Adding to what we know

Leatherhead Choral Society is in its 90th year, notwithstanding an earlier incarnation prior to World War 1. This has inspired us to seek more information about our past. So if you have old programmes or reminiscences or anything else that would add to our knowledge we would love to hear from you. Please use comments to make contact.

Forging ahead (2001 onwards)

In 2001 LCS appointed our current Musical Director, Ian Assersohn. In this period LCS has performed an increasingly wide range of music. As well as taking part at Leith Hill LCS now regularly gives two other concerts each year. Membership has grown to match. We have enjoyed increasing success in the competitions at Leith Hill Musical Festival.

Getting to 50 (1940 – 1978)

Leith Hill resumed in 1947 and LCS were there taking part in the Towns Day as before. Mabel Fuller had taken up the role of conductor. She was active in the local music scene running Leatherhead School of Music from her home at Devon House.

The general pattern of a year for LCS at this time would be to begin learning and rehearsing the music for Leith Hill in the autumn prior to the festival in the spring. Normally the choir did little more than that during the year perhaps. Perhaps something at Christmas and an occasional charity event where a choir might be wanted. For singers who wanted to there would also be the opportunity to sing with the Leith Hill Combined choir.

One of our singers of the time describes some of his experiences of this time in Meredith's Memories: Recollections of Ashtead Village and other stories (Meredith Worsfold, 2009, ISBN 978-0-9534377-1-9), in particular finding himself the only tenor at a rehearsal of a small group with RVW and RVW's kindness in helping him through the rehearsal.

Mabel Fuller was succeeded by Victor Yates in 1961. He taught at St. John's School. He continued until 1965 and was succeeded by Beverly Manning who was followed Joan Kemp-Potter in 1969.

Joan Kemp-Potter is the longest serving conductor of LCS. She taught at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She also conducted Sutton Symphony Orchestra. Her husband was William Blezard who had an extensive career providing music for theatre and television. He was music director for Joyce Grenfell and Marlene Dietrich towards the end of her career. He also composed, including a piece for the 50th anniversary of LCS in 1978.


The early years (1928 – 1939)

The Leith Hill Musical Competition, or festival, started in 1905 as an event for village choirs. It had been founded by Evangeline Farrer and Margaret Vaughan Williams. By the early 1920s the local towns also wanted to take part and in 1922 a “Towns Day” was added. Leatherhead was represented by Leatherhead Orpheus Choir conducted by H.C. Kimberley and they continued to take part until 1936.

In 1928 the Leatherhead Choral Society that we know today was formed. The first conductor was Margery Cullen who already had experience of conducting at the LHMC with Mickleham. She conducted LCS until 1937. Records for this period have not survived so there is little more to say.

In 1938 LCS was conducted by B.S.Richmond and in 1939 by Kathleen Riddick, who conducted a variety of instrumental ensembles, something she continued to do during WWII and after. Also in 1939 Margery Cullen took on the role as Hon. Secretary of LHMC, a post she held until 1964.

Here World War II intervened. The Leith Hill committee and LCS were keen to continue making music as best they could in the more difficult circumstances. Groups from the choirs rehearsed as and when they could and a few performances by the combined choirs took place in Dorking. Works performed included The Messiah, Elijah and St. Matthew Passion. The rehearsals in Leatherhead were facilitated by Mabel Fuller who was to become LCS conductor when Leith Hill resumed in 1947.


Early stirrings (before 1928)

In the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser of 28th September 1907 the creation of Leatherhead Choral Society was announced. The first rehearsal took place on 14th October 1907 at the Leatherhead Institute and the work rehearsed was Handel's Messiah. The choir was conducted by Rowland Briant (1861-1933) who lived in Epsom. He was a professor of the organ at the Royal Academy of Music. Information is sparse, but it appears that this choir gave an annual concert and occasionally sang at other events in Leatherhead for a few years.

A brief biography of Rowland Briant can be found in the Dictionary of Composers for the Church in Great Britsin and Ireland (Evans, R. and Humphreys, M., 1997, London, Bloomsbury Publishing).

By 1914 the conductor was Mr T Webb, but at this point this incarnation of Leatherhead Choral Society fades from view.