St George's Singers was formed in 1956 by Rev Eric Chapman, Vicar, and Geoffrey Verney, Organist and Choirmaster of St George's Church, Poynton who wished to build a choir, based in the local community, to perform the major choral works. Helped by the dedication of Arthur Daniels, Churchwarden, and his wife Mary, who became the first Secretary and Treasurer, the choir grew rapidly from the initial 35 people who came to the first rehearsal, and within two years the Choir had grown sufficiently to perform Bach's St John Passion.
After Geoffrey Verney's sudden and untimely death in 1964, Duncan Eyre, Organist and Choirmaster at St Peter's in Hale came to ‘help out’ - and stayed for twenty years. He was supported by Tim Hill, accompanist to the Choir for 23 years. The Singers had now grown to 100 voices, performing all the major works of the choral repertoire, highlights being The Dream of Gerontius in 1969 and St Matthew Passion in 1973 with Alexander Young as the Evangelist. In 1976 they were invited to perform The Dream of Gerontius at the Royal Northern College of Music to provide a postgraduate student with experience of conducting large forces. The orchestra for this performance was arranged by a student, Ray Lomax, who became Musical Director of the Singers in 1987.
Ray, who was principal timpanist with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, expanded the repertoire of the Choir considerably, giving British premieres of works by Scandinavian composers Otto Olsson and Ingvar Lidholm. In December 1993 the Singers performed to critical acclaim in a Classical Spectacular at GMex in Manchester before an audience of 9,000. Ray took the Choir to Germany in 1989 and Belgium in 1991, which began a tradition of regular touring. He also directed the Stockport Festival Chorus until his tragically early death in 2002 at the age of only 47.
When Ray left the Choir in 1996 to pursue other interests, St George's Singers was extremely fortunate in attracting Stephen Williams to become their Musical Director. Stephen was a chorister at Carlisle Cathedral, and after graduating from Leeds University, studied singing and conducting at the Royal Northern College of Music. He became a music teacher at Manchester Grammar School, but left the security of a job to pursue a conducting career. He also directed the University of Manchester Chorus, the Chapter House Choir at York Minster, and was Chorus Master of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus in Glasgow.
Under Stephen’s dynamic and inspirational leadership the Singers went from strength to strength, expanding in numbers, repertoire and reputation. Highlights included an exciting interpretation of Bach's B minor Mass at the Royal Northern College of Music and a moving St John Passion at the Church of the Holy Name in Manchester, both with the Northern Chamber Orchestra. Stephen introduced the Singers to Russian and Eastern European music with performances of Schnittke's challenging Choir Concerto, Karai's De Profundis and Gretchaninov’s Vespers. Other innovations included a Midsummer Mozart Festival at St George’s Church in Poynton in 2004, and the introduction of our annual singing day.
The Choir’s most ambitious venture during Stephen’s tenure was Elijah in November 2004 with Sir Willard White, Mark Padmore and Manchester Camerata in a sold-out Bridgewater Hall. The Manchester Evening News reported that “it was the superbly drilled massed voices of the chorus which made the performance”. The Choir was invited to return to the Bridgewater Hall by the Manchester Camerata on New Year's Eve 2005 to be the chorus in their Opera Gala, and in 2006 - St George’s Singers’ Golden Jubilee season - they returned to the Hall again to perform Bach’s St Matthew Passion with James Gilchrist as the Evangelist. And then, to demonstrate the Choir’s versatility, for something completely different - Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert with jazz singer Jacqui Dankworth at Manchester Cathedral.
In 2006, Stephen’s career took him away from conducting and back to education, as he was appointed Director of Music at Uppingham School. Once again though, the Singers were fortunate to find an outstanding conductor in Neil Taylor.
Neil is a vastly experienced choral conductor, with numerous broadcasts and recordings to his credit. Since his appointment as Musical Director of St George’s Singers in September 2006, Neil has continued to build on and expand the Choir’s reputation for innovation and excellence. Under his baton the Singers have performed works from across the world, and from five centuries of song: baroque Spain to 20th century America, the sacred music of Italy and Eastern Europe, the Vespers of both Rachmaninov and Monteverdi Vespers, the masterworks of the English, German and French choral repertoires, modern jazz works, and of course not forgetting Bach, Handel and Haydn (concerts). With Neil we appear regularly on BBC Radio 4’s Daily Service, and we have commissioned a number of new works from young and established composers (new works).
St George's Singers is proud of its reputation as a friendly Choir, and social events (and a drink in the pub after rehearsal!) are just as important as the singing. Everyone contributes in their own way to the running of the choir - whether on the committee, taking solos in concerts, helping with concert organisation, fund-raising, tea and cake-making, or putting on a ‘show’ at the annual Social Evening. We hope you will come and join us - whether as a member of the choir or the audience - for another exciting and enjoyable season of music-making.