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London Choral Society
London Chorus (Choir)

Founded: 1903 - London, England

The London Chorus fFormerly: London Choral Society = LCS) is London's most versatile choir, practising and performing a challenging and varied repertoire and continually developing its tradition of excellence. Founded as the London Choral Society in 1903 in order to bring Edward Elgar's Dream of Gerontius to London, the choir established its tradition of innovation right from the start, giving a number of first performances in its early years. This has continued up to the present day. In recent years the choir has promoted the first London performances of works by Samuel Barber, Frank Martin, Richard Blackford, Ronald Corp and others, as well as performing an extremely wide repertoire ranging from plainsong, through the mainstream choral repertoire, to music of the present day, both classical and on the lighter side.

The 120 members of the choir are amateur singers from all walks for life, but performances are at the highest professional level. Singing with The London Chorus provides an unparalleled opportunity for amateurs to work with the most prestigious orchestras, conductors and soloists in the world. Performances are given in all the major London venues, as well as elsewhere in England and abroad.

Ronald Corp, who joined the choir as Chorus Master in 1985, and was appointed Musical Director in 1994, is one of the country's foremost choral conductors. Under his direction the choir has developed to give performances at a standard which is second-to-none.

History - Pre-War

In May 1903 Felix Weingartner conducted an all-L.v. Beethoven festival at the Queen's Hall in London. The choral finale of the Ninth Symphony was entrusted to the Dulwich Philharmonic Society, whose conductor was Arthur Fagge. It was the success of this event, together with a desire to mount a performance in London of E. Elgar's Dream of Gerontius which encouraged Fagge to found a new choir, the London Choral Society, to be based in central London.

An early programme of the London Choral Society contains this announcement of its aims and ideals:

"This Society is founded on the belief that the ability to develop and appreciate good choral singing is not confined to the North of England... Its avowed object of presenting unfamiliar and unjustly neglected works has always been kept steadily in view... Though it would be obviously impolitic to neglect occasional performances of works that are rightly established in public favour, yet no question of a too cautious expediency will hinder the preparation and presentation of those that have a right to be heard."

In fact the Society's first concert, in October 1903, was a performance of Sullivan's The Golden Legend (which the choir has recently recorded for CD). The following February they gave the first London public performance of The Dream of Gerontius (saving only a performance in Westminster Cathedral, for which a choir had been imported from the Midlands) at the Queen's Hall, at which the soloists were Marie Brema, John Coates and Ffrancon-Davies, and went on to perform all of E. Elgar's major choral works, Other first performance mounted by the Society included Granville Bantock's Omar Khayyam in February 1910, and, in December the following year, Coleridge-Taylor's A Tale of Old Japan. In April 1914 they gave the first performance in English of Parsifal.

Other works performed by the LCS (all at the Queen's Hall) included a concert version of Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson and Delilah, Parry's Pied Piper of Hamelin, Holbrooke's The Bells, Walford Davies' Everyman, Brahms' Requiem, Berlioz' Faust, Balfour Gardiner's News from Whydah, Wolf Ferrari's Vita Nuova and Franck's Hundredth Psalm. The Society generally gave five concerts each season: in addition they were engaged for some of the Richter concerts and concerts of the Royal Philharmonic Society.

In 1912 and 1913 the LCS took part in an outstanding series of concerts with the New Symphony Orchestra (which had been founded in 1905), arranged by Balfour Gardiner, at which a large number of works were heard for the first time, including Arnold Bax's Enchanted Summer, Percy Grainger's Father and Daughter, Sir Eglamore and the wordless, unaccompanied version of the Irish Tune from County Derry, and Gustav Holst's The Cloud Messenger, which was conducted by the composer. In May the following year the LCS was engaged to take part in a Festival of British Music at the Queen's Hall which was conducted by Emil Mlynarski and Thomas Beecham, with some works being conducted by E. Elgar and Arthur Fagge. The programmes consisted of the "best and most characteristic music" written and produced during the preceding ten years.

History - Post-War (Auther: Douglas Jupp, 1998)

The LCS pursued an active performing life until the outbreak of World War II. This initially curtailed its activities and during the London Blitz in 1940 it ceased altogether. Arthur Fagge died in 1943 so that at the end of the war any revival had to be in the hands of others. An attempt made by the conductor Leighton Lucas, who had been an associate of Mr Fagge, came to nothing but shortly afterwards a chance meeting between the distinguished tenor Parry Jones and the conductor John Tobin led to its revival. The singer suggested to John Tobin that he ought to take on the LCS and that he remembered that the secretary was "a chap named Garnham". This was quite sufficient information for someone of John Tobin's energy and drive and he quickly tracked down Ben Garnham and arranged to meet such members of the former committee as could be found.

The decision to start again was taken and rehearsals began in 1946. The resources were modest and no attempt was made to promote a concert in the first season. The first concert took place in February 1948 when J.S. Bach's Jesu Meine Freude and Gabriel Fauré's Requiem were the main choral items. Having decided to promote a performance of George Frideric Handel's Messiah, John Tobin said that he would spend "two or three weeks" at the British Museum looking at the various manuscripts. (This eventually led to several years of research by John Tobin into all the various manuscript sources of Messiah, the publication of two books and the eventual acceptance of his edition by the Hallische Handel-Ausgabe for its new edition of all G.F. Handel's works.) The first performance of this edition was given by the Society on March 18, 1950 in St Paul's Cathedral to outstanding critical acclaim, the Guardian describing the edition as being "as near to the original as modern scholarship and resource can get". Following a further performance in the Royal Festival Hall, the Hall's management requested a repeat performance which they promoted. Shortly afterwards the Royal Festival Hall offered the Society the Good Friday date and on Good Friday 1953 the Society gave the firsts of its annual performance of J.S. Bach's St Matthew Passion (BWV 244), a tradition which continued for more than forty years.

Thus within a few yearsof its post-war revival the Society can be said to have truly arrived on the London concert scene. As well as performances of standard works, the Society established a reputation for the performance of contemporary music and has a number of first performances to its credit. In 1968 the Society took part in the City of London Festival giving the first performance of The Song of the Highest Tower by Roger Smalley while other new works performed over the years include Pax Dei by Wilfred Mellers (dedicated to the Society), Tentatio Jesu by Anton Heiller, The City of Desolation by Anthony Milner, Changes by Gordon Crosse and Voices of Sleep by Paul Patterson, as well as the well-known War Requiem by Benjamin Britten and A Child of Our Time by Michael Tippett.

In 1975 Leon Lovett, already the Society's Associate Conductor, succeeded John Tobin as Musical Director and during his time was successful in getting the Society its first appearance at a BBC Promenade Concert, performing a modern British work by Elisabeth Lutyens to words by Chaucer entitled De Amore. Leon was also instrumental in obtaining two visits to Holland for the Society as well as maintaining full London concert seasons.

From September 1978 the LCS was fortunate to appoint the young Simon Rattle as Principal Conductor and Nicholas Cleobury as Chorus Master, and during the next five seasons presented a series of exciting concerts at the South Bank. As may be expected from such musicians, these concerts were very important for the choir's musical development, although it has to be said that the Treasurer's nerve, as well as our Bank Manager's, was equally put to the test!

Following Simon Rattle's appointment as Musical Director of City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Society appointed Jane Glover as Musical Director, firstly with Martin Merry as chorus master and then, from 1985, Ronald Corp. Ronald Corp remains with us, now as Musical Director in charge of the artistic direction of the Society. These years have seen the continued success of the Society and as well as standard repertoire we have continued to present new works in our concerts, including the first concert performance of Mirror of Perfection by Richard Blackford and the first performance of Ronald Corp's Laudamus.

The Society is an independent concert-promoting organisation and, in common with similar bodies, has found the cost of promoting concerts, against a background of declining official funding, increasingly burdensome. Much help has come from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and from grant-making trusts. None the less the number of our own promotions has declined and it is a particular sadness that, solely on grounds of cost, the annual performance of St Matthew Passion ((BWV 244),) has had to be given up. The LCS has been fortunate in being invited to sing for other concert promoters and were particularly rewarded by being asked to provide the chorus for three concert performances by the Kirov Opera under Valery Gergiev and a performance of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Le Coq d'Or under Rostropovich. They were also invited by to Raymond Gubbay to sing in a number of his promotions.

Musical Directors

Arthur Fagge (1903-1943)
John Tobin (Musical Director - 1946-1975)
Leon Lovett (Associate Conductor - 1971-1975)
Leon Lovett (Musical Director - 1975-1978)
Simon Rattle (Principal Conductor - 1978-1983)
Nicholas Cleobury (Chorus Master - 1978-1982)
Brian Kay (Chorus Master - 1982-1983)
Jane Glover (Musical Director - 1983)
Martin Merry (Chorus Master - 1983)
Ronald Corp (Chorus Master - 1985)
Jane Glover (Principal Guest Conductor - 1994-1999)
Ronald Corp (Musical Director - 1994-Present)

Source: London Chorus Website (April 2009)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (January 2011)

Recordings of Arrangements/Transcriptions of Bachs Works




Stephen Barlow


Joseph James: Requiem after J.S. Bach [Chorus Master: Ronald Corp]

Links to other Sites

The London Chorus (Official Website)


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