The Orpington Chorale

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History

The Orpington Chorale was formed, in September 1961, by Sheila Mossman, and her husband John Brown, as a result of an approach by parents of the members of Sheila's highly successful children's choir, the Orpington Junior Singers. The initiative took the form of a surprise item at their 500th concert, when the adults sang. This group was to become the nucleus of the Orpington Chorale, and they gave their first concert on 30 March 1962.


Sheila Mossman was to remain their conductor until her untimely death, at the early age of 48, on 17 August 1971. Sheila's musical genius quickly steered the Chorale to great success. They gave 95 concerts under her leadership, including 14 in London, and 10 BBC broadcasts. The Orpington Chorale have appeared at the Royal Festival Hall on 5 occasions from 1964 to 1976, under the baton of Sir Adrian Boult, Vilem Tausky, Stanford Robinson, Harry Mortimer, Bryden Thomson, and Gilbert Vinter (performing a work the latter had composed). They have taken part in the BBC's "Let the People sing" broadcast, and have sung oratorios in St. Paul's Cathedral with the cathedral choir.


Ann Handy took over the direction of the choir after Sheila's death, to be succeeded by Jane Attfield, who later went on to conduct in Germany, and then, in 1974, Michael Blackley became the Chorale's conductor. He continued in this post for 40 years, until retirement in July 2014, to be succeeded by a local musician, Dominic Wells, who works for BBC Radio 3.


The Chorale currently has 65 active members, across all voices, soprano, alto, tenor and bass. They give four major concerts per year in Orpington. The Spring and Autumn performances are devoted to serious music and oratorios, while the Summer Concert usually consists of music in rather lighter vein - part songs ranging from traditional to modern.  Each Christmas the Chorale gives a Carol Concert, with a repeat performance at Christ Lutheran Church a few days later.


The administration of the Chorale is by a committee of choir members. They are fortunate in having the use of the excellent facilities at Christ Lutheran Church, Orpington, for their Wednesday practices, and All Saints' Church, Bark Hart Road, Orpington, is the usual setting for the choir's major performances.

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