Choirs hold a special place in the hearts of the Cornish people.

Newquay Choral Society is a part of that tradition and in 2007 it celebrated a 110 year history of choral singing in the town

However, in common with other choirs, its fortunes have been mixed. Often its survival has depended on the resourcefulness and determination of the members. In the early twentieth century a prominent local musician, Crosby Smith, changed his mind regarding a promise to conduct the choir. He had reckoned without the members determination to secure his services. After relenting he went on to conduct the choir to the next decade. On his departure from Newquay both he and his wife left an enormous gap in the town’s voluntary groups.

The Choral Society played its part entertaining the public during the Second World War; 1942 was a vintage year with an ambitious programme of local concerts.

A local hotelier, Walter Horler, frequently conducted and his sister, Tressie, accompanied.  No doubt some Newquay residents will remember the British Restaurant which was up in Tower Road. This hosted at least one Choral Society wartime concert.

Elijah 1942, Conductor Walter Horler.

The war years also brought the Choral Society’s postwar conductor to the town.  Stanley Sargent was a young Cornish teacher whose wartime role was that of RAF instructor.  He was also a gifted musician. An appointment as Maths’ teacher at the Boys’ School was soon followed by the Conductorship of the Choir.

Concert at Newquay Wesley: Stanley Sargent centre front row.
Image © of George Ellis Collection at Cornwall Studies Library, Redruth

By 1957 the Society was conducted by Hubert Julian. During almost three decades both singers and audience were treated to a choral feast.

A number of the Society’s current members sang under Hubert’s leadership and paid tribute to his skills when they made a permanent record of their memories for the archives and an exhibition which accompanied our 110th anniversary in 2007.

In the mid 1980’s the Society almost folded and history was in danger of re-writing itself. Luckily, Denis Osborne, well respected in Cornish music circles and accompanist to the Choir, took on the role of Musical Director and guided the Choir into the new Millennium.

Hubert Julian (Left) – Denis Osborne (Right)

Over time the Choir has performed in many of the town’s historic buildings. In the early days it was associated with the Congregational Church and this was followed by a number of decades in which links were forged with Newquay Wesley Church. Today, the parish Church of St. Michael provides an excellent performance base.

Performances have also taken place in secular buildings in the town: The Newquay Theatre (St. Michael’s Road), The Cosy Nook (a beach side theatre, which is now a distant memory) and the British Restaurant. As we fill in more of the years we may be able to add to the list.

Concert Programmes from 1952 and 1985

After the sad death of Denis Osborne, Judith Mumby (now Pinguey) led us for a number of years.  We then had David Burleigh as our Musical Director who was subsequently  succeeded by Millie Millington  and at present are ably led by Jaivin Raj, of Truro Cathedral.   Newquay Choral Society continues to perform some of the best in choral music. We have hosted Choral Workshops and most notably a Choral afternoon and book signing, led by our past President, Sir David Willcocks, with whom a strong bond of friendship had been forged.  Sir David and his family had special links with Newquay since this was his birthplace.

David Burleigh was our Musical Director from Autumn of 2011 until our April concert in 2015 when Millie Millington took over the baton. In Summer 2018 we appointed Jaivin Raj, a Choral Scholar at Truro Cathedral to lead us. On the expiry of his term at the cathedral and return to London we appointed David Hendry of St Austell as our Muscal Director. David has immense experience in Cornwall in the music field and we trust we shall have a lasting relationship with him in charge. Our accompanist is Rico Gerber of Mount Hawke, a very able pianist, accompanist and organist. We look forward to working with him again.
We are an established choir of 30+, and our vision is to provide an opportunity for all to experience the joy of choral singing.
We normally perform 2 concerts a year, one in early December and the other, towards the end of April. We also take part in community concerts when required. The MD proposes the programme for these concerts which is discussed with a supportive committee.

Choral workshops are one method we use to enrich the performance of our members and with Newquay as a backdrop we have been fortunate in attracting leading conductors to the town.

However, as with all performance groups the search for new members is one of our greatest challenges. By February 2019 our numbers dropped to a very low level but with the appointment of David Hendry, hopefully a new and resurgent Choral Society will emerge.

Marilyn Thompson