Saturday, January 1, 2000

A little history

The Early Days

City Choir Dunedin has been entertaining audiences for more than 150 years. The present choir traces its origins back to the Dunedin Philharmonic Society, which gave its first public performance − Handel’s Messiah − on 24 December 1863. The name ‘Dunedin Choral Society’ was adopted for the choir’s second incarnation in 1871, and is still in use as its title of incorporation. The choir has performed under a number of other names, however, including ‘Schola Cantorum’ (1967- 93), and most recently ‘City of Dunedin Choir’ (1993-2012). It now performs as ‘City Choir Dunedin’. As befits a city choir, it attracts people of all ages, from all walks of life, and from around the Otago region.

According to the Choir's archives stored at the Hocken Library Mr H.S. Chapman, Supreme Court Judge, was President of the original Choral Society from its inauguration in 1871 until his death in 1881.

Uchter Knox, 5th Earl of Ranfurly
Vice-Regal Patronage

The various incarnations of the Society made repeated attempts to secure Vice-Regal (and even Royal) patronage, but although they sang to (and on occasion at the request of) the current Governor-General from as early as 1867, they did not achieve Patronage until 1897 when Governor-General Uchter John Mark Knox, 5th Earl of Ranfurly, consented to become Patron.

Successive Governors General were Patron until 1935 - the 1914 incarnation of the Society had Vice-Regal patronage by 1915 - with the Mayor of Dunedin as Vice-Patron from 1921. The Mayor became the Patron in 1936, shared with Professor Victor Galway from 1946 until his death in 1959. With the centenary in 1963 the Society again acquired Vice-Regal patronage (with the Mayor as Vice-Patron). The Hon. Dame Silvia Cartwright was the Choir's last Vice-Regal Patron (2001-2006); the Patron is now the Mayor of Dunedin.

The Musical Directors

Over the years the choir has been led and inspired by many talented and dedicated musical directors including Victor Galway, Alfred Walmsley, W.H. Walden Mills, Edgar Clayton, Peter Platt, Jack Speirs, Peter Warwick, Raymond White, Judy Bellingham, Peter Adams and, currently, David Burchell.

Undoubtedly the drive and vision of its directors are among the reasons for the choir's longevity and success, combined with the commitment of singers, behind-the-scenes committee work, audience support, and financial assistance from national and local arts funding agencies, the Dunedin City Council, other local bodies, and community trusts, for which the choir is most grateful.

150 Years

City Choir first entertained audiences 150 years ago. Read more about City Choir's celebration of 150 Years in 2013.

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