Calne Choral

Calne Choral Society - Our History

For one hundred and twenty three years Calne has proudly nurtured a thriving choral society. For most of its life the choir was known as the Calne Musical Society. In its centenary year the choir was re-named as Calne Choral Society, although some long standing members still refer to it by its first title. Its origin and growth was due to the work and enterprise of Mr W Pullein, organist of St Marys Church. As a very young man of twenty-one, he formed the choir and gave the first concert in Calne Town Hall in December 1886. Under his baton, the choir flourished for some sixty years. Over an even longer period the organisation of the society was in the hands of Mr Cameron Gough, his father, and before him, his grandfather. Mr Pullein quickly established the practice of giving annual concerts of major oratorios such as "Elijah", "St Paul" and "Hiawatha's Wedding Feast". There were very many performances of "Messiah". The first was as early as 1888.

At first, concerts were given in the Town Hall. In 1914, the choir perfomed in St Mary's Church and there the concerts stayed, with the memorable exception of the Fiftieth Anniversary Concert, when the choir sang from the stage of Calne Cinema. The standing of the society might be indicated very simply by the notice on many of the programmes of "special trains to Chippenham at 10.05, connecting with the main line trains, up and down". It long remained policy to engage the services of at least one distinguished soloist for each concert. Owen Brannigan, Ena Mitchell, Isobel Baillie are a few of those great names. In the 1930's, it was Mr Pullien's practice to engage instrumentalists of the Band of the Royal Marines in his orchestra. Clearly, concerts which amassed costs of £30 in 1914 and £150 in 1956 were no mean affairs.

After the last war, the society continued to operate under a succession of local enthusiastic conductors, whose names still reverbrate in the locality - Leonard Bullock, Brian Barnes, R W Lovell - but there were hard times in the 1960's. At the end of that decade, David Cook and David Price, aided and abetted by Heather Rathbone, began to pull the choir together again. Drawing on the reservoirs of two town schools, the choir was a going concern by 1970. David White became the conductor on his arrival in Calne in September of that year and since then the choir has grown and performed music of an enormous range of period and style.

In its centenary year the Choir paid homage to its birth with a celebratory concert, which looked back to the first performance given by the Society in the Town Hall on 10th December 1886. The Choir performed as near to the date of the first concert on 6th December 1986, also in the Town Hall in Calne singing the very first oratorio that the founding choir sang, 'Christ and his Soldiers' by John Farmer.

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1st Published 02/04/2017- Update: Tue 12th Nov 2019
Calne Choral Society-Registered Charity: 801131