A Brief History of the Choir

What a different place Tideswell was in the late 1940s!. Most people attended Church or Chapel and had a deep love of religious choral music; they talked a rich Derby­shire vernac­ular and the men shared a cul­ture and a humour which bonded them closely; it’s a great strength of the choir to this day. Arthur Furness, whose son Les would much later become the choir’s President, had a love of sing­ing which inspired a dedi­cated bunch to meet and sing regu­larly in each others’ parlours. Their enthusi­asm was infec­tious and the vill­age loved to listen to them; in fact, the Tides­well men found they had become a choir.

It has been the choir’s good fortune that when­ever the way for­ward has seemed in doubt, some­one has appeared whose enthusi­asm has gene­rated the energy to move on. When Arthur Furness found that the grow­ing demands of life and chil­dren meant he could no longer lead the choir, Raymond Hibbert, a quarryman with extra­ordinary musical gifts and a wealth of hilar­ious Derby­shire stories, brought together an expan­ded group and rekind­led the spirit of the choir. Raymond’s daughter Iris still lives in Tideswell and his other daughter Mavis in Devon.

Chris Senior was the first profes­sional Choir­master employed by the Choir, in 1984; he worked them extrem­ely hard, to the point where their self-confidence began to build: a group of wives was con­vened; uni­forms were designed and made. Chris laid the foun­dations of discip­line, musician­ship and concen­tration that led to major national and inter­national success. Awards followed at various music fes­tivals including Buxton, More­cambe, Hazel Grove, Black­pool, Ferrers, Newcastle-Under-Lyme and Selston, estab­lish­ing the choir as the lead­ing Male Voice Choir in Derby­shire. Inter­national suc­cesses were added: the Malta Inter­national Choir Fest­ival marked a supreme achieve­ment for the choir when it won the Male Voice section and was awar­ded the Silver trophy; in 2003 they sang a very suc­cessful series of con­certs in Slovenia.

Just as Tideswell has changed enor­mously in half a cen­tury, so, natur­ally, have the person­nel of the choir. No lon­ger are the men pre­domin­antly from the vill­age; the present choir is drawn from the region, from Stock­port to Shef­field, and includes a plumber, a retired Scotland Yard detective, a former cruise director, one chap who worked on North Sea oil rigs, and no fewer than three professors! Not that their singing is any better than anyone else’s.

Successors to Chris have added to the foundation he created. Each have brought to the choir a new pur­pose and vigour, epito­mised by the launch of the choir’s first CD, New Hori­zons. A major sponsorship deal with M.Markovitz Ltd, a Tideswell company, gave the choir uniforms and staging for concerts.  And links with the University of Derby at its Buxton campus saw the choir singing at one of their graduation ceremonies.

The choir has increased its outreach into the local communities. A successful application for an Awards for All grants resulted in workshops to encourage young men to take up singing.  TMVC has taken part in various local music festivals winning first prize twice. At the 2018 Buxton Festival Fringe the Choir, singing with Burbage Brass Band won rave reviews.

Major concerts in the Buxton Opera House with top class performers, Aled Jones, the world famous ladies choir Cantamus and the Military Wives choir have established the choir as an organisation producing high quality, spectacular entertainment.  Both these concerts were sold out.  Another concert at the Opera House in 2014 to commemorate of the start of the First World War honoured those who fell in that conflict and subsequent ones, was also a sell out.

The proceeds from these enabled the choir to take particularly seriously the contribution it makes to local charities.  Each Christmas the choir organized and performed at a Christmas Spectacular from which the proceeds go to the single charity of the choir’s choice for the year.  Over £11,000 was raised by the last two years Christmas Spectaculars for the benefit of two local hospices.  A concert in aid of the victims of the Haiti earthquake raised £1,200.

New Musical Directors have worked with a new committee, with Edwina Currie Jones as its President and a core group of dedicated choir members, to re-establish the basic concepts which were the foundation of its past successes.

It is now embarking on a programme of concerts, performing choral songs, old and new, to a high standard and inviting accomplished instrumentalists and singers as its guest artists. Jeneba Kanneh-Mason, finalist in the Keyboard Category of the BBC Young Musician of the Year, was our guest at St John’s Church Buxton on the 22nd September 2019, and Charlotte Hoather, the recent winner of the Pendine International Voice of the Future at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod was our guest on the 10th November in “Tideswell and the Great War” at St John’s church in the village. And a further interesting development was that the choir was engaged by Fred Olsen cruises to perform on one of its cruise ships which proved a great success.

Following the cruise the choir performed one concert under its new director, Alison Wheeldon, singing at Beeley Church in December 2019, but shortly afterwards the covid pandemic struck and normal service had to be temporarily abandoned. We did manage to hold some rehearsals via zoom, but it was great joy to sing together in person in the summer of 2020 when we gathered in the garden of one of our members. Finally we were able to resume in-person rehearsals on Tuesday evenings, leading to performances at Blythe Hospice in Chapel-en-le-Frith and Whaley Bridge Uniting Church.

Unfortunately we lost a number of men during lockdown for a variety of reasons, but since restarting have also welcomed some new members and we are now looking forward to strengthening our numbers even more as we prepare a new repertoire for the coming year.