1882; a not unreasonable assumption given that many programmes stated this on the cover.

For 125 years the present Society has built on the traditions of the past; not least being the annual performances of Handel's Messiah in Bath Abbey. In 1989 it changed its name back to Bath Choral Society, engaging fully professional orchestras to accompany concerts, under which banner it continues to perform to this day.

The Society has worked with many great soloists - Madame Belle Cole, Esther Palliser, Dame Isobel Baillie, Dame Janet Baker, Emma Kirkby, Lesley Garrett, David Mason and in 1992, José Carreras and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1998 the Society was selected to perform a new commission in association with the SPNM and the NFMS, resulting in the world premiere of Visions of Sorrow & Joy by Brian Inglis. The choir enjoys a fruitful association with The City of Bath Bach Choir, including joint performances of Walton's Belshazzar's Feast, and Britten's War Requiem.

Bath Choral Society is distinguished in having only four principal conductors during its 125 year history - Henry Sims, William Jackman, Clifford Harker and Matthew Bale, who retired at the end of the 2011 summer season after 23 years as Musical Director.

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© Bath Choral Society 2017. Last updated: 11-Jan-17

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