A History of the Choir

AND THE BEAT GOES ON
(A short history of the South Yorkshire Police Male Voice Choir)

We don’t really know whose idea it was, but who ever it was, would probably be surprised to discover that the “Beat Goes On” in 2014!!

Sometime before the 5th October 1925, in the now demolished Guildhall in Doncaster and what is today Marks and Spencer store in Frenchgate, someone decided to do something to help the impoverished and bare footed children of the town. So commenced the 80 plus year history of what is now known as the South Yorkshire Police Male Voice Choir.

Their first concert, on the 5th October of that year, was performed at the Doncaster Grand Theatre, which was at that time a flourishing venue for many renowned Music Hall and variety performances. This concert, performed by the Borough Police Officers, was in aid of the of Doncaster County Boroughs’ then Chief Constable’s Charity, to buy “Boots for the Bairns.” Today the choir is very proud of the fact that it's oldest member, Harry Whitnall, who is now in his 90's was himself a recipient of one of those pairs of hob nail boots!

That is the very early part of the choir’s history of their formation. Little more is known of this period in the choirs history.

Throughout the war years 1939 – 45, music in the Police Service understandably took a back seat. The first peacetime concert was in 1946, held at Doncaster Waterdale Girls High School, with a Brass Band and local artistes. 1948 saw the start of a tradition which continues to this day: the annual Christmas Carols on the Wards at Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

Various amalgamations in the Police Service forced the choir to change names to those commensurate with the new Police Authority governing the town. Initially known as Doncaster County Borough Police Male Voice Choir, 1974 saw the change to the choirs present name.

The ethos of the choir through all its years has been to raise funds for national and local charities. It is difficult to comment on the amounts raised over the year but it will certainly be in excess of six figures. Whilst raising funds, there have been some notable and memorable occasions for the choir. In addition to performing in many local church halls, they have sung with other choirs in such prestigious venues as The Royal Festival Hall in 1984, in the presence of H.R.H Princess Margaret, in aid of the NSPCC. Also on this bill were personalities Michael Bentine and Tom O`Connor. In 1987 at The Royal Albert Hall (1,000 Police voices) to raise funds for Save the Children; Cardiff Arms Park, (now the Millennium Stadium) on two occasions when 10,000 male voices from all over the world sang to raise funds for children’s charities through the auspices of ‘Lord’s Taverners.’ The Cardiff events were particularly memorable as 1992 included Tom Jones, with the combined Bands of the Welsh, Irish, Scots and Coldstream Guards whilst  in 1993 Welsh diva Dame Shirley Bassey and the London Phiharmonic Orchestra were joined by the choirs in a rendition of The Beatles “Hey Jude.” Both these events were shown live on national Television.

Such events with other choirs have led to exchanges and visits to places as far away as Herten and Bochum in Germany; Newport in Wales; Plymouth, Portsmouth and the Cathedral City of Hereford where concerts have been performed with local choirs. The choir, singing in the national language of the hosts in Germany and Wales certainly tested the language skills of choir members!

The year 2000 was filled with a mixture of emotions. The celebration of the 75th anniversary of the choir was marked by a visit to the Birmingham NEC for a Musical Extravaganza, which took place with a plethora of music from Police Officers across the UK. This included the British Police Symphony Orchestra, Police Brass Bands, Police Pipe Bands, Police Choirs and a multitude of other musical talent. Also in that year the choir held its 75th Anniversary concert with the Internationally renowned pianist Mr John Briggs. This was a memorable accasion, not just for the event, but for the fact that choir members had to be seconded to lift a three quarters of a ton Steinway concert piano up the staircase into the hall at the concert venue! The great sadness of that year however was the loss of our Musical Director of some 25 years, Captain Peter Sumner MBE, LRAM, ARCM, RM (RET’D.)

2001 is remembered by the choir for their visit to Cyprus and performing a concert in 90 degrees plus heat at the British Ex-Patriots Club in Phaphos to an enthusiastic audience. In 2003 the choir then decided to change the colour of its uniform from the above blue jacket & black trousers to the green & grey format of today. In March 2006 we were invited by the Derbyshire Constabulary Male Voice Choir to participate in their Golden Jubilee Concert along with Hereford Police Male Voice Choir, Shrewsbury Police Choir and Derwent Brass Band.

In 2008 we held our annual concert at The Minster Church of St. George in Doncaster to raise funds for the Help for Heroes appeal. This was a fantastic event with the Band of the RAF College Cranwell and which we raised over £5000.
Along with all our continued many local concerts, members of the choir also returned to Cyprus in October 2009 when they joined a contingent from Dore and Wigston Male Voice Choir on a concert tour whilst in May 2014 we helped raise £1000 for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance in a concert supported with South Yorkshire Police Band and local soprano, Felicity Simpson.
 
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