Details of some of the history of The Easingwold Singers is given below, but if you can offer any further information for our archives or wish to see the extensive collection of documents we have (including most of the programmes going back to 1903) please contact us.
The Georgian market town of Easingwold, near York, has a choral tradition that stretches back to 1903 and therefore over a hundred years. Originally named The Easingwold and District Musical Society, the choir has changed its name and repertoire often during its evolution. The founder, Mrs Katherine Love of Hawkhills, served as the first President from 1903 to 1928. Mrs Love was also the first Chairman of Easingwold Scouts in 1921 and had been the benefactor of Easingwold Cottage Hospital, now known as St Monica’s, in 1893.
Dr Edwin J Crow FRCO was the first Conductor of the Society from 1903 until 1907. Dr Crow was the organist at Ripon Cathedral from 1873 until 1902 and had founded Ripon Choral Society in 1884.
There was a period from 1906 -1909 when the Society was called The Easingwold Choral Society and this reverted to The Easingwold and District Musical Society in the 1920s. Practices at this time were held in Easingwold Town Hall (now GH Smith’s) with Mr John Groves conducting and Miss Lily Leckenby at the piano. Mr Groves taught music in York and directed an orchestra and choir in the city. Miss Leckenby was a teacher at the Easingwold Church of England School.
There was no choral society during the war years, however in 1944 the Government encouraged the formation of Evening Institutes so it was known as the Easingwold Institute Choral Class for a short time.
In 1946, Alfred Mattinson Wilson (known as Gerry Wilson) formed Easingwold Choral Society in conjunction with other choral societies he organised at Northallerton, Thirsk, Sutton and Leyburn. Mr Wilson had a music studio in Northallerton and was Organist and Choirmaster at Northallerton Parish Church. The President for this period of Easingwold Choral Society was Mrs E Shaw CBE, JP.
For the next twenty years, concerts by the combined choirs of Easingwold, Thirsk, Sutton and Leyburn with Northallerton Choral Society took place at alternating venues. Lady Hunter alternated with Edward C Peake Esq as the President of Northallerton Choral Society during this period. In 1951, the choirs took part in the singing of Sir Edward German’s Merrie England as part of the local Festival of Britain celebrations and in the early 1960s the choir performed as The Festival Choir. Sadly Mr Wilson died suddenly in March 1968 at the age of 53. The choir had been rehearsing Verdi’s Requiem which was to have been presented in April that year.
There was a lapse in the Society’s activities until 1970 when the Easingwold and District Choral Society reappeared with Mr C Ron Evers (then Head of Music at Easingwold School) as the Conductor, following a request from the then Vicar of Easingwold, the Rev. Tony Smith. Parish clergy took it in turns to be the President. Rehearsals often took place in Easingwold Parish Church Rooms (built in 1912 with its foundation stone laid by Mrs Katherine Love, the first President) or at the home of Mrs Mary Wilkinson, one of the members who owned a grand piano.
In 1976 The Easingwold School Choral Society was formed under conductor Mr Paul Dyson, now the Head of the Music Department of Easingwold School. This became the Easingwold Choral Society in 1979 through to 1980 with conductor Mr John Scarfe.
In 1981 Mr Paul Dyson re-formed the Easingwold and District Singers. The first concert of this choir took place on 2 January 1982 with around eighty members. During this period the choir performed a wide variety of music, and also began an association with The Academy of St Olave's - a York-based chamber orchestra which accompanied some of the Singers' concerts. Paul resigned his leadership of the choir to begin work as Musical Director of York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir.
In 1984 the baton passed hands to Mr Arthur Hebb as Choirmaster, with Mr Ken Waugh as accompanist. Mr Hebb was a singer at Ripon Cathedral, so providing another link between the two societies. The pattern of concerts, both sacred and secular in nature, varied from three to four a year between 1985 and 1988.
In October 1988 Mr Hebb announced that he was retiring due to increasing commitment to the Featherstone Male Voice Choir and in January 1989 Mr Duncan Eyre, Choirmaster at Alne Parish Church and conductor of the White Rose Singers, was welcomed as the new conductor. He conducted three concerts but then left the area meaning a new Music Director had to be found.
Therefore 1990 started with a new Music Director, Mr Dennis Freeborn, who was an English lecturer at St John’s College in York and had been the Choral Director of the Micklegate Singers for many years. A formal Constitution was initiated and in October 1990, members agreed at the Annual General Meeting that the Society should thereafter be known as The Easingwold Singers. A new logo was adopted, one that is still used today - an oak tree with the initials ES on either side. Under the directorship of Dennis Freeborn, the musical style of The Easingwold Singers was more inclined towards secular music such as Vaughan William’s Fantasia and (again) Sir Edward German’s Merrie England which was very successful.
In 1994 Dr Roger Tebbet , Director of Music at Selby Abbey, was appointed as Music Director. Dr Tebbet had studied with Dr Francis Jackson, Organist Emeritus of York Minster, and in 2002, in order to celebrate a 20th Anniversary concert of The Easingwold Singers in its present form, Dr Jackson kindly agreed to accept the commission of a work for The Easingwold Singers, by re-arranging a Song on a May Morning which is a setting of words by John Milton. This was performed at a concert at Easingwold School on 4 May 2002 along with another piece, Benedicite, written by a local composer from West Yorkshire, Andrew Carter, who also attended the concert. A display was created at this concert by one of the members, John Morgan, which reflected the history of the Society for all to see.
In May 1997, The Easingwold Singers were granted charitable status with the Charity Commission. The Constitution was amended in 1998 and further updated and amended in 2010 to reflect amended charity legislation and to formally create Honorary Members for past members of the Choir who have served with distinction.
In 2007, The Easingwold Singers created their first website, which was redesigned in 2011 and updated again in 2012. The Easingwold Singers have had their own email address since 2010 and joined Facebook on 31 December 2010.
The Easingwold Singers held their inaugural Dinner in November 2010 and hope to hold this as an annual event in addition to other social and fundraising events.
The Choral Society under its various names has, on and off since 1957, been a member of the National Federation of Musical Societies (NFMS), a national charity which assists amateur music making groups. The NFMS became known as Making Music in 2000 (www.makingmusic.org.uk ) and assists with advice, insurance and payments to the Performing Rights Society (PRS) who pass on copyright fees to composers or publishers of music.
Several years of hard work on the part of past member, tenor and now Honorary Member John Morgan, culminated during January of this year (2013) in the publication of a new book entitled 'Easingwold and District Choral Traditions 1903 - 2012'. The book presents a comprehensive written and photographic history of the Choral Society during that span of years.
A fascinating and comprehensive archive of past programmes and documents is available to be seen upon request.