Worrall Male Voice Choir celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in grand style by making its first foreign concert tour in May 2000. Little did the thirteen men who gathered in Worrall Independent Chapel on 7th September 1970, to form another male voice choir, think so far ahead. They were more concerned with local opposition in an area where almost every valley fielded a brass band competing for audiences with the choirs, which formed in the hill top villages around industrial Sheffield.
Bill Thompson led the choir through its inaugural months when Doug Crossland took the conductor's baton until ill health forced his retirement in December 1995. By the mid 1980s, when the well-structured choir became a registered charity, it had sixty members. Under Doug Crossland's inspired direction the young choir gained a sound reputation at concerts and by coming first in numerous competitions. The Choir broke new ground by becoming the first "English" choir to win the Cornish Open Choral Championship for Male Voices in 1987, previously the exclusive preserve of Cornishmen.
Closer to home the choir, in 1988, became involved in the fund raising concerts organised by the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre Trust to restore the fine old theatre in Tudor Square, Sheffield. The Choir proudly recalls being accompanied by the splendid bands of the Coldstream Guards and the Duke of Wellington's Regiment on these prestigious occasions. These events led to invitations for the choir to participate in ITV's 'Telethon '90 and BBC Radio Sheffield concerts and Christmas celebrations.
Once the restoration was completed the Choir promoted and participated in the first choral performance held in the reopened Lyceum, a grand charity concert on 8th March 1992. The James Shepherd Versatile Brass and Mary-Louise Aitken, a dazzling young soprano from nearby Stocksbridge, accompanied the Choir. Although seat prices were kept low to encourage a full house of nearly 1,000, the concert raised £3,000 for the local Weston Park Hospital Cancer Fund. Both performers and audience enjoyed the glorious new decor and the fine acoustics, that sensitive quality without which a concert hall is nothing, which are rated second to none in the country.
The Choir now enjoyed a higher profile bookings calendar engendered by success and celebrated its Silver Anniversary, on 5th February 1995, by a repeat performance with its accompanists from the Lyceum opening concert. Miss Aitken was now in her final year at the Royal Northern College of Music and a singer in the Glyndbourne chorus.
Since then the Worrall Choir has attended some 35 engagements a year including weddings, after dinner shows, concerts and competitions to keep its members on their toes. Such a commitment would not be possible without the loyal support of the non-singing Friends of the Choir and members wives during their frequent bouts of grass widow-hood. The Ladies Support Group help by organising fund raising and social events, and providing spectacular Yorkshire teas for these.
The Millennium was celebrated by' the Choir's first overseas foreign tour to Catalonia where venues included Barcelona Cathedral and the famous monastery of' Montserrat.
Outside Montserat Monastery
2001 was a very busy year for the choir. It began in March in Sheffield City Hall when the choir was asked to join Cantores Novae and Grimethorpe Colliery Band in a memorable concert with the famous soprano Leslie Garrett. In May the choir toured Cornwall again for concerts with Mousehole, Newquay and Loveny Male Voice Choirs.
2002 saw the Choir publish the second edition of its’ famous “blue book” of Christmas Carols – The Joy of Christmas. In March, we joined other Male Voice Choirs in the Welsh Association of Male Choirs at the Albert Hall in London for their “Thousand Welsh Voices in Song” concert.
One of the Choirs’ greatest achievements took place in 2003 when it entered and won the Welsh Association of Male Choirs Male Voice Choir of the Year Competition beating 12 other choirs in the process. It also undertook its second concert tour abroad with a visit to Malta.
Choir of the Year 2003
At the end of 2004, our Musical Director, Elizabeth Hampshire retired and our longstanding Accompanist, Michael Peaker took over the baton. Sadly, this was to be only for a very short time. Whilst on a short Choir holiday in Cornwall in May 2005, Michael collapsed and died. Between May and August the Choir were indebted to Mr. John Kenyon, the Conductor of Waldershelf Choral Society and Deputy Conductor of Bolsterstone Male Voice Choir for standing in and conducting the Choir to allow it to fulfil its concert commitments. In August the Choir employed its current Musical Director, Dr. Nigel Russell. Nigel is also a Songman at Sheffield Cathedral. We also managed to secure the services of Mr. Stephen Vickers as our new Accompanist. Steve also conducts Sheffield Youth Orchestra.
2006 was a year of consolidation with a completely new musical team but the Choir still managed a concert tour of Scotland with concerts in Glasgow and Edinburgh and released of a new CD - “With a Voice of Singing”.
The Choir remained very busy through 2007 with concerts with Waldershelf Choral Society in April at St. Matthias Church, Stocksbridge and in July at St. Andrews Church, Psalter Lane. In September we visited Weybridge to join our old friends Weybridge Male Voice Choir for their Annual Autumn Concert. We followed this with a visit to Huddersfield in October to join with New Mill Male Voice Choir for their Autumn Concert.
In 2008, we held 13 concerts including a Lunchtime Recital at Sheffield Cathedral in May and we returned to the old Victory Club in Stocksbridge (now renamed "The Venue") in October for our Annual Autumn Concert where we we were joined by New Mill Male Voice Choir. We also performed at concerts to raise funds for "Amy's House" at St Mary's Church, Handsworth in April, and "Action for Children Charity" at Wesley Hall, Crookes in November.
The first 4 months of 2009 were occupied by preparations for the Welsh Association Concert in April at the Royal Albert Hall in London. We performed several concerts from May onwards and spread our wings as wide as Bradfield Church in May to help raise funds for the Organ restoration, Christ Church Stannington in October, and St Mary's School, Tickhill in December.
At the start of 2009 the Choir joined forces with Bolsterstone MVC to form the Come and Sing Project. This unique project came about with both Choirs suffering declining membership but fighting for the same singers. Following a meeting of representatives of the two choirs, it was agreed that something had to be done to keep male voice choir singing alive in the area. It was decided to pool resources and finances and put together a joint venture to (a) promote male voice choir singing in the area (b) to find new singers for both Choirs.
To this end a new choir was formed which performed as a stand alone choir at two concerts, one on 13th March 2010 at The Venue in Stocksbridge and one on the 17th April 2010 at the International Hall, Ponds Forge Leisure Centre. After the second concert the project was complete and members of the new choir were given the option of joining either Bolsterstone or Worrall if they wanted to carry on their choral singing. Our 40th Anniversary Concert took place in Sheffield Cathedral on Saturday 11th September when a full house audience were treated to an evening of superb music. Our guests were Weybridge MVC, New Mill MVC and soprano Kathryn McAdam and the concert was compered by BBC Look North presenter, Christa Ackroyd.
40th Anniversary Concert
Click here to read the 40th Anniversary Concert Program from 11th September 2010 (This requires Acrobat Reader to be installed on your PC). To install this, click on the button below.
In 2011, we held 11 concerts, and sang at 2 weddings. The first wedding led to us learning a piece in Danish as the bride was from Denmark, and the second was the Marriage blessing of our own Second bass Barney and his wife Judy. The highlight of the year was the Choir trip to Devon, where we performed a lunchtime recital in Exeter Cathedral, and a concert with Brixham Orpheus MVC at Paignton.
In 2012, we held or participated in 11 concerts, sang at 1 wedding, and attended a celebration for the 50th Wedding Anniversary of our Second Tenor and former Treasurer, John Wilkinson, The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the concert in aid of “Help for Heroes” held at Ponds Forge in November, which raised £2,500 for a very worthwhile cause.
By way of contrast the Choir participates regularly in the important Carol singing season, which ranges from Carol concerts to the more homely 'sings' in local pubs. These have their own tradition of district Christmas Carols rarely heard in churches. Some of these were incorporated in the Choir's 'Blue Book' entitled "The Joy of Christmas" which, since Christmas 1982 has sold in its thousands both at home and to Yorkshiremen settled in Australia and the USA.
Worrall MVC supports the David Clover Competition, the Sheffield spring music festival, practically, financially and by providing the Doug Crossland Memorial Shield for the most promising female entry, and the Michael Peaker Memorial Trophy for Oratorio and Sacred Song (aged 18 yrs and under). This thoroughly versatile choir performs not only the traditional works associated with the male voice but a wide range of popular songs and arrangements tuned to the taste of modern audiences. In meeting the challenges of high standards and demanding judges the Worrall Male Voice Choir has earned a place in the unique musical history of' the former West Riding of Yorkshire.
Last Updated: 21 February, 2013