When Harborough's singers won big on BBC competition

The choir at the BBC's Pebble Mill studios
The choir at the BBC's Pebble Mill studios

Gill Guest continues to look through the archives of the Harborough Singers as they approach their 40th anniversary

Our third visit to the Harborough Singers archive features two photographs taken by Norman Ward at the BBC studios at Pebble Mill in Birmingham.

The choir at the BBC's Pebble Mill studios

The choir at the BBC's Pebble Mill studios

The date is 1980 and the occasion is the recording of our entry for the Radio 3 competition ‘Let The People’s Sing’.

We sang works by Lasso, Finzi and Musgrave together with two pieces – ‘Hush Little Babbie’ and ‘Little Ball of Yarn’ – which had been written especially for us by Northamptonshire composer Trevor Hold. Our performance won us the Youth Choir section of the contest and pitched us forward into a nationwide radio ‘sing-off’ to find an overall winner.

This radio sing off was to be broadcast one lunchtime in the middle of the summer.

Margaret Blades, who until her death last year was the choir’s most dedicated and loyal supporter, promptly organised a barbeque at her home in The Woodlands so that all 42 members of the choir, together with conductor Barry Clark and friends and family could listen to the broadcast together.

It rained. We won. ‘A Market Harborough choir have become champion of champions in the UK singing world’ trumpeted the Harborough Mail.

An ecstatic Barry supplied a quote. ‘It was a tremendous atmosphere,’ he said. ‘They said the winning choir was from Market … and we didn’t hear anything else!’ Indeed, we must have been making rather a lot of jubilant noise since the otherwise stoical rain-wet fishermen, on the canal way down at the bottom of the garden, complained.