The Langcliffe Singers

Choral Classics in the Yorkshire Dales

The History of Langcliffe Singers

The Langcliffe Singers was formed in 1983 by Valerie Baulard a local singing teacher with a background in professional singing in both opera and oratorio.  The first rehearsals were in her cottage in Langcliffe with a choir of ten women (eight of her pupils and two friends) and one boy treble who was also a pupil.  The first performances were at outdoor venues, such as Fountains Abbey, singing madrigals and part-songs a capella (unaccompanied).   In the autumn of 1984 the group expanded to include men’s voices and the full SATB choir was born.

Val had a very clear idea of the choir’s ethos.  It was to be a community choir with membership open to anyone with a love of singing, who could sing in tune and who could show after a trial period in the choir that they could hold their line of music in four-part choral works.  The decisions regarding membership acceptance and musical repertoire were made by Val as musical director. The choir’s first accompanist was Lorraine Attwood.  

The Langcliffe Singers’ early concerts were often put on to raise funds for local causes usually in local churches.  In summertime the choir toured Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire, usually where a choir member had a contact.  Often this was a whole day out combining the concert with a walk or other outing.  By this time the choir had grown to about fifty.  There were also regular social events, the main one being the New Year’s party, usually a ‘Jacob’s Join’ followed by a ceilidh.

 Val: “these were wonderful bonding evenings with so many laughs.  I remember with much affection the larking about by Keith Wright and Alan Suttie especially.  Roars of laughter all round!  With Gillian Walton in charge of the dancing.” 

By the late 1980’s the repertoire was expanded to include small choral works, part songs both secular and religious, madrigals and even staged items.  The increased difficulty necessitated much note learning and in this Val was assisted by Doris Smith in split rehearsals. 

Val demanded a high degree of loyalty to the choir so that opting in and out of different works was not an option.  She saw the necessity to satisfy the wide variety of musical tastes of both the choir and local audience.  The staged performances were mostly performed in the summer term the first of these being Trial by Jury.  In 1992 there was the chance to collaborate with Settle Orchestra.  Val had long hoped to put on a performance of Mozart’s Magic Flute a work she had enjoyed as soloist at Glyndebourne.

Having a number of suitable pupils who were choir members to take the solo parts, she thought the time was ripe but needed an orchestra.  Settle Orchestra was then without a conductor but Val persuaded her husband Howard Rogerson to take up the baton.  Although Howard had not conducted before he had considerable professional orchestral experience particularly in opera.  The Magic Flute was a great success for both choir and orchestra and was the start of Howard’s 15 years as their conductor and of many collaborations with the choir.   

In 1993 the choir was fortunate to gain the services of Brian Heaton as accompanist. Brian studied piano at the London College of Music and, after graduation, studied accompaniment at post-graduate level at the same institution.  He has participated in many master-classes with artists such as Roger Vignoles and has partnered a wide variety of players and singers including Nigel Kennedy with whom he performed in the presence of Sir Colin Davis.  For many years he was the accompanist of Chiswick Choir one of West London’s leading amateur groups. For the past eighteen years has played for the Langcliffe Singers combining this with teaching and accompanying throughout the North West.

The choir extended its operatic repertoire with staged performances of Trial by Jury, The Marriage of Figaro, Yeomen of the Guard, Patience, Don Giovanni, Orpheus and the Underworld and semi-staged concerts of songs from operas and shows.

As the choir grew in number and ability it was possible to include performances of Handel’s Messiah and also Samson, requiems by Faure, Mozart and Brahms and in collaboration with Settle Orchestra under Howard’s baton a performance of Verdi’s Requiem, two performances (in different years) of Mendelssohn’s Elijah and two opera galas.

The repertoire also grew over the years included Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, Bach’s Magnificat, Mozart’s Mass in C minor, masses by Haydn and Puccini, The Childhood of Christ by Berlioz as well as smaller works by Handel, Purcell, Britten.  Some performances were in conjunction with singers from Blackburn, to mutual benefit, in performances both in the Settle area and in Blackburn Cathedral. 

It was a proud moment in 2002 for both Val and the choir when she received the Sir Charles Groves Prize from Making Music for her services to music in the community.

In 2004 Val retired from the choir she had founded and conducted for 20 years.  Her leaving party in the Cavendish Pavilion at Bolton Abbey was attended by many choir members past and present and friends.  Not only was there good food and much singing but also we were treated to a potted musical ‘This is Your Life’ of Val in both sound and pictures which was then presented to her in a bound album.

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In Val’s final year Tricia Rees-Jones, a choir member with an extensive musical and singing background, was appointed deputy conductor.  When Val retired Tricia took over as musical director. 

A new musical director always brings a new perspective and under Tricia’s direction the choir has thrived and developed.  By moving towards fewer performances it has been possible to employ more professional and semi-professional soloists and orchestral players.  With her the choir has branched out to perform works by Poulenc and Duruflé and has also commissioned ‘The Leaves of Life’ a major work by Andrew Gant the Master of Music at the Chapel Royal.  This was made possible by generous grant funding from the PRS Foundation for new music, the Craven Trust and the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust. 

The orchestra (the Langcliffe Sinfonia) Tricia assembled from young professionals and students to accompany the choir in the very successful performance of Mozart’s Requiem in April 2006 became the template for the Tutti project which gives training and performing opportunities to young players.  Tutti later accompanied the choir in Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Coronation Anthems in Giggleswick Chapel in May 2007.  There have also been enjoyable collaborations with young players and singers from the Skipton Music Centre.

For its 25th season, the choir performed Handel’s Messiah in Settle, in December 2008, with an orchestra of professional and graduate musicians; in May 2009, there were two performances of Brahms’ Requiem with Settle Orchestra, both concerts conducted by Tricia.  Two Summer concerts in June and July rounded off the season; both concerts featured a selection of works sung during the choir’s history.

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