Meet the Chapel Male Voice Choir

Choir%20pictureNEWIt is getting on for 100 years since a group of servicemen just back from the Great War impressed the schoolmaster in Chapel-en-le-Frith with their singing.

He overheard them break into song as they left choir practice at a church and quipped that with such great voices they should form a male voice choir.

The four pals, Bert Longson, George Muir, Joe Lomas and Joe Pearson, didn’t take much persuading and buoyed by his encouragement they set out to recruit fellow servicemen who made it back home to the High Peak town.

The Chapel-en-le-Frith Male Voice Choir was formed in 1918 and they have been performing without a break for more than 95 years – a few of the singers can even claim to have been members for 50 of those.

If you are now assuming that this is a club for a bunch of blazer-wearing elderly chaps who can belt out a good military song you’d be wrong for they have a diverse age range with one of the newest members still at university, and they sing everything from Fauré to Les Miserables.

Every Monday night a high percentage of the 40 members now on the books meet up at Dove Holes Methodist Church for two hours of rehearsals.

They start at 7.30pm prompt so long as musical director Roger Briscoe is out front and accompanist Anne Mayo is at the keyboard, but for some time after that latecomers creep in to join the ranks at the back – most of them bursting into song before they have even shut the door.

They’re a cheerful friendly bunch and extremely welcoming to newcomers and ever hopeful that new recruits will arrive to boost numbers.

“We are having a recruitment drive at the moment and we really do welcome anyone,” said chairman Geoff Read.

“No-one has to sing until they are ready and they don’t have to understand music.

“Many men think they can’t sing or won’t be as good as the rest of us but we know exactly how they are feeling we were all beginners once and we can train them to be a good singer. We say if you like singing in the car or the shower then come along and give it a go.

“And can you put in that we really would love to have some new tenors just now,” he said before he dashed to his chair in preparation for the first rendition of the rehearsal.

There is a short break but for the next couple of hours the men work hard to perfect their numbers. Roger is definitely a hard taskmaster and puts them through their paces in pursuit of perfection.

With his tongue firmly in his cheek he described the singing as ‘coarse’, ‘vulgar’, ‘unpleasant’ and ‘sooo Hinge and Bracket’ in the space of 20 minutes but at the same time he was encouraging and obviously well respected.

“He’s great fun really and knows what he is doing,” whispered Ellis Pugh a 25-year-old trainee solicitor with a wry grin when he realised what I was thinking.

“I am so pleased I joined this choir there is a great community atmosphere about it and we have a good time together.”

The choir has just released a new CD called Voices of the High Peak.

You can watch a video of them singing in Buxton here.