Choir is silenced

Worthing Philharmonic Choir is no more after fighting a failing battle against decline.

Tuesday, 14th June 2011, 2:00 pm

Chairman Linda Rockall has reluctantly brought to a conclusion more than 70 years of history.

Worthing Philharmonic Choir was formed in 1935 by Herbert Lodge as the Worthing Municipal. It was the town’s oldest choir. Now its website carries simply the message that the choir has disbanded.

“There are a lot of choirs in West Sussex,” Linda said. “We were finding it very very difficult to recruit enough numbers to mount the sort of works that we wanted to put on.

“If we were going to do the major works, we needed people that were able to do them. A lot of community choirs are thriving, but they don’t recruit people that can necessarily read music.”

A particular problem has been men - or rather, the lack of them.

“We have got lots of ladies that are good singers, but we are down to two tenors and four bases. That has been the case for years. We have tried recruiting, but it hasn’t worked.

“We have also had difficulty getting people along to the concerts. Whether it was because we are not singing the sort of music that is popular, I don’t know. It is just very, very difficult.”

After a successful Easter Messiah, the decision was taken to bow out on a positive note.

“We are the oldest choir in the town, but it has just faded away really. We tried a different musical director with a different style, but that didn’t really help. Steve Dummer came to us last year.”

At the close, the choir numbered 45 members, but as Linda explains, the problem was the balance. To be viable they needed at least eight to ten men in each section - numbers they fell far short of in a sad sign of the times.

“Boys don’t sing at school. Not too many boys sing in church choirs any more.”

But there are plenty of highlights to look back on as an era ends.

“We did have some marvellous concerts. When Donovan Brown bowed out as musical director, the Verdi Requiem we had at the Assembly Hall was wonderful.”