Ards Choral Society

History of Ards Choral Society

Ards Choral Society was founded in 1947.   It meets most Thursday evenings from September to May in the Londonderry Room, Ards Arts Centre, Newtownards, from 7.30-9.30 pm. A brief record of our history is below.

Weekly Thursday Rehearsals

1947-1957 - Ards Choral and Orchestral Society formed from Regent Street Presbyterian Church Choir and many singers and musicians from Newtownards and District. The first performance was Handel’s ‘Messiah’ which has since been produced annually except in 1956 when Bach’s ‘Christmas Oratorio’ was sung. Every Spring a concert was also given and all was under the leadership of Mr Ernest Browne with accompanist Gertrude Bryans.

1958-1967 - Mendelssohn’s ‘St Paul’, ‘Elijah’ and later ‘King Arthur’, ‘Samson’ ‘Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast’ and ‘Solomon’ were performed and in 1965 Irene Sanford and Uel Deane were soloists in the ‘Messiah’. Accompanists at this time were Evelyn Campbell, and for many years, William McDonald.

1968-1977 - The Spectator reported that the Choral Society needed more male singers and during this decade Haydn’s ‘Creation’, Gluck’s ‘Orpheus’ and Gounod’s ‘Faust’ were among many performances.

Ards Choral Society 19971

1978-1987 - In 1979 Ernest Browne, conductor for 32 years, who in latter years had studied and gained a Bachelor of Music, retired. Ian Barber, who had been accompanist became in charge, after which Alfred Burrowes took over the position as conductor in 1984.

1988-1997 - Now renamed ‘Ards Choral Society’, the annual ‘Messiah’ performance kept continuing. Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘Trial by Jury’ and works by Faure, Brahms, Rutter, Haydn and Purcell were also produced. After the conductor’s retirement, the forty-strong choir welcomed Ian Bell as Director of Music. 1997 being the golden anniversary, there was a celebration dinner and a gala performance of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ with Mary Nelson, soprano.

1998-2007 - Schubert’s ‘Lilac Time’ was a popular event. Charity performances took place in Church halls, The Odyssey and Waterfront Hall. Modern works by Karl Jenkins and John Rutter also took place.

2008-present - In recognition of our long-standing member Anne Iveston’s contribution to the Arts, the ‘Anne Iveston Opera Evening’ is now held annually in Newtownards. David Caughey, after a life membership presentation, became President following the death of Miss Grace Lyttle. Our accompanist over many years, Geraldine Roberts, also passed away during this time. Both are sadly missed.

In 2008 the Society held an Anniversary Dinner to celebrate 60 successful years. Over a period of years, Stanley Officer has organised trips to sing in England, Scotland and Ireland.

In 2012 we extended our repertoire.  We now hold our Messiah concert in December; a Spring concert featuring a variety of choral work and a new light music supper concert in May.  We hope all these concerts will prove popular with our audiences.

At present the 80 Society members continue rehearsals and concerts, accompanied by pianist Joanne Cruise and under the splendid leadership of the Director of Music, Ian Bell.