Harborough Singers took on big venues in the early 1980s

The Harborough Singers at the Royal Albert Hall in 1982
The Harborough Singers at the Royal Albert Hall in 1982

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

The early eighties saw the choir carrying the name of Market Harborough to a number of prestigious locations. Under the baton of conductor Barry Clark they managed a hat-trick of appearances in all the famous and prestigious concert halls on London’s South Bank – The Purcell Room, The Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Royal Festival Hall.

Sainsburys Choir of the Year 1984

Sainsburys Choir of the Year 1984

But in May of 1982 they were on stage at an even more iconic venue – the ever so slightly daunting Albert Hall. Here they took part in Sainsbury’s Festival of Choirs, an enormous choral event involving the best choirs in the land.

Apparently, they hid their nervousness well.

Reporting on the event, The Times was moved to say ‘The Market Harborough Singers demonstrated an impressive ability to sing and dance in an impressive production number from Godspell, prefaced by a modern Dona Nobis Pacem by Charles Hirt of quite disturbing power – an explicit reaffirmation of the close relationship between singing and the primal scream.’

Crikey! How about that?

Sainsburys Choir of the Year 1984

Sainsburys Choir of the Year 1984

The photo shows the choir performing this extraordinary work, on stage at the Albert Hall. Even today, 40 years later, just looking at the picture still makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

Were you there? Does the thought of it still give you the heebie jeebies? Do write in and let us know! The address is newsdesk@harboroughmail.co.uk

Back in Market Harborough the townsfolk became quite used to being entertained by foreign choirs dropping in to visit.

Exchange visits were frequent, and the town choir travelled widely across the UK and Europe during this period.

The photo shows a Czech choir in national costume entertaining Saturday morning shoppers under the Old Grammar School.

The Sainsbury’s Albert Hall event became the TV choral competition ‘Sainsbury’s Choir of the Year’ – still running today – in 1984.

The final of that very first contest involved the New London Chamber Choir and the Harborough Singers. Or as the Financial Times put it ‘Academic excellence against a beautifully trained
local choir’. In the event ‘Academic Excellence’ won the day, but the local choir from the sticks – many of whom it should be remembered couldn’t read music – gave them an exciting run for their money and the unfolding drama kept Harborough people glued to their TVs for weeks!