From out of the ashes ...
Peterborough had, for many years, a thriving Philharmonic Chorus. This ceased to function in late 1990 leaving this rapidly expanding city without any society dedicated to singing works from the great choral tradition. A small group of ex-members from the Philharmonic’s committee were charged with the ‘winding up’ of the Phil’s affairs and in discussion agreed that this void in the musical life of the city should and would be filled.
One of the group had worked with Anne McDonald at the then Westwood House School and on approach Anne agreed not only to conduct any new society but to negotiate with Mrs Storey, the then Head of the school, to allow it to rehearse there. This was wonderful news. Two of the three major challenges in the formation of the new society had been met. However the third was the most challenging ... would anyone join?
Optimistically a first meeting of the society was arranged for the second Tuesday in January 1991. 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm at Westwood House School. After much debate it was decided that the name should be quite simply “Peterborough Choral Society.” That was exactly what we aimed for, a society of singers enthused by and dedicated to singing great choral works. These days we’d say ‘it does what it says on the tin!’
December 1990 was a flurry of activity by the ten or so ‘founders’ and many an office photocopier was ‘commissioned’ to the production of leaflets. All Christmas concerts, carol services, churches, community centres, schools and libraries in and around Peterborough were ‘leafleted’ with invitations to come along and join and sing some choruses from ‘Messiah’. It was assumed that most singers would have access to a copy of ‘Messiah’ as, of course, there was no choir music available. In spite of the cold and the dark and a few parking problems, over seventy enthusiastic singers turned up. Peterborough Choral Society was born.
Since then we have moved rehearsal venues only twice, once when Anne left what is now Peterborough High School and moved to a new post in Rickmansworth, from which she travelled each week. We now have had a long and happy stay at St. Andrew’s United Reformed Church where we still meet on Tuesdays but a little later these days at 7:30.
Anne McDonald retired from the Choral Society in November 2016 after 25 years' fantastic service, with a performance of Elijah, the first major work the choir performed back in 1991. With full orchestra and soloists it was a memorable occasion. She was succeeded by Steven Grahl, Director of Music at Peterborough Cathedral.