HISTORY

BRISTOL MALE VOICE CHOIR began in 1968 as a small Glee Club that grew among a group of friends in the Filton Community Association. With many of its members employed locally at British Aerospace and Rolls Royce in Filton, it grew in size, with Kathy Langdon as its first conductor and accompanist. In 1974 it took the name of Filton Male Voice Choir, led by Brian Sinclair as its MD. In the ‘70s and ‘80s the choir attracted a large membership, giving concerts in Bristol and farther afield, expanding its repertoire and enhancing its reputation. Accordingly it moved its rehearsal base and by 1983 it was holding its weekly rehearsals at St Teresa’s RC church social club. With the expansion in membership came a new MD in the shape of Morris Pearson; his dedication and enthusiasm was a key contribution to the choir’s growth and musical integrity for nearly twenty years until his death in 2000.

Equally crucial to the choir’s musical development was accompanist Elaine Smith who had joined the choir soon after it became Filton MVC. Coinciding with Elaine Smith’s appointment as Musical Director, and recognising the Bristol-wide membership, the decision was made to change the choir’s name to Bristol Male Voice Choir, adopting a new concert uniform in Bristol blue and accepting the Lord Mayor of Bristol as our patron. In 2005 SGS college on Gloucester Road North became our rehearsal base.

 In 2007 Elaine Smith relinquished the role of MD to return to her great love, as accompanist to the choir, a move that allowed vital continuity as the choir appointed a new Musical Director, Steve Daykin, already very active in Bristol musical circles based on his teaching post at Redland High school and his involvement with local orchestras and ensembles. Steve was the driving force of the choir’s musical development between 2007 and 2015, and demonstrated his solo skills as clarinettist in numerous concerts during his tenure, as well as some outstanding piano duets with Elaine Smith. His conducting style is superbly shown in our Youtube video performance of  “I dreamed a dream” recorded at the Colston Hall in 2012.

Following Steve’s move to become Director of Music at Lichfield Cathedral choir school at the end of 2014, in January 2015 the choir was delighted to welcome as his successor a fellow graduate of Cardiff’s Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Jo Scullin had already been closely involved with the Welsh male voice music scene as accompanist to the Morriston Orpheus Male Voice Choir and as a teacher of piano at the Cathedral School, Llandaff, Cardiff. She arrived as Musical Director of Bristol Male Voice Choir, therefore, with great teaching skills, close knowledge of the Welsh words of part of our repertoire, and a winningly persuasive approach to rehearsals that has rejuvenated choir members and attracted numerous new recruits.

Under Jo’s guidance, the choir’s concert programme has followed a path that has reached out to new and unexpected performance venues, including not only our traditional annual and Christmas joint concerts with male voice and ladies choirs, in the Colston Hall and St George’s, Brandon Hill, but also capacity audiences at Bristol Cathedral. We sang for an international rugby game at Ashton Gate and for the Bristol club at two of their home games in the championship, and we continued our run of  Christmas concerts for the National Trust at Tyntesfield House, moving indoors for December after entertaining tourist crowds and visitors to Grove Park, Weston super Mare, in the summer.

Bristol has many performance venues and the choir seems to have sung at most of them, but Winterbourne’s Medieval Barn (dated 1372) was probably the most unexpected location for a concert we gave together with the Frampton Shantymen in 2018.  Clifton College chapel was where we were invited twice in the 2016 and 2018 by the Penny Brohn UK cancer charity to sing at their Christmas concerts. In May 2018 we were at St John’s church, Keynsham, for a joint concert with the Avon and Somerset Constabulary choir and we were in Westbury on Trym on two occasions in 2018, at the parish church with the local C of E school children’s choir and later singing for charity at the Methodist church .

2018 was a notable year historically because it was our 50th year as a choir. The anniversary concert was the highlight of the calendar and on July 7th, we were joined by the Morriston Orpheus choir, singing to a packed house at All Saints church in Clifton, a concert compered by Emma Britton of BBC Radio Bristol in temperatures more akin to Calcutta than Clifton. Compare this event with our visit in March to St Cuthbert’s church, Wells, where we shivered our way through a great sing for the City of Wells Lions club. Their heating system chose that day to break down, but our return coach to Bristol didn’t, and we avoided most of the snow and ice that fell on the Mendips that night.
Cornwall’s International Male Voice Festival, where we have made numerous appearances both in concerts and competitions has become a favourite tour destination. We have sung alongside Cornwall’s male voice battalions, international male choirs and boys’ choirs from Austria to Australia.

RECORDINGS Early recordings by the choir as Filton MVC include Tribute to the Task Force made at Hereford Cathedral under the auspices of the English Association of Male Voice Choirs; Horizons (2001) and Men in Harmony recorded in Bristol.
Under Steve Daykin, Stout-hearted Men was recorded in combination with the male voice choirs of Basingstoke, Hart and Weybridge in 2007 at The Anvil, Basingstoke; this was followed in 2008 by Out of the Blue , in 2010 by This is the Moment  and, as Steve Daykin’s swan song with the choir, And so it goes in 2014.
Other recordings including the choir’s work have been made during visits (winning 4th place in the 2009 competition) to the Cornwall International Male Voice Choir Festival.  While access to our recorded music has traditionally been via CDs, the choir’s winter concert with Bristol’s Gurt Lush Choir in the Colston Hall in 2012 was posted on YouTube where the ‘hits’ for one song are well on their way to 100,000. Throughout the recordings are songs from many countries in different languages, in a repertoire reflecting the choir’s search for fine music wherever it is to be found and used on its travels.

ON THE ROAD The choir’s charity fund-raising is a significant part of its concert schedule and its popularity and reputation have attracted invitations to sing for BBC TV programmes, the Welsh language channel S4C, BBC Radio and Classic FM. Well-known local venues for performances have been St George’s on Brandon Hill, the Colston Hall, St Mary Redcliffe and Bristol Cathedral. In 2004 Filton MVC took part in the London Welsh Massed Male Voice Choir concert in the Albert Hall under the direction of the Morriston Orpheus MD at the time, Alwyn Humphries. Concert tours have been made to Witzenhausen in Germany on various occasions, to Canada to celebrate the voyage of Cabot’s The Matthew in 1997 and to Poland in 2003. For its 40th anniversary the choir visited three of America’s cities called Bristol in the eastern States, ending the tour with a massed male voice concert in New York’s Carnegie Hall  in 2008, joining with Bryn Terfel as the star soloist of the evening. In France, the Dax ‘Festival Entrevoix’, Bordeaux, Saint Medard and the Basque city of San Sebastian were the venues for our southern European tour in 2013. We continued the European theme in our anniversary year with a tour of Austria, singing at St Stephen’s cathedral  and the Capucine church in Vienna, followed by a visit to the birthplace of Mozart, Salzburg. The last night at our hotel there included a contribution from an operatic soprano from Argentina who brought the house down.

Many new partners in song, brass bands , male voice and ladies’ choirs, amazing new instrumentalists and young singers have been the main features of our recent history.
A note  in the minor key ; over the last few years we have mourned the passing of several long-serving choir members and been present at funerals at the request of their relatives . But in contrast to these inevitable moments, it has been heartening and uplifting to be able to welcome a steady flow of new singers who have offered us new instrumental and vocal talents as well as blending in seamlessly with their sections. We continue to enjoy our singing and love working hard to achieve those stunning moments in a concert and in rehearsal  that we remember for a long time and want to repeat again and again.

 

 

John Hollyman Jan 2019.
 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Singing at the Eden Project Cornwall 2015
 
 
 
 
 
St Stephens Cathedral Vienna