The Barnstaple Male Voice Choir was founded in 1919 under the initial name of Barnstaple YMCA Male Voice Choir. A local organist and musician was asked to form a choir in order that the YMCA could hold a charity concert to mark its re-opening after the end of World War I. It proved a great success and the singers agreed to stay together. By 1920 the links with the YMCA were no longer relevant and the Choir's name was changed to the Barnstaple Male Voice Choir and has so remained until this day.
The local musician and founder of the Choir was called Mr. Alfred T. Long, and his wife became the Choir's first accompanist. The couple worked hard to develop the Choir and constantly strove to enhance its quality of performance and its reputation. Mr. Long and his wife continued this work for 33 years before stepping aside in 1952.
The Choir became a competition choir and during the 1930's won acclaim as winner of a number of open competitions. It was also in the 1930's that the Choir auditioned to perform for the BBC - an audition in which they succeeded and that led to more than twenty broadcasts for the BBC over the next 25 years, including incidentally a broadcast to North America during the second half of World War II.
The Choir's success and reputation was consistent, including the War years. Later in 1952 when Alfred Long and his wife Lily stepped down, to enjoy their retirement, the Choir faltered. A new Conductor worked with the Choir for two years before the committee decided that a short break might be the answer to the present difficulties - difficulties that are easily imagined when just one Conductor and Accompanist had led the Choir for all of its first 33 years.
A holding committee was appointed and activities frozen. The break drifted on and eventually lasted a number of years, but the Choir still existed, albeit dormant.
In 1976 two men, one a former member, came together to explore the possibilities of re-starting. A successful public meeting produced a favourable response and some twenty plus choristers began rehearsals for a first public performance of the new era. Membership numbers soon grew.
One such new chorister, Ken Thompson is still singing with the Choir and enjoys the position of Senior Chorister of the Choir with thirty nine years service.
The Choir again headed off to competitions and made a local radio broadcast during the next couple of years. Concerts were booked in response to demand, and from these new beginnings the Choir has gone, once more, from strength to strength.
A small number of new conductors has guided the choir to its present position, and where its services are in great demand. Since its foundation the Choir has almost exclusively performed for good causes and Civic events, and for the last few years has itself become a registered charity.
The Choir has made overseas visits and has twice been selected to perform, along with 60 international choirs, at the Cornwall International Male Voice Choral Festival.
Currently, with approximately 60 choristers the Choir has a wide repertoire and a full programme of engagements. 20 plus events in a year is not uncommon and its work consistently contributes to the raising of substantial funds for good causes, either directly or through the organisations for whom it performs.
The Barnstaple Male Voice Choir looks forward to continuing to play its part in the cultural life of its community, the male voice choir fraternity in general and the good works of those for whom it performs.
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