Congleton Choral Society logo

Congleton Choral Society, Congleton, Cheshire, UK

Congleton Choral Society logo
Home About Us Join Us Programme Music Hire Choir for Hire Choral Academy Contact Us Mailing List Gallery Past Events Sponsorship Members' Area
Search our web site
advanced search



Making Music Congleton Choral Society is a member of Making Music, The National Federation of Music Societies.

Congleton Choral Society is a Registered Charity
No: 515851

Read Our Policies

Past Performances

Young violinist gets standing ovation

Councillor Sue Appleton, Town Mayor, David Johnson, Musical Director, Jennifer Pike, winner of BBC Young Musician of the Year 2002, Sir Bernard Lovell, President, Congleton Choral Society.




Young and talented 13 year-old Jennifer Pike brought the audience to their feet at the town hall on Saturday May 3rd when she performed Mozart's 4th Violin Concerto at Congleton Choral Society's Spring Concert.

Jennifer has an exceptional gift and stunned judges at last year's BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition when she won the top prize at the age at the age of just twelve. 

It was wonderful to see so many young faces in the audience that packed Congleton's Town Hall and Jennifer was certainly an inspiration to young and old alike. Tickets were sold out well before the event.

The performance began with Boyce's Symphony No 5 in D Major. The Cantilena Orchestra played this with style and panache. It's a very high trumpet part, and all their notes were played with precision and accuracy.

This was followed by Bob Chilcott's Canticles of Light. This is quite a modern and difficult piece, which the choir carried off with style and aplomb. The upper Plainsong was magical and gave one an eerie feeling of being in a dark Cathedral with the choir singing the Evening Hymns in the distance.

"Mozart's Violin Concerto was of course the highlight of the evening and the reason the Town Hall was full," said David Johnson Musical Director of the Choral Society. "Jennifer Pike gave an absolutely flawless performance of this piece. Her technical mastery of the violin was awe-inspiring and had the audience -and choir - spellbound."

The Cantilena Orchestra, under Musical Director David Johnson, provided just the perfect accompaniment to Jennifer's virtuoso playing, and produced a performance of the concerto that was worthy of any professional CD label.

"What a formidable talent!," said David, "To produce a performance like this at the age of 13 years - what will she be like in 5 years time."

Jennifer played a short piece by Paganini as an encore. The Hall was silent as the audience were totally mesmerised by this young musician performing musical aerobatics on her 17th Century Venetian violin. The standing ovation at end of this piece was just reward for a performance of pure artistry.

"She was wonderful. To be there to hear such variety of expression, to feel the richness of tones from the instrument was a privilege indeed," Ken Ratcliff, Secretary of the Choral Society said, "It was an arresting experience to hear the instrument responding so warmly, so vibrantly to her bow. Lyricism, virtuosity, tenderness, passion, strength, impetuosity, all seemed to flow from them (Jennifer and violin) so freely and wonderfully."

After the interval the Choral Society gave a powerful performance of Mozart's Requiem together with four of the finest soloists from the Royal Northern College of Music: Elizabeth Donovan (Soprano) Sarah Lilley (Mezzo-soprano) Adam McGee (Tenor) and Philip Shakesby (Baritone). Individually their performances where quite superb but when they sang together their voices blended and balanced beautifully. There is no doubt that all these soloists have a great future.

The Musical Director was delighted with the whole performance: "The Choir were magnificent - at one moment propelling the audience out of their seats with the fearful 'Dies Irae' and then moving them to tears with the last movement Mozart completed before he died - the 'Lacrimosa'," said David Johnson, "This was Congleton Choral Society at its best - sharp, attentive, tuneful,and terrifying!! They gave one of the best performances of this majestic work that I can remember, and one that will stand out in the Choral Society's annuls."

Plans are already being made to bring Jennifer Pike back to Congleton as soon as her reign as BBC Young Musician is over (and when her diary might be alittle less hectic). She will, without a doubt, have an very warm welcome from another capacity audience when she does.


Music lover Baroness Jane Walmsley took time out of her hectic schedule on Saturday 12th October to join in the fun at Congleton Choral Society's Autumn Concert. She was one of the special guest soloists who joined the Cantilena Orchestra as they played Mozart's "Toy Symphony".

Along with former Town Mayor, Margaret Williamson, who played "cookoo" with gusto and present Town Mayor, Sue Appleton, who played "nightingale" magnificently, the Baroness was obviously thoroughly enjoying her part on the triangle.

"Live music is always special but actually taking part was even more enjoyable," Baroness Walmsley said afterwards, "That's why I love singing with the Parliament Choir."

She went on to say "Saturday's performance by Congleton Choral Society was wonderful and is was so good to hear the young soloists and musicians singing and playing so brilliantly."

The soloists, who joined the choir in the performance of Mozart's Solemn Vespers of the Confessor and Haydn's Maria Theresa Mass, are all graduates of the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. They are all at the start of what promise to be very successful singing careers, judging from their magnificent voices. Soprano soloist Elizabeth Donovan returned after her captivating performance in St John Passion at the Choral Society's Spring Concert. The quality of her voice is such that she is representing Wales in next year's BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition.

She was joined by Karina Lucas (Alto), Alexander Grove (Tenor) and Anthony Cleverton (Bass/Baritone) all highly respected soloists who are in great demand both regionally and nationally.

The Choral Society's Musical Director David Johnson said "The Toy Symphony will remain in my memory for ever! - it was great to see everyone, particularly our politicians, enjoying themselves. The Solumn Vespers by Mozart went very, very well but the Haydn was brilliant. I was very pleased."

A member of the choir Rosemary Millican said "When it comes to the night of the concert and the choir joins with soloists and the wonderful Cantilena Orchestra in front of a really enthusiastic audience, it is really wonderful and makes all the practice worthwhile."

The Choral Society have already begun rehearsals for their Christmas concert "Carols at Astbury" which promises to be a sell out. "If you would like to join with the choir to sing at Christmas we would love to increase our numbers," said David Johnson, "We are holding open evenings on Monday October 21st and November 4th 7.45 - 9.45 at Trinity Church, Waggs St. We would love all those who love to sing to come and join their voice with ours."


Congleton Choral Society's soloists for the St John Passion

Congleton Choral Society's Spring concert was hailed as a triumph by an enthusiastic audience on the night of April 27th. With the Cantilena Orchestra and five wonderful soloists they performed St John Passion by JS Bach. It was a performance to match the very best.

Simon Wall (Tenor) took the part of the Evangelist. It is a very demanding role for any tenor, but Simon's pure clear voice soared to the heavens and did not falter throughout the 2 hour performance. Musical Director, David Johnson said " I was so pleased he was able to sing with us." This young man who has just been awarded a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London, has a tremendous singing career ahead of him.

James McVicar, who has performed regularly with the Choral Society, brought warmth and compassion to the role of Jesus. "It was a very moving performance," he said, "I had tears in my eyes."

They were joined by three other top soloists: Elizabeth Donovan who is an outstanding soprano; Sarah Lilley, a highly talented mezzo-soprano with a voice like velvet, and Stephen Wells, a popular bass soloist.

The Cantilena Orchestra, led by Jenny Stokes, are a group of young and talented musicians who come together from across the North West to play with Congleton Choral Society. On this occasion they were joined by Simon Mercer on the organ and Bjorn Bantok , cellist, who played the very challenging continuo part.

The Choir have received many accolades for their past concerts and this, once again, was a brilliant performance. David Johnson, Musical Director, said "It was a wonderful evening and a wonderful atmosphere. The choir sang the St John Passion in 1980 and again in 1989 but this was the best performance: best soloists, best orchestra and the best choir. They were absolutely wonderful."

Members of the audience praised the concert saying: "This is the first time we have been to a Congleton Choral Society concert but we are going to make a point of coming to every concert from now on. More people should realise just how good the quality of music is." One young boy in the audience said "It was better than the record my Dad has and that has a famous choir singing on it."

To be able to experience such a wealth of talent anywhere would be a privilege. To be able to enjoy it in our own Town Hall is remarkable. But questions were being raised about the viability of the Choral Society's Concerts as, despite the exceptional quality of the music, the Hall was far from full. "It is very sad that more people do not come and experience what the Choral Society has to offer right here in Congleton," said Rosemary Millican, choir member.

Handel's Messiah in conjunction with the Parliament Choir21st MARCH 2002: Handel's Messiah, Central Hall, Westminster
M embers of Congleton Choral Society sang in Westminster with the Parliament Choir recently at the invitation of Baroness Walmsley.

Joining a massed choir of invited voices from across the country they performed Handel's MESSIAH in Westminster Central Hall to an audience of over 1000. More than 200 singers were drawn from choirs as far afield as Scotland and the West Country. The event was sponsored by British Telecom.

It meant an early start for Congleton's singers who left home before 6.30am to make the 200-mile trip by train. In between the two rehearsal sessions, Baroness Walmsley gave them a guided tour of the Palace of Westminster and there was time too for a little sightseeing.

The evening performance ended at 9.30 leaving only 30 minutes for a dramatic dash to Euston Station to catch the last train back to Congleton. With only seconds remaining, the final members of the party arrived on the platform.

Gerald Foster Clark, who made all the arrangements for the trip said, "It was a wonderful day, a great experience, and a marvelous to be part of such an event. We are hoping that we can arrange something similar again."

Rosemary Millican, a choir member said, "It was a very special day, singing with people from all over the country and sitting alongside MPs, Lords and Baronesses in the choir. It was a real privilege to be there."

Previous concerts, including Fanshawe's African Sanctus, Bach: B Minor Mass, Carl Orff: Carmina Burana, Bernstein: Chichester Psalms

Back to top


About us Programme Archive Music for hire How to join Home