A History of the Choir

By Elizabeth Forshaw and Ken Rose (previous Chairs).

The East Devon Choral Society first met at the East Devon College (now Petroc), hence the name. The then Principal, Cliffird Dixon, had placed an advertisement in the Tiverton Gazette, inviting interested people to form a choir under the baton of Dr. David Webster, the music tutor at the college. The first concert was given in December 1973 and that was just the beginning of what was to become a choral society that has gained much respect and admiration throughout the South West.

In September 1974 Dr. John Byrt became conductor and took the choir on to perform a wide and ambitious range of all the major choral works. His skills as director and his confidence in the singers is demonstrated by the music performed. Fauré’s Requiem was the first concert under John’s baton, followed by Mendelssohn’s Elijah and then Handel’s Messiah in Spring 1976. Not least of the music performed were John’s own compositions. in particular Missa Brevis, his Hereford Carol and the very special Exaudi Domini, commissioned by the choir.

As the reputation of the choir grew, so did the membership, with singers travelling from across Devon and Somerset. A unique quality of the choir is how sociable it is, with Monday rehearsals being both exhilarating and fun.

Many people have supported the choir over the years, from accompanists, committee members and, thankfully, ticket buyers! Too numerous to mention individually, they have our gratitude. There is just one who has been committed to the choir from those early years – Sue North, our Vice Chair for over 35 years. We thank her.

To celebrate our 20th Anniversary we joined forces with Taunton Choral Society to perform Verdi’s Requiem in Tiverton High Schools Sports Hall. The report in the Tiverton Gazette stated – “what a wonderful evening – a resounding success”!

John Byrt conducted EDCS for 28 glorious years from 1974 until 2002 and his last year was crowned with performances of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in April and Britten’s Noyes Fludde in July. He was preparing the choir for a concert in December to include Brahms’ How Lovely are they Dwellings when indisposition due to ill health made it impossible for him to complete the task and the young musician who had been accompanying the rehearsals, stood in as guest conductor at the last moment – that young musician was Andrew Daldorph who finally was persuaded to take over from John when he decided to leave us.

Since then, Andrew has inspired us with his endless patience, incredible energy and fine musicianship. His rehearsals are demanding yet never oppressive as Andrew is able to coax the high standards that he requires with humorous encouragement.

Concerts under Andrew have varied in content from the Renaissance music of Monteverdi to that of the present day including works either arranged or written by Andrew himself. Of the latter the most memorable is his Songs of Hope & Creation, which was performed once in Tiverton and again in Exeter Cathedral with the Exeter Chamber Choir. This performance won the inaugural nationwide PRS for Music’s competition “Unforgettable Choir” title – a great honour for EDCS.

We hope that Andrew will continue his work with us for many years to come and we look forward to the 50th Anniversary Concert in 2023 with Andrew on the rostrum!