Durham Choral Society Archive

Scope and Content

The archive comprises the administrative material of the running of the society, especially the minutes of its regular executive committee meetings and its AGMs, supported by accounts, and correspondence about all aspects of the running of thesociety, its branding and the marketing of itself and its performances. There is also a quantity of material about contracts for concerts with performers and venues, and then a series of epehemra about the concerts themsleves, especially programmesand posters.

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1946 Conrad Eden, the Durham Cathedral organist, formed a choral society for Durham which at its peak had 112 members. By the mid 1950s this had dropped to such a low number that it was decided to disband the group in 1958.

In 1962, Maurice Armsby, a Cathedral lay clerk, found that there was a strong desire to re-form a choral society in Durham, so, after a public meeting in June, the decision was taken to go ahead and rehearsals began in September for the firstconcert which was given in the Cathedral on 30 November 1962.

The new choir did not have an untroubled beginning. Initial enthusiasm produced a membership of 70 but again numbers began to drop slightly. After three years the conductor moved to Winchester Cathedral. His successor only directed threeperformances before he too left Durham. In 1966, Raymond Hall, Principal of the Bernard Gilpin Society and a local organist, took over as musical director. In 1970 the performing venue moved from Elvet Methodist Church to Wearside School. Numbersdropped to about 40 and audience figures decreased, possibly due to the uncompromising hardness of school chairs! This trend was reversed when the concert venue was transferred to the Town Hall in 1974.

Raymond Hall retired in 1977 and Richard Brice, who had been assistant conductor for a few years, took over. Under his direction membership began to increase and numbers grew until the only suitable venue was the Cathedral. On several occasionsthe choir has joined with other local choirs to give performances of works that neither group would have had sufficient numbers to tackle alone, including Verdi’s Requiem and Britten’s War Requiem. The Society has been well served by its orchestraof mostly local musicians, ably led over the years by (among others) Florence Wilson, Derek Downes, Jean Provine, and Sue Innes.

On Richard Brice's retirement in 2012 after a golden jubilee concert, Michael Summers took over as Musical Director in September 2012, with the orchestra now led by Julia Boulton. There is now a regular annual cycle of two major concerts in thecathedral, generally in January and May, with a carols concert in December in Elvet Methodist Church. Recent performances have included the major classics of the repetoire, such as Bach's B Minor Mass, and more recent compositions, such as the Mass in Blue of Will Todd (the society's president). Projects have included a performance of the Defiant Requiem of Verdi, and performing with the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment. Concerts alsoo involve other local choral groups, such as the university's Chamber Choir, or the youth choirs of the Durham Schools MusicService. Society members have also recently performed in the local Brass festival and in the annual Big Sing in the Royal Albert Hall.

The musical director has an assistant, currently (2020) Elizabeth Woods. There is also a regular rehearsal pianist, with an assistant. The society is run by a committee with a chair, currently (2020) Kate Bailey, a deputy, concert manager,secretary, treasurer and various other members, some with specific portfolios. The society also has a president (Will Todd) and a variety of vice-presidents. The rehearsal venue is now usually the Durham Johnston School on a Wednesday evening, but avariety of other schools in Durham have also been used, and the society has even ventured to Ushaw College Chapel to rehearse in.


  • 1. Minutes
  • 2. Correspondence & administrative
  • 3. Branding
  • 4. Finances
  • 5. Concert ephemera
  • 6. Oversized concert ephemera
  • 7. Contracts & hiring

Access Information

The collection has not yet been sorted or catalogued. For this reason, it is not normally possible to consult the collection.

Acquisition Information

Donated by the Society in December 2018 (Acc No Misc.2018/19:47) with a further donation of accounts in November 2019 (Acc No Misc.2019/20:44). Further accruals are anticipated.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Collections (e-mail pg.library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possiblewith identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

The contents of the collection have not yet been fully appraised.