Grand finale to our Bicentenary celebrations

Halifax Choral Society will be celebrating the end of our Bicentenary season with 2 performances at Halifax Minster as part of the Minster’s second Summer festival. “Choral at the Minster – A celebration of 200 years” takes place on Saturday 30th June, featuring many of our favourite pieces from two centuries of repertoire. An early start the following day sees us taking part in a live broadcast from the Minster for BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Morning Worship Live.
“Choral at the Minster” starts at7:30pm.Tickets for the concert are available for £10 on the door. Sunday Morning Worship Live is a free event, but the congregation need to be seated by 7:45 am.
Huge thanks go to Halifax Minster and to the Community Foundation for Calderdale for all their support.


The Creation

HCS Creation Concert revised advert-page-001

For the next part of our spectacular Bicentenary season celebrations, Halifax Choral Society will be recreating our first ever performance (200 years ago) of The Creation by Haydn, accompanied on period instruments by the Hanover Band, one of Britain’s finest period instruments orchestras. This is a rare opportunity for the music-lovers of Yorkshire to hear one of the great choral works performed on the instruments that would have been used when the piece was composed. As quoted on their website, the use of historic instruments changes the whole quality of a performance because ‘they have more colour, shape and less weight than modern instruments. They are more tangy, more piquant”. It will be as near to time travel as any of us are ever likely to get and will be a unique experience not to be missed.edit 1edit 2thb_2013_2-1thb_2016_1THB_Beijing_2017_5THB_Beijing_2017_6

One week to go!

The first concert of our Bicentenary season is nearly here at last! There has been so much work (and a fair few sleepless nights) put into the preparation for this, but everything is coming together beautifully. It is an incredible feeling to know we will be making history, not only for our longevity but also for commissioning and performing The Holy Face. (Come and see us and/or buy a CD and you will see what I mean – it is an oratorio that will take it’s rightful place as one of the truly great choral works.) It will be such a pleasure to sing with Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and the Yorkshire Youth Choir again too.

There are still some tickets available, so don’t take my word for it – come and see!

Our Bicentenary season is officially underway!

HCS Bicenternary Facebook 1200 x 628px 07.17-page-001

Halifax Choral Society is very proud to be presenting an incredible season of concerts to mark our 200th year, kicking off on October 15th with the World Premiere of Philip Wilby’s “The Holy Face”, which we recorded over the summer with Brass Dyke Band and will be performing this time with the North of England Classical Orchestra. Our soloists are Catrin Pryce-Jones (soprano and the very talented daughter of our musical director), Emma Stannard (alto), Peter Harris (tenor) and Jerome Knox (bass). Having had the pleasure of hearing them sing for the recording, I can guarantee you have a treat in store. Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and Yorkshire Youth Choir will also be joining us on stage in what will be the most spectacular concert in Halifax Choral Society’s long history.

In the words of the composer, it is “an Oratorio in the English tradition, using four soloists, a fulsome accompaniment (for orchestra or for brass band) and providing a significant role for the chorus.” Choral piece of this magnitude are seldom commissioned nowadays and we are extremely proud to be involved in the creation of such a powerful work.

The programme also includes Mendelssohn’s Psalm 114 (dedicated to Halifax Choral Society by the composer in 1839) and Bruckner: Te Deum.


21369176_1849449285070736_8304956887140912109_nHCS Gala Concert handbill-page-001

Sunday 26th November sees Halifax Choral Society’s 199th annual consecutive performance of Handel’s Messiah with the world-famous Black Dyke Band and joined by guests from Carlow Choral Society and Edinburgh Royal Choral Union.

The festive celebrations continue on Wednesday 6th December with the annual Carols and Brass concert with Black Dyke Band.


Spring Concert 2018 will be Haydn’s The Creation, the very first work performed by the Society, on 9th February 1818.

All of these concerts will be held at the Victoria Theatre in Halifax and tickets are available via their box office.

In addition to these events, Dr John Hargreaves, a renowned local historian, is writing a book entitled: ‘Every Valley Shall be Exalted’: A History of the Halifax Choral Society (1818-2018), available Spring 2018. A CD of The Holy Face (featuring Black Dyke Band) will be available to buy later this year.

To keep up to date with HCS news, check out or website (, blog ( or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.






In the beginning was the Word


Rehearsals started last night (on the hottest day of the year) at Hudderfield Town Hall for our recording of The Holy Face. We were joined by the marvelous Black Dyke Band, Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and members of the Yorkshire Youth Choir and were under the beady eyes of Darius Battiwalla, Nicholas Childs and the Philip Wilby himself. The Holy Face has been a challenge to learn, both because it is very complex and unpredictable and also because (unlike almost everything else a choir sings) we have no past recordings of it to listen to. Last night was the first time we have heard the whole ensemble of choirs and band, the first time that music has ever been heard in its entirety and we got to perform it in front of the composer. It was an incredible privilege and an experience that I doubt any of us will ever forget. Philip Wilby even applauded us at the end of one section, which has to be one of my proudest moments. The world can seem like a hard and ugly place at the moment. This brand new music is a wonderful and timely reminder that there is always beauty and harmony to be found too.


John Pryce-Jones and Dr Nicholas Childs





I get the impression that people think choral societies are very serious organisations 😉. If you’d been at rehearsal last night, those illusions would have been shattered. Our wonderful musical director was inspiring and hysterically funny in equal measures, fine-tuning the breathtaking drama of Elijah by making us imagine it as an opera. We had particular fun being bullish, Baal-loving hordes and dreaming up ways to keep our audience on the edge of their (electrified?) seats.

We will be performing Elijah twice, first in Halifax and then at Snape Maltings, both times with Ipswich Choral Society. This is a unique opportunity to hear the oldest choral society in the world and the second-oldest choral society in Great Britain singing together. It really will be electrifying.

A different kind of audience


Anyone who has ever sung in our home venue, the Victoria Theatre in Halifax, will testify that it is a challenging experience! The acoustics of the venue can make it impossible to hear other voice parts – it demands full concentration from the first note to the last. Our pre-concert rehearsals are often a little fraught when our minds inevitably wonder or our heads sink into the music folders to the eternal despair of MD John Pryce-Jones. However, come concert time, heads magically rise, minds are switched on and off we go.

Physically and emotionally, if I’m being honest, I can feel a little detached from the audience. The concentrated effort of singing, following JPJ and connecting with the rest of the choir leaves little room for a two way communication. However, our Autumn 2016 concert, The Armed Man, was a different experience.

For the 2016/17 season we have been inviting refugees and asylum seekers brought together by an organisation called Together We Grow, based in the Upper Calder Valley. Every month families living in Rochdale are offered the opportunity to engage in a variety of activities from cooking, growing fruit and vegetables, and socialising in a relaxed environment in Blackshaw Head. We all know of the terrible, unimaginable situations some asylum seekers are trying to put behind them, so it was with a little trepidation that we invited twelve of the group to The Armed Man.

Anyone who’s ever heard or sung this piece cannot fail to struck by the visceral descriptions of war and suffering – experiences some of the refugees can relate to first hand. However, far from being an oppressive, the whole concert experience was enervating. The refugees are so positive – they seem to take most things in their stride so to sing for them was deeply moving. They enjoyed the spectacle, the music and the occasion and for once I could let my mind drift, a little, to them, in the audience.




About Halifax Choral Society

Sorry it’s been a bit quiet on here – blame pressures of the day job and the build-up to our Summer Prom (follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more regular updates).

HCS summer flier

To make up for it, here’s some background info on HCS – who we are, how we started and where we are heading:


“Believed to be the oldest choral society in the world, Halifax Choral Society has an unbroken record of performance since its foundation in 1817 by William Priestley, a gentleman wool merchant as well as a talented amateur musician and antiquarian. One evening late in 1817, William had a dinner party for his musical friends at his home, New House, Lightcliffe (since rebuilt and known as The Grange). At that meal Priestley, with his love of good choral music, devised with his friends a permanent choir, to be known as Halifax Choral Society. The first performance took place in the Halifax Court House: Haydn’s The Creation, performed on Monday 9th February 1818. Another early work to become a fixture was Handel’s Messiah, which is believed to have been performed annually by the choir each Christmastide since 1818.

Since these Georgian beginnings, the Halifax Choral Society has continued to thrive as it has grown in stature and reputation. Even in Victorian times its members were considered proficient enough to be invited to sing for Queen Victoria in Buckingham Palace in June 1860. Over the ensuing years HCS has performed the vast majority of the choral repertoire to enviably high standards.

HCS is a thriving and enterprising choir, widely considered to be amongst the foremost of its genre. Many amateur music groups will feel rightly a justified sense of achievement if they are able to perform a complex work and have a sense of pride if the the performance goes without a hitch. However HCS cannot be content to perform to that level. We seek to interpret the music and present a polished professional programme of music. Because of these high expectations, HCS is able to accept invitations to join other major choirs (eg: Carlow Choral Union, Edinburgh Royal Choral Union, Leeds Philharmonic Chorus, Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus) to perform larger complex works. Such “exchange visits” give members the opportunity to perform larger choral works in different venues in Yorkshire and further afield and to promote our hometown, Halifax.


The Society’s high profile has been reflected in performances which have been broadcast nationally. The world premiere of its treasured and unique long-lost Mozart orchestration of Handel’s Judas Maccabeus was recorded for broadcast by the BBC and also networked in the USA. Other broadcasts have included: Carols and Brass (for Radio), Songs of Praise (televised on BBC1), a live BBC Radio 3 performance with the Halle of Prokofiev’s Cantata for the 25th Anniversary of the October Revolution (sung in Russian) from the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. HCS has also featured in the Opera Gala and Extravaganza Concerts, promoted by the Raymond Gubbay Organisation, at the Bridgewater Hall and the Manchester Arena.

HCS has made some well-received CD recordings (Summer Prom, Carols and Brass and Messiah with the Black Dyke Band and Christmas Song with Fodens’ Band) plus a DVD of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man, recorded live at a performance by HCS and Black Dyke Band in the presence of the composer in Birmingham Symphony Hall.


To ensure continuing high standards of singing, HCS has engaged its current professional artistic director, John Pryce-Jones, for the past 25 years. John is also Musical Director of the Northern Ballet Sinfonia (based in Leeds.) He takes the HCS weekly rehearsals as well as conducting all performances. In addition, HCS engages a regular professional accompanist, David Houlder.

The choir is made up of around 110 amateur members, from all walks of life, who enjoy singing to professional standards. members range in age from teenagers to octogenarians and come mainly from the local community, but increasingly from other parts of West Yorkshire and Lancashire too. HCS is a very friendly, open organisation that extends a warm welcome to all new members.


Each season the choir usually promotes and presents a full season of concerts in its home concert hall – the Victoria Theatre, Halifax -and in the town’s beautiful medieval Minster. The programme usually comprises major concerts in Spring and Autumn, an annual performance of Handel’s Messiah and, with the Black Dyke Band, Carol Concerts in December and a Summer Concert in June that aims to be lighthearted in the spirit of the Last Night of the Proms. There may also be external engagements carried out during the year.



The choir is now fast approaching its bicentenary concert season in 2017-2018, which we will celebrate with concerts that both mark its long history and emphasise its commitment to the future. There are few musical organisations that can trace their history as far back as HCS and accordingly the Society feels that our 200th consecutive season and our ambitions to continue to be a leading Choral Society is of major and lasting significance in the arts world. T o mark this momentous year, already completed and funded is a new full length oratorio for orchestra or brass band, SATB choir and children’s choir composed for HCS by Philip Wilby. This is entited the Holy Face and celebrates the life and death of the patron saint of Halifax, John the Baptist, after whom the town was allegedly named – Halifax being a derivation of early English “Holy-face”.



Great trembling there will be when the Judge descends from Heaven…

There are many things I love about singing with HCS, but possibly my favourite is the lead-up to a performance – when the rehearsals are going well, the pieces are constantly running through my mind and I can’t wait to be on stage and giving my best. For me, it’s a bit like the night before a big exam at medical school, when I’d revised until my brain hurt and I wanted to prove what I could do. The sheer passion and drama of Mozart’s Requiem fuels this feeling perfectly. My GCSE Latin days are a long time ago, though, so I turned to the trusty internet to find a translation of what we will be singing and found an excellent one on (copyright Memphis City Schools) which I hope will be of interest to some of you, particularly those of you who are coming to the concert on Sunday. (Incidentally, St Matthew’s choir also have a great link to an article on how to keep your conductor in line – JPJ will already be familiar with most of these!)



English Translation of Mozart’s Requiem

I. Introit: Requiem
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion,
et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem.
Exaudi orationem meam,
ad te omnis care veniet.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.
You are praised, God, in Zion,
and homage will be paid to You in Jerusalem.
Hear my prayer,
to You all flesh will come.
Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.
II. Kyrie
Kyrie, eleison.
Christe, eleison.
Kyrie, eleison.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
III. Sequence
1. Dies irae
Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla,
teste David cum Sibylla.
Quantus tremor est futurus,
quando judex est venturus,
cuncta stricte discussurus!
Day of wrath, day of anger
will dissolve the world in ashes,
as foretold by David and the Sibyl.
Great trembling there will be
when the Judge descends from heaven
to examine all things closely.
2. Tuba mirum
Tuba mirum spargens sonum
per sepulcra regionum,
coget omnes ante thronum.
The trumpet will send its wondrous sound
throughout earth’s sepulchres
and gather all before the throne.
Mors stupebit et natura,
cum resurget creatura,
judicanti responsura.
Liber scriptus proferetur,
in quo totum continetur,
unde mundus judicetur.
Death and nature will be astounded,
when all creation rises again,
to answer the judgement.
A book will be brought forth,
in which all will be written,
by which the world will be judged.
Judex ergo cum sedebit,
quidquid latet, apparebit,
nil inultum remanebit.
When the judge takes his place,
what is hidden will be revealed,
nothing will remain unavenged.
Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
quem patronum rogaturus,
cum vix justus sit securus?
What shall a wretch like me say?
Who shall intercede for me,
when the just ones need mercy?
3. Rex tremendae
Rex tremendae majestatis,
qui salvandos savas gratis,
salve me, fons pietatis.
King of tremendous majesty,
who freely saves those worthy ones,
save me, source of mercy.
4. Recordare
Recordare, Jesu pie,
quod sum causa tuae viae;
ne me perdas illa die.
Quaerens me, sedisti lassus,
redemisti crucem passus;
tantus labor non sit cassus.
Juste judex ultionis,
donum fac remissionis
ante diem rationis.

Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
culpa rubet vultus meus;
supplicanti parce, Deus.

Qui Mariam absolvisti,
et latronem exaudisti,
mihi quoque spem dedisti.

Preces meae non sunt dignae,
sed tu, bonus, fac benigne,
ne perenni cremer igne.

Inter oves locum praesta,
Et ab haedis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.

Remember, kind Jesus,
my salvation caused your suffering;
do not forsake me on that day.
Faint and weary you have sought me,
redeemed me, suffering on the cross;
may such great effort not be in vain.
Righteous judge of vengeance,
grant me the gift of absolution
before the day of retribution.

I moan as one who is guilty:
owning my shame with a red face;
suppliant before you, Lord.

You, who absolved Mary,
and listened to the thief,
give me hope also.

My prayers are unworthy,
but, good Lord, have mercy,
and rescue me from eternal fire.

Provide me a place among the sheep,
and separate me from the goats,
guiding me to Your right hand.

5. Confutatis
Confutatis maledictis,
flammis acribus addictis,
voca me cum benedictus.
Oro supplex et acclinis,
cor contritum quasi cinis,
gere curam mei finis.
When the accused are confounded,
and doomed to flames of woe,
call me among the blessed.
I kneel with submissive heart,
my contrition is like ashes,
help me in my final condition.
6. Lacrimosa
Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus,
pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem. Amen.
That day of tears and mourning,
when from the ashes shall arise,
all humanity to be judged.
Spare us by your mercy, Lord,
gentle Lord Jesus,
grant them eternal rest. Amen.
IV. Offertory
I. Domine Jesu
Domine Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae,
libera animas omnium fidelium
defunctorum de poenis inferni
et de profundo lacu.
Libera eas de ore leonis,
ne absorbeat eas tartarus,
ne cadant in obscurum.
Sed signifer sanctus Michael
repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam.

Quam olim Abrahae promisisti
et semini ejus.
Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
liberate the souls of the faithful,
departed from the pains of hell
and from the bottomless pit.
Deliver them from the lion’s mouth,
lest hell swallow them up,
lest they fall into darkness.

Let the standard-bearer, holy Michael,
bring them into holy light.

Which was promised to Abraham
and his descendants.
2. Hostias
Hostias et preces tibi, Domine,
laudis offerimus.
Tu sucipe pro animabus illis,
quaram hodie memoriam facimus.
Fac eas, Domine,
de morte transire ad vitam,
Quam olim Abrahae promisisti
et semini ejus.
Sacrifices and prayers of praise, Lord,
we offer to You.
Receive them in behalf of those souls
we commemorate today.
And let them, Lord,
pass from death to life,
which was promised to Abraham
and his descendants.
V. Agnus Dei
Agnus Dei, qui tollis
peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis
peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis
peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem sempiternam.
Lamb of God, who takes away
the sins of the world,
grant them eternal rest.
Lamb of God, who takes away
the sins of the world,
Grant them eternal rest.
Lamb of God, who takes away
the sins of the world,
grant them eternal rest forever.
VI. Communion:
Lux aeterna
Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,
cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,
quia pius es.
Requiem aeternum dona eis, Domine,
et Lux perpetua luceat eis,
cum Sanctus tuis in aeternum,
quia pius es.
Let eternal light shine on them, Lord,
as with Your saints in eternity,
because You are merciful.
Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them,
as with Your saints in eternity,
because You are merciful.



©2002 Memphis City Schools. All Rights Reserved.

©2002 Memphis City Schools. All Rights Reserved.