History of the choir

Monmouth Choral Society (MCS) can be traced back to the early days of the reign of Queen Victoria. Its strength and form have changed over the years and its fortunes have fluctuated. Bitter internal wrangles were frequently aired in the  local  press  and make riveting reading in Keith Kissack's book Victorian Monmouth. For some years during the Second World War it closed down altogether. Upon its revival it forged close links with Monmouth School, which were maintained with great success and mutual benefit for many years.

The end?

In the 1980s MCS, in common with many others, fell prey to a general decline in choral society membership and in June 1991 it folded. 'Final concert for Choral Society' ran the headline in the Monmouthshire Beacon of 31 May 1991. Dead but it wouldn't die. With the help and guidance of Dr Vernon Handley, who was to become its President, and with a new committee and a new conductor, Mark Foster, it restarted the same September. A new rehearsal venue was found, with facilities for that indispensable coffee break, and Canon James Coutts generously offered St. Mary's Priory Church as a concert venue. Membership grew rapidly and MCS soon established itself as one of the largest and most active choirs in Wales. In 1993. Only two years after its rebirth, the society won the Welsh Amateur Music Federation's W. S. Gwynn Williams Award for having made the greatest progress in amateur music making (in Wales) throughout the previous two years.In April 2005, Mark Foster retired as conductor. His final concert was, coincidentally, our first concert in a new home venue, the Blake Theatre, and appropriately included Elgar's The Music Makers.

Moving on

In the autumn of 2004 Benjamin Nicholas took over the baton. He continued to develop the level of performance of the choir in works such as the Berlioz Te Deum and Bach's St John Passion, A first performance of John Caldwell La Corona and in Autumn 2008, Brahms German Requiem. Benjamin Nicholas's last concert was an acclaimed performance of Handel's Messiah in December 2009. Sadly pressure of work in Oxford, Merton .College; Tewkesbury Abbey and Dean Close School, Cheltenham, meant that he was no longer able to continue with the choir.

In the summer of 2009 the choir was fortunate to audition and appoint Huw Williams as their new conductor. Huw, as sub-organist at St Paul's Cathedral, had worked with Benjamin Nicholas when the latter was a choral scholar at the cathedral. Huw Williams took the choir forward with a wonderfully varied repertoire. until his departure in 2014 to take up a position as Director of Music at Bath Abbey, when Steven Kings, our current choral director, took over the baton.

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