A Little Softer, Altos

In the late 1940s, the St George District Choral Society was an adornment to the district.  It was regarded by many as the finest amateur choir in Sydney.  The Society’s many victories in City of Sydney Eisteddfods and other choral competitions, from Newcastle to Wollongong, testify to its being a strong, well-drilled outfit.

It was not the first choir in the St George area.  The St George District Choral Union was in existence before WWI, and there are surviving programmes of concerts this choir gave in 1907 in the old Rockdale Town Hall.  The St George District Choral Society itself was first founded at a meeting in Colvin’s Hall, Hurstville, in May 1924.  Edward Elliott, a local musical identity, was its first conductor.  However, a review of this choir’s first concert noted that “there were times when the ensemble lacked unison, volume and effect.”  The choir went into hibernation during the Depression years.

St George District Choral Society was re-born in 1939, and was soon under the baton of the livewire Lyndon Jones.  Membership was very healthy, and a list from 1948 shows 44 sopranos, 36 altos, 20 tenors and 23 basses, a more than adequate balance of forces.  The Society gave a performance at the Savoy Theatre in 1943, augmented by other singers, accompanied by the cinema’s Wurlitzer organ.  The 150 voices (!) must have blown the roof off the building. The choir won its category in the City of Sydney Eisteddfod in 1946, 1947 and 1948.

An annual highlight in the choir’s programme was its performance of Handel’s Messiah at Sydney Town Hall, when the Town Hall’s celebrated organ came into its own.  These performances always sold out quickly.  Our photograph shows the choir, augmented by members of the Central Methodist Mission Choir, on stage at the Town Hall on 15 December, 1951.  The conductor was Lyndon Jones, soprano Marjorie Conley, alto Florence Taylor, tenor Ronald Dowd, and bass Noel Melvin; Leonard Bell organist, and soloist on The Trumpet Shall Sound was Edgar Smith. The choir also featured in Sydney’s Carols by Candlelight that year.

Membership fell away in the 1960s, but a core membership of around fifty continued to perform choral staples such as Haydn’s Creation and Mozart’s Requiem at Rockdale Town Hall.  But by the early 1970s the impetus had gone, and the choir disbanded.

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