History of The Eden Singers
Foreword by Ron Emmerson, Founder and Musical Director
Eden Singers is the embryo of two popular choral activities in Town which, I am pleased to record gave pleasure to audiences and participants alike.
Penrith & HQ Police Male Voice Choir entertained the rural communities from 1952 to 1960 and received encouraging adjudications from its participation in Musical Festivals at Carlisle, Whitehaven and Workington. In doing so, no fees were accepted other than travel expenses which were minimal.
As time progressed it became apparent that our repertoire would be widened by changing our role to that of a Mixed Voice Choir; a transformation which was well received by the members and acclaim by would be female members, many of whom were wives or family. The result was remarkable in that from the outset there was a choir with obvious vocal resources, balanced to perfection with male and female sections, each capable of presenting sectional performances to give varied programmes.
The choir quickly developed to Choral Society proportions with 84 members and
changed its title to The Beacon Choral Society. In doing so, more demanding works, sacred and secular, were rehearsed and presented annually, including Requiems by Gabriel Faure, Luigi Cherubini’s Requiem in C Minor, and Requiem by Stephen Urquhart, composed by him at University when he was 17 years ; Oratorios - Messiah, Creation and Elijah and Cantatas Crucifixion, Olivet to Calvary and The Christmas Story, with a Carol Programme each festive period. Regular Springtime Concerts and Concert Versions of Opera and Operetta – Merrie England, Showboat and Lilac Time. etc., proved immensely popular. The pinnacle was reached when the Society was asked to perform at the Pier, Morecambe.
Change is inevitable, and with the approval of members it was decided to adopt a lighter approach to productions and so began the gestation of Eden Singers in 1978, which I had the pleasure of directing and conducting, retiring after 20 years in 1998, with Honorary Life Membership for my services.
In the years of existence the Choir has produced talented members who have reached the height of national professional recognition. Jacquelyn Parker, Soprano, became a member of Glyndebourne Opera, whose exceptional 2 octave range compelled David Fisher, Conductor of the Kingfisher Chorale, to compose the Christmas Carol, “Balulalow” especially for her to take the two octave solo which featured on Kingfisher Chorale’s in Dulci Jubilo. More recently, Stephen Urquhart, son of our long-serving accompanist, Joan, and BBC Radio 4 Continuity Announcer at Broadcasting House, London, received the Radio Production Award 2015, “Sound Producer – Best Sound Designer”, and has recently transferred to BBC Scotland, Glasgow.
Over the years I have been grateful for the adulation accorded but am deeply conscious that nought would have been accomplished without my exceptional accompanists, John (Jack) Kitchen, Joan Urquhart and Robert (Bob) Bartle (Organ) who gave 100% support. Last but by no means least, the members, who were dedicated and loyal, gave of their best, made rehearsals a priority and happy social occasion, and delivered the concord of sound the audiences wanted to hear.
My thanks for the opportunity to write this foreword and best wishes to all who presently are members and those who will have the good fortune to become so in future years.
After Ron retired, the choir has been led by a number of Music Directors, including Chris Prettyman, Paul Naylor Gray, Gareth Cozens, Roy Beeby, Louise Wooff and our present Music Director John Helyer.
Chris arranged many pieces of music for the choir. Gareth built-up our music library to its present considerable size and Audrey Kirkbride was our much appreciated deputy conductor for many years.
Our exceptional accompanist Joan Urquhart continued to accompany us over the years with a brief break when Janet Wilkinson was our accompanist. Joan returned until her retirement in 2015. Highlights of many of the concerts were the duets played by Joan and Nan Stobbs who was our deputy accompanist for many years.
The choir has continued to present two concerts a year at Wordsworth Street Methodist Church and various out-of-town venues. Our emphasis is on light music from a wide variety of sources. The number of choir members has varied over the years and there are around 40 members in 2016.
Hopefully, the choir has given as much enjoyment to many people as the choir has enjoyed rehearsing and presenting the music to their loyal audiences.