The society was founded in 1941 and has been part of the musical life of the area continuously since that time, presenting concerts not only in the Harlequin Theatre, but also in a number of local churches.
The first concert presented was Handel's Messiah and since then we have been proud to present not only the great choral masterpieces, but new and unusual repertoire which has both delighted and challenged our members and audiences.
Many of today's top soloists began their careers singing solo roles with amateur choral societies, and we are no exception. The pattern began with our performance of Elijah in 1942, which featured Isobel Baillie as one of the soloists. The trend has continued since then; examples from subsequent decades include John Shirley Quirk in Bach's St. Matthew Passion in 1964, Philip Langridge in Dyson's Canterbury Pilgrims in 1970, Catherine Wyn Rogers in our 1984 performance of Elijah, and Katerina Karnéus in Bach's Mass in B Minor in 1994.
Not all of our previous soloists progressed as singers. Included here are Roger Norrington (now Sir Roger) as the tenor soloist in the 1964 Messiah,who is now better known as a conductor, and Brian Kay, the baritone soloist in the Fauré Requiem we performed in 1971 who now pursues a busy career as a conductor and Radio 3 presenter. Most notable amongst those who have subsequently excelled on the podium is our music director in the 1956 Season, Sir Colin Davis, who is now the Society's President. Further details of our past performances can be found in the archive; this includes details of the repertoire we have performed, together with details of the soloists, conductor, orchestra, date and performance venue.
Under experienced Director Peter Farrant, the Choir has adapted to become a modern, effective organisation. Its ability to keep pace with constant changes & challenges of the arts has become a defining characteristic. This readiness to embrace change has assisted in the development of both the membership and activities.
Membership has showed growth and stabilisation. Planning has been supported by development and creation of numerous specialist activities including Workshops, Open Rehearsals, and a whole range of other members services. Consultation with the membership has resulted in activities more geared to meeting specific needs and raised performance standards.
As part of a long-term commitment to the performance of new music alongside popular classics, the society has begun to develop a valuable hire library resource of new and unknown works making them more readily available and accessible to organisations in the future.
Pre-performance talks / visits by living composers
Innovative programming of new and unusual choral works alongside mainstream repertoire has attracted considerable interest and attention. As a direct result visits and pre-performance talks have been presented by a number of notable British composers including Paul Patterson, Howard Blake, Richard Blackford, Jonathan Willcocks, Bob Chilcott, Cecilia McDowall and Paul Carr.
Inspired by the expertise of Music Director Peter Farrant, Reigate & Redhill Choral Society has consistently achieved critical acclaim for its presentation of exciting and adventurous programmes that feature the promotion of new and unusual works by British Composers alongside mainstream repertoire.
To mark the choir’s 65th Anniversary in 2006 Music Director, Peter Farrant, successfully persuaded World renowned British composer, Bob Chilcott, to compose an exciting new work entitled ‘The Face of Peace’. In 2006 the choir were privileged to stage the World Premiere at Dorking Halls, Surrey in the presence of the composer. In addition, the choir performed European Premieres in France and Belgium as well as recording the work. To commemorate the 150th Anniversary of Elgar’s birth RRCS also commissioned a new orchestration of Elgar’s Ave Verum which was premiered at The Harlequin Theatre, Redhill as part of Surrey Choral Festival 2007. The choir recently commissioned British composer, Paul Carr, to write a Magnificat as part of their 2012/13 Season.
Progress has been made in respect of developing the Society’s audience base, largely as a result of members efforts, market research, programming, careful selection of performance venues (including those outside of the immediate area) and ‘added-value’ events such as pre-performance talks and partnerships with other groups in the community.
The founding of this highly respected professional orchestra in 2000, managed by Reigate & Redhill Choral Society, has provided immense flexibility, enabling the performance of choral accompaniments and instrumental repertoire from the Renaissance to the present day in an infinite variety of different sizes and instrumental combinations. Attention has recently been focused upon highlighting the talents of core individuals with solo exposure opportunities.
The establishment of ‘Surrey Choral Festival’, launched in 1999, has successfully provided a highly rewarding and enjoyable choral experience, including professional vocal coaching and performance with professional orchestra, to hundreds of singers throughout the South East.
‘Festival of Carols’, launched in December 2003, has been successfully established as an annual festival designed to draw together performers from the surrounding area in a celebration of vocal talent geared to enhancing school pupils’ skills and enjoyment through singing and performing alongside both amateur and professional adult musicians.
In 2005 the choir made the first of its appearances at the International Brighton Festival. Their performance in 2007 was subsequently featured on BBC radio. 2009 featured a performance of Karl Jenkins new ‘Requiem’ in the dramatic setting ofSt Bartholomew’s Church. This was subsequently followed by a performance at Bath Abbey during the Bath International Fesitval. Regular appearances have taken place since.
A biennial touring programme was successfully launched in May 2002 with a memorable performance of Faure’s Requiem at the prestigious Church of the Madeleine, Paris, to a capacity audience. This was preceded with a Central London performance at St James Church, Piccadilly. In 2004 a further highly successful tour of Belgium was undertaken with performances staged in Aalst and at Brussels Cathedral. In 2006 the choir gave performances in the Cathedrals of Lille and Brugge. More recently the choir travelled to Rouen in 2008 to give a series of performances which included the Cathedral. 2010 saw the choir’s eagerly awaited return to Paris for memorable performances at St Eustache, St Germain-de-Pres and the infamous Notre Dame Cathedral performing to a capacity audience. In 2012 the choir visited Antwerp and Ghent giving notable performances at both Cathedrals as well as at St Paul's, Antwerp.
UK residential Courses
Launched in May 2007, this exciting new Choral Development Initiative was established as a way to encourage members to experience the musical and social delights of touring via a short residential course concluding with a performance in one of the UK’s finest Cathedrals / Churches. The first of these took place in Bristol and culminated with a performance in the Cathedral. In 2009 a visit was undertaken to Bath and its wonderful Abbey with a performance during the Festival. 2011 witnessed a visit to Cambridge with a recital at the University Church of Great St Mary's. In 2013 a visit will take place to Christchurch with a recital in the wonderful Priory.
In June 2003 the choir undertook a debut professional CD recording, which was subsequently released on the Regent label in September 2003. This was a fantastic opportunity for members to experience a very different style of and approach to music making. In April 2006 the choir undertook a second professional CD recording at the infamous Tonbridge School Chapel. This was subsequently released in September 2006 and included the Premiere Recording of ‘The Face of Peace’ by Bob Chilcott commissioned by the choir. The choir’s third recording was launched in December 2009 and features an eclectic mix of new and traditional festive music performed by member of RRCS as well as students from three local secondary schools as part of our Community Development Programme.
Part of a new series of Music Education Initiatives introduced to strengthen and develop vocal talent in the community through provision of professional tuition and performance opportunities. Launched in 2002, in recent years these have included an eclectic mix of styles (gospel, jazz, commercial, world music, anthems) Theory, Singing technique, Sight singing, Recording technique, and Performance technique.
Community Development Programme
During the inaugural Surrey Choral Festival in 1999, the Society developed a successful partnership with the local RNIB College enabling students the opportunity to take part in major choral events and Society member to collaborate in some of the college’s own musical projects. The Society subsequently teamed up with the Choral du Chene de Brunoy, a choir based in Reigate & Banstead’s twin town near Paris, for Surrey Choral Festival 2001 and a subsequent Tour of France in May 2002. Partnerships have successfully been established with numerous local Primary & Secondary schools as well as businesses and other Community organisations thanks to the valuable support of Legal & General.
Marketing and communication
In 2000 the society launched its first ever website. Subsequent re-development of the website was undertaken in 2003 as part of a re-branding programme, alongside more traditional marketing forms and media contacts. Further major developments have been undertaken in 2012 in order to strengthen both internal and external communications.
Lobbying over matters such as the future of The Harlequin Theatre and Performing Arts Library has become an important part of activities. This is seen as vital to ensuring the Choir continues to have the necessary facilities and resources available for effective operation.