Our History

The origins of the Brighton Orpheus Choir go back to 1942 and it took its name from 1948 onwards. The choir celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2008. For 51 years Patricia Harding directed the Choir. Every year several concerts, with professional soloists and orchestra, have been put on. In the course of its half century the Choir has sung many of the major choral works, both classical and more modern. You can click here to see some of the works performed in the last 10 years.

Muriel Hart MBE LRAM

Accompanist

Muriel first became connected to the Brighton Orpheus Choir in 1944, when the choir was known as the Withdean Choir. Muriel was asked to be the choir’s accompanist – a role which she carried out for 71 years before retiring in 2015.

Muriel is well known and respected in the Sussex music world. Twenty years were spent as Music Specialist at Patcham Junior School and several past pupils have gone on to become highly professional musicians. After a year lecturing in music she became Music Advisor for Primary Schools in Brighton, Hove and Portslade.

In the 2005 New Years Honours Muriel was awarded the MBE for services to music in Brighton and Hove. She was also responsible for the three levels of training orchestras which fed the prestigious Brighton Youth Orchestra.

Muriel continues to be a member of the Sussex Musicians Club for which she was honorary secretary for 37 years. She directs the University of the Third Age Sing for Pleasure Groups in Hove and Worthing.

Muriel’s selfless dedication to the development of other singers and instrumentalists demonstrates her great commitment to music. Members of the Brighton Orpheus Choir hold Muriel in great affection.

Annette Bell, Stella Hull and Muriel Hart, 2014

Annette Bell, Stella Hull and Muriel Hart, 2014

Roy S Woolner

When he died on 20 July 2001 at the age of 72, Roy Woolner had been Chairman of the Brighton Orpheus Choir for many years. He joined the Choir in 1955 and from then on continued to give it not just his fine baritone voice and musicianship, but consistent administrative and practical support. As Chairman he took a real hands-on role, whether organising and chairing committee meetings, or dealing with the nitty gritty jobs which surround a concert — planning venues and dates, organising teams to bring and erect the staging. Each operation was managed with the precision which reflected his former job as Vice-Principal of Varndean College. Even after the serious illness that followed his visit to India in 1999 he sustained his efforts. His patience and kind nature shone through the difficulties. He continued totally supportive.
We have all valued Roy as a close friend and colleague and we know his diligence, involvement and know-how will be very difficult to replace. A legacy from Roy allowed us to build the staging we now use for our concerts.

Patricia Harding, MBE, BA, LRAM

In the 1998 New Year Honours list Patricia Harding was awarded the MBE for services to Music in East Sussex; this recognised her 32 years as Head of Music at Varndean Grammar School for Girls and her 50 years as Conductor of the Brighton Orpheus Choir.

She became in 1948 the Musical Director of the Withdean Choral Society, renamed in 1954 the Brighton Orpheus Choir, and relinquished her baton 51 years later. Over the years the Choir grew not only in numbers but also in musicianship. Pat chose works which challenged us but which under her expert leadership were within our grasp. She broadened our musical horizons.

In her work at Varndean Grammar School for Girls (where so much of her work with choirs and orchestras was done at the end of a tiring day) and in her work with the Brighton Orpheus Choir, only the best would satisfy her and she inspired us all those who worked with her to give their best. We rejoiced with Pat when her work in music in East Sussex was recognised by that richly deserved award of the MBE.