Lytham St Annes Choral Society - History

The Lytham St Annes Choral Society has a strong musical tradition and can trace its roots back to 1909 when Samuel Broughton, the organist of St Cuthbert’s Church in Lytham, formed the Lytham Vocal Society from an existing choral group. He remained the Music Director for the next thirty-nine years, until his death in 1946. The post-war years saw a number of operatic productions alongside core choral repertoire such as Messiah, Samson, Elijah, Creation and patriotic works: Stanford’s Songs of the Fleet and Elgar’s Banner of St George. The Golden Jubilee year of 1957 lists the choir as having 26 sopranos, 16 altos, 11 tenors and 13 basses. The Diamond Jubilee 10 years later maintains a similar proportion of singers, totalling just under 70. In 1963 the Vocal Society became an evening class of the St Annes College of Further Education and, having been progressively joined by orchestral players from 1964, became the Lytham St Annes Vocal and Orchestral Society, later conducted by Harry Wrigley.

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Many famous names have appeared as soloists with the choir: tenor Heddle Nash, soprano Helen Watts, mezzo Janet Baker, the violinist Martin Milner. These illustrious bookings were probably attributable to Lady Edge who was an alto in the choir, also President for many years and who had national musical connections. Kathleen Ferrier joined the choir in 1935 and returned as a soloist years later; the Choir sang with Isabelle Baillie in 1938/39, Owen Brannigan in 1944/58 and Robert Tear 1965. Barbara Robotham, professor of voice at the Royal Northern College of Music and mezzo soloist was president of the society from 1989 until 2013. She sang with the choir on several occasions but notably in a memorable performance of Verdi’s Requiem at the Grand Theatre in Blackpool for the Society’s 90th Anniversary. Nicola Howard, another internationally acclaimed opera singer and teacher. is the Society’s current president.

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Alt TextAndrew Barratt joined as Music Director in 1977 and the choir became a vocal group again – the Lytham St Annes Choral Society, in its current form. During this time the choir membership increased in order to sing works like the Verdi Requiem which was performed for the choir’s 90th and 100th Anniversaries at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool. The choir also sang Messiah there, with the London Mozart Orchestra. We collaborated with the Preston Cecilian Choral Society for a performance of Gerontius in the Preston Guildhall. These performances were alongside the regular three concerts a year of the core choral repertoire in local churches. Helen Harrison took over the baton in 2018 when Andrew retired after 41 years. She saw us through the difficult Covid period with Zoom rehearsals and 3 concerts on-line. Helen fine-tuned the choir and introduced several living composers alongside the core repertoire. Her final concert was the NW premiere of the Ethel Smyth Mass in D, when we collaborated again with the Preston Cecilians and with the choir of Kirkham Grammar School.