75th Anniversary Factoids

1. SACS was formed in Autumn 1944. Choirs and orchestras had been shut down in the War but the organist of St Peter’s Church wanted to put on a Christmas concert. He asked Kenneth Faulkner to form a choir to take it on. He found it full of “middle aged ladies – no men!” Other church choirs provided some men and the “Augmented Choir” gave its first performance on 17 December 1944.

2. The Choir’s first performance was in Spicer Street Church on 17 December 1944 as the “Augmented Choir”. The Story of Bethlehem by John E West was conducted by Kenneth Faulkner. In 1945, the name was changed briefly to the “New Choir” which gave way in 1946 to “St Albans United Choir”. This name lasted until late 1950 when the title St Albans Choral Society was adopted.

3. Since its first concert in 1944, St Albans Choral Society (under its various names) has staged a total of 278 performances. The 75th Anniversary Concert in November 2019 will be no. 279.

4. Since its inception, SACS has had only eight conductors. Indeed, there have been only two conductors in the last 45 years. Peter Clulow conducted 62 concerts over 20 years from 1974. George Vass took over as Music Director in 1974 and has conducted 105 concerts to date.

5. The Choir’s first concert in a Civic venue was in June 1946 at the Town Hall, performing The Song of Hiawatha by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. The total cost of staging the concert was £32.2.11d. Receipts amounted to £43.17.6d – a profit of 36%!

6. In 1947, the Choir used to rehearse in a room at Spicer Street Church. Members complained about the cold during the winter. Post war restrictions meant that coke was only available under licence. An application had to be made to the Ministry of Fuel for a special allocation. Three tons of coke were approved and purchased. The caretaker agreed to light the boiler early on rehearsal nights to ensure the room was warm.

7. Following healthy growth in membership to about 80 in the 1950s, Choir numbers declined to 40 in 1961. A concert was cancelled and it was suggested that the Choir should disband. This was rejected in favour of a recruitment drive. By 1980, the Choir had 140 paid up members. Today’s membership is over 100.

8. Occasional calamities have affected the Choir. During the 1960s, members moving a piano in St Saviour’s Church dropped and damaged it. Society funds were significantly depleted to pay for repairs.

9. In 1979, St Albans Choral Society commissioned the engraving of a pane of glass in the clerestory of St Albans Abbey as part of a restoration appeal. The pane is located in the Clerestory very high up on the South side of the nave. The Society’s logo, name and the first bar of the Hallelujah chorus from The Messiah is engraved on it. See attached pictures.

10. The Mayor of St Albans has been President (later Patron) of the Choral Society since Alderman Bird first accepted the position in 1946.

11. For many years, the Choir’s Christmas concerts in City Hall (later Alban Arena) included readings by famous personalities including Richard Baker, David Kossof, Alan Titchmarsh, Gavin Campbell and Richard Whitmore. Readings still feature in our Christmas concerts – but by Choir members.

12. The piece sung most by the Choir is Handel’s Messiah – performed 15 times since 1944 and most recently at Easter 2018.

13. The composer whose works have been most performed by the Choir over the last 75 years are:

· Handel 50 pieces

· Mozart 35 pieces

· Haydn 30 pieces

· Vaughan Williams 30 pieces

Since 1994 when George Vass took over, the most performed composer is Cecilia McDowall with 25 pieces

14. When St Albans Abbey Organ was refurbished in 2009, the Choir sponsored an organ pipe. Sadly, our pipe isn’t accessible or visible – there are thousands of pipes hidden internally inside the organ case

15. The Choir’s longest standing members are Alan and Ros French. Alan joined in 1955 and his first concert was the Messiah as part of the St Cecilia Festival. Ros joined in 1957 and her first concert was A Cotswold Romance by Vaughan Williams. The couple have been members for over 60 years and have hardly missed a performance.

16. The Choir’s most used performance venue since 1944 is the Alban Arena (formerly known as City Hall) where the Choir has given 77 concerts. The last concert there was in 2005. The top five venues are:

Alban Arena (was City Hall) 77 concerts

Marlborough Road Methodist Church 48

St Albans Abbey 43

St Saviour’s Church 35

St Peter’s Church 23

17. The Choir’s longest serving accompanist by far is Richard Harvey who started in 1999. In 20 years, he has helped the Choir to rehearse for 86 concerts and been a principal perform