We are indebted to Tony Woodhead, a past Chairman and long-
On 26 November 1947 a group of local music lovers formed “ a society for the encouragement of choral and orchestral music to be known as the Hoylake Musical Society.” The work performed at its concert on 2 May 1948 under Charles Sutcliffe was Handel’s Messiah.
For the first ten years its choir and orchestra presented three or four concerts a year. However not all were performed by its own members, with visiting choirs, soloists and a series of lectures making up its output. During this time concerts were under the baton of various conductors, most of whom were music teachers in local schools. These included John Senior,at one time a pupil of Vaughan Williams, who took charge in 1952/3.
From 1957 to 1960 concerts were reduced to two a year and usually only one of these included any choral content. In 1961 the only concert of the year was Handel’s Messiah. It almost looked as if the wheel had come full circle as the orchestra was disbanded. The whole society appeared to be on the verge of extinction because the choir‘s numbers had dwindled as well.
Rescue was at hand in the persons of a West Kirby couple, Amy and Ernest Pratt. A member of the society, Amy had for many years been a music teacher and a member of the Liverpool Philharmonic Choir. Her husband was its accompanist and an organist of some distinction, who later became an assistant at Liverpool Cathedral.
For some nineteen years she conducted and he accompanied the Society’s concerts, during which time the choir’s numbers grew from eighteen at Amy’s first rehearsal to over one hundred when she finally bowed out with a magnificent performance of the Verdi Requiem in May 1979.
She returned a year later as guest conductor at a performance of the St Matthew Passion, a memorable concert in which the Pratt family featured strongly including husband (organ), wife (conductor), son (harpsichord) and grandson (violin). Ernest was President of the Society from 1957 to 1991.
In 1968 it was recognised that the Musical Society operated solely as a choir and to reflect this more accurately, its name was changed to the Hoylake Choral Society. An extract from the meeting making this change is shown below.
After Amy two younger men took the helm for shorter periods. Paul Ferguson had been an organ scholar at New College Oxford and when appointed, was doing further musical research. After only three years he responded to a call to the Church of England ministry and was soon to become Precentor at Wesminster Abbey. He later held a similar post in York Minster and is currently Archdeacon of Middlesbrough.
He was followed by Gordon Pullin, a nationally recognised tenor soloist, who had performed with us on a number of occasions (and still does). Sadly for us another career move, in the teaching profession, took him south and we sought another leader. Gordon has made recordings of the English Tenor repertoire which now runs to 8 volumes and will join us at the performance of Messiah on 21 June 2008.
Another distinguished organist was Simon Russell who, having been the Society’s rehearsal accompanist, became Musical Director in 1981, a post which he filled for some 16 years. During his “reign” the society continued to present performances of the standard choral repertoire but also took steps into the “unknown” (the twentieth century no less!) including works by Duruflé, Vaughan Williams and John Rutter.
When Simon’s full time job caused him to leave the district in 2000, the Society was fortunate enough to obtain the services of yet another organist, Jim Wrightson (who had accompanied one of the Society’s concerts when Simon was in charge). During the period he has been with us the Society has grown considerably – from some 65 when he arrived to over 100 today. Jim ‘retired’ from his Music Director role at the end of the 2014 season after a long and fruitful time at the society. We wish him and his family well.
In September 2014 we welcome our new Music Director -