Secretary: Jen Spencer
tel: 01481 726525

The First 70 Years

The Guernsey Glee Singers is now the oldest established choir still in existence in Guernsey. It was founded by Miss A A Noel in 1927. She started the choir with a handful of girls who had just left school. Under her direction and training, several succesful concerts were given locally and the choir quickly grew to around twenty voices.

In July 1929, this ladies' choir competed successfully in the Bournemouth Music Festival, winning the cup for ladies' choirs under twenty voices. The cup was won again in 1930 and 1931 against choirs from all over England.

The choir included a male section in 1931 and had grown to forty voices. Programmes for concerts at this time show a great variety, with mixed, male and ladies choirs, as well as solos, duets and small groups.

In March 1936, Miss Noels' ambition to compete in the London Music Festival was realised and, due to her failing health, Mr Hedley Nicolle acted a s deputy conductor. The choir won cups for mixed and ladies choirs and were invited to sing at the London Choral Festival. Miss Noel continued to conduct the Guernsey Glee Singers from 1927 until 1936 when, through ill health, she passed the baton to Mr Hedley Nicolle. Mr Nicolle left for Malta in 1937 and Rev. Wood was appointed conductor.

When war was declared in 1939, the choir closed down until after the Liberation, when it was restarted in february 1946 by Miss Muriel Luckie, a former choir member. She conducted their first performance, a recital of part songs, at an official dinner party for the visit of the Home Secretary, Mr Chuter Ede.
After six months Miss Luckie went to Hamburg, and Mr T Davies Passey, Professor of music at Elizabeth College and a pupil of Sir Henry Wood, took the baton.

The first full concert after the war was at Ebenezer for local dignitaries and a large audience enthusiastically applauding the Glees "come back". Under the experience and inspiring leadership of Mr T Davies Passey, the choir grew to fifty and many successful concerts were given. Programmes show ticket prices 3/6d, 2/6d and 1/6d for unreserved seats.

Another master at Elizabeth College, Mr E W Waddams, took over as conductor in 1948 was to continu until 1955. Trophies for madrigals and part songs were won at the Guernsey Eisteddfod in 1948 and 1949. In March 1950 the Guernsey Glee Singers gave a concert version of Handel's Village Opera at the Central Hall. Standards were very high and, in May 1950, the choir made their first radio broadcast: a half hour programme with madrigals and solos by Mollie Despointes and Ernest Bichard. This was followed by the Peasant Cantata by J S Bach in 1953.

Marion Blondel developed this further with concert versions of Carmen and Faust, followed by Merrie England. These major works were interspersed with the normal repertoir of solos and choral part songs.

Gordon Hughes took over as conductor in 1960 and the choir performed Dido and Aeneasnby Purcell, also adding songs by Gilbert and Sullivan to their repertoire. Christpher Liddle built on this. Reginald Le Provost became the conductor in 1966 and, in 1968, produced a programme of The Mikado and Gounods' Faust. Soloists at this time were Ernest Bichard, Basil Harwood, Peter Carre, John Bourget, Hazel Rowe, Coreen Singleton, June Bourget, =Jill Stephenson, Avril Whittaker and Pam Ingrouille. The Glees had an excellent group of soloists to carry forward the ambitious programme that Reginald Le Provost and chairman, Gerry King, had in mind. The next year a concert version of The Pirates of Penzance was performed at Candie Gardens.

New solists, Janet and Tony Bran, Richard Cann and John Stephenson joined the cast for the concert version of the Gondoliers in 1970. Productions were now at the Little Theatre. The choir was in a pattern which was only to gain in strength presenting Iolanthe in 1971 with Pauline Carre joining the soloists.

The Glees took their special concert versions of The Gondoliers and HMS Pinafore to the Jersey Opera House in 1974. It was only a matter of time for the concert versions to be abandoned and full scale productions of the operas to be performed. Thus in 1975, Trial by Jury and The Pirates of Penzance were produced by Jill Stephenson and Gerry King, and performed at the Little Theatre and the Opera House in Jersey.

Janet Bran took over as conductor in 1976. Trial by Jury and HMS Pinafore were produced by Ken Fletcher and performed at the new Beau Sejour theatre. After regular Gilbert and Sullivan productions, in 1980 it was a big change to present a full performance of merrie England at the Beau Sejour theatre, with Crystal James as the May Queen.

During the 80's Christmas Concerts were performed at the St. Pierre Park Hotel (a delightful setting but with poor acoustics), while other concerts were at Beau Sejour and, where appropriate, at churches around the Island.

Opening in 1985, St. James became the venue for the choirs main peromances but these reverted to concert versions with guest soloists, both vocal and instrumental.

There were several changes in conductor until Marilyn Pugh took up the baton in 1992. Performances of Yeoman of the Guard in 1997, to celebrate 70 years of the Guernsey Glee Singers, recreated some of the former glory of full scale productions and was enjoyed by many.

The reputation of the Glees was intact, with the choir, conductor and accompanist working together for the advancement of the Guernsey Glee Singers.