Ilford choir ends on a high note after 71 years making music in Redbridge

An Ilford choir that helped launch the careers of famous singers including Kathleen Ferrier sang its last song on Saturday after 71 years of making music in Redbridge.

The Ilford Choral Society is disbanding because of declining numbers and rising costs making it difficult to put on concerts.

Their final concert was at Saint Margaret’s Church in Balfour Road, Ilford, where singers performed excerpts from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Handel’s Messiah, carols and seasonal music.

Duncan Paterson conducted the choir for the final time after leading the group for 37 years.

He said: “The concert was wonderful. It was a marvellous finish to a long period together.

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“I’m grateful to the loyalty of the members and to the past members who came back to sing.

“There’s not the same choral tradition that there used to be.”

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The choir was started in 1941 to lift spirits during the Second World War.

It quickly grew in size and reputation and in 1943, a performance was broadcast by the BBC to troops serving overseas.

In 1957, the choir also recorded items for the soundtrack of a film on the history of Ilford.

Many famous singers started their careers with solos with the Ilford Choral Society, including contralto Kathleen Ferrier, who went onto international fame in the 1940s.

The Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Competition set up after her death in 1953 launched the career of another Ilford singer, Janet Baker, whose opera career lasted into the 1980s.

Former chairman and member of 20 years Madeline Seviour hoped disbanding is not the end for the choir.

She added: “We are hoping to meet up again and a choir on an occasional basis in the future and lots of us will continue singing with other groups.”

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