History of the Society Continued history2


In a newspaper report, celebrating our Thirtieth Anniversary in 1973, the Society’s former president, Sylvia Horton-Fawkes recalled ‘…the Choral society was born in the drawing room at Farnley Hall at a party I gave there in 1943 for members of a Music Society that then existed in Otley.’ This music group, founded in 1941, met in the library of the Grammar school to listen to gramophone records. Encouraged by Mrs Horton-Fawkes, they placed an advertisement in the Wharfedale Observer inviting people interested in forming a choral group to attend a meeting in the Congregational Hall on Tuesday, 19th October 1943 – and to bring copies of Messiah. Fifty singers turned up but a shortage of men was reported and even some of them, the Society’s records show, had to resign because of ‘civil defence duties’.

The Otley Choral Group planned a concert version of Merrie England for the spring of 1944, inviting a Mr Sydney Parsons to conduct, but by the date of the concert (April 1944) the choir was already known as the Otley Choral society and seventy singers took part in the performance. Incidentally, we sang Merrie England again for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.


That the choir has survived through difficult times (numerical and financial) bears witness to the enthusiasm and loyalty of its members but more particularly, to the dedication, skill and energy of Charles Bainbridge who trained and educated the Society from 1946 until his retirement in 1980. Once again the redoubtable Sylvia Horton-Fawkes played her part as it was she who suggested in 1946 that ‘Mr Bainbridge from Pudsey be invited to take up the post of conductor’.

The Society has been blessed with other long-serving members, especially the two accompanists – Rupert Tong who served from 1948 until 1970 and Bob Walker from 1970 until 2000.

One local family was represented for over 70 years in the choir – Mrs Doris Moxon (second soprano) was one of those founder members in 1943; soon after the war she was joined by her husband Cyril (tenor) who served as chairman of the society from 1964 -1986 and they were later joined by their son David who until recently sang in the tenor section.


Charles Bainbridge was also responsible for encouraging the formation of another Choral society in Wharfedale. The Ilkley Choral Society grew out of his Musical Evening Class in 1949 and since that date the two societies have worked together for most of their major concerts. Functioning as two separate societies with the same conductor, they rehearse the same music and come together for joint rehearsal just before each concert, forming a chorus of 120-150 voices.

The Yorkshire Chamber Ensemble (leader: Sally Robinson) has provided a wonderful accompaniment for many of our concerts. We have also enjoyed sharing Christmas concerts with Otley Brass Band and Yorkshire Evening Post Brass Ensemble.


Sally Robinson & former conductor     Alan Horsey