Grimsby’s Orpheus Male Voice Choir gets ready for 70th anniversary

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Grimsby’s Orpheus Male Voice Choir gets ready for 70th anniversary

The Orpheus Male Voice Choir has been part of the cultural and social life of the Grimsby and Cleethorpes area since soon after the end of World War ll.

It was founded in 1949 in response to the wishes of local men, many recently returned from service in the armed forces, to sing together as a male choir. Remarkably, six of the founder members were still actively singing with the Orpheus when its 50th anniversary was celebrated in 1999.

Most of the choir`s major concerts on home ground have been given at the Grimsby Central Hall in Duncombe Street, with its splendid acoustic for musical events.

Grimsby Town Hall has also hosted a number of the choir`s concerts. Others have been held at many local churches, often to raise funds for the churches themselves and various charitable causes.

Many concerts have featured well-known local guest performers and prominent visiting artists of the highest calibre: soloists both vocal and instrumental, small groups, choirs, brass bands and jazz bands.

The Orpheus has also presented visiting choirs from all over the country as guest performers.  These have included some of the most outstanding male voice choirs as well as mixed choirs.

Involvement in the choral movement generally has been greatly helped by membership of the National Association of Choirs, of which the Orpheus Musical Director, Richard Bradley, was chairman for several years. The Association`s Lincolnshire Group arranges joint concerts and workshops for the member choirs in its area.

International exchanges have taken place with choirs in Europe, with many personal friendships developing as a result. It all began with a visit to Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Boxmeer in Holland in l967, following an initial trip to the Orpheus by the Eindhoven choir the previous year.

Contacts were later made with Meinerzhagen and Rauschendorf in Germany. Rauschendorf is a village near the beautiful town of Konigswinter (on the Rhine, near Bonn), with which Cleethorpes is twinned.

Further links were made with Alingsas (Sweden), the Dutch National Male Voice Choir and Pessac in France.  Concerts were also given with guest choirs from Norway and South Africa.

The Orpheus Male Voice Choir has had many successes at competitive musical festivals over the years, both locally and in other parts of the country. Perhaps the most prestigious first prize was won at the Biddulph Festival in 1990, beating several top rank choirs.

In June 1960 the choir took part in the BBC `All Together` programme, from the Pier Pavilion in Cleethorpes. The Orpheus also featured in a Christmas broadcast from Hull City Hall in 1984.

Along with other choral groups the Orpheus were invited to sing at a special concert, broadcast on Radio 3, to mark the opening of the new Grimsby Auditorium in June 1995.  The work performed was Carl Orff`s `Carmina Burana` which was accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes.

The choir also sang in BBC Television`s Songs of Praise in 2001, when they performed from the bandstand outside the Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre.

Various events are being planned to mark the choir`s 70th anniversary year in 2019. Already scheduled is a celebrity concert on Saturday 30th March at Grimsby Central Hall, with piano duo David Nettle and Richard Markham.

Richard, who grew up in Grimsby, gave his first public performance with the Orpheus in the late 1960`s, and he went on to become a pianist of world class.  He has never forgotten his roots and frequently returns to Grimsby to support local musical activity.  Richard has played with the Orpheus on several occasions.

In May, the choir will be travelling to Wales to sing as guests of the Tonna Male Voice Choir, who were in Grimsby for a concert at the Minster in September 2017.

October is the date of a concert in the Central Hall with the Brighouse and Rastrick Band, one of the country`s premier brass bands. The Orpheus has performed previously with this splendid group of musicians, who always prove popular with audiences.

New members are welcomed by the Orpheus at any time. Although previous singing experience and the ability to read music are obvious advantages, they are not requirements for joining.

Anyone interested in joining can call choir secretary Alan Jacklin on 01472 502833, or e-mail alan.jacklin@ntlworld.com.