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Nelson Civic Choir: 60 and still going strong!

by Chloe McLaughlin

Madonna, Kate Bush and the Nelson Civic Ladies’ Choir all have something in common – and it’s not just music! All three are celebrating being 60 years old!

The Nelson Civic Choir actually started 70-years ago as a children’s choir (and was called the Municipal Children’s Choir) but as the conductor, Edward Parr, was a teacher he ended up getting almost a 100 children signed up to the choir. The Ladies’ choir was started in 1959 when some of the children got older and upon reaching 16 still wanted to sing. 60-years later, the choir is still going strong with a ladies, children’s and youth choir.

They’ve enjoyed a wealth of success – even winning the BBC’s Grand Sing competition but this year, it’s all about their big 6-0 and raising as much money as possible for charity.

“Every year the choir chooses a charity and donates the proceeds from a concert to them and this year we are giving a concert in aid of Dementia Awareness.” Margaret Bainbridge, vice-chairman explains, “The proceeds will go to Walton Lane Day Care because of the sterling work they do in Pendle and beyond for those people suffering with dementia.

“We didn’t know what to do for our 60th anniversary and so we thought if we can donate as much money as possible to charity that’s the best thing to do!”

The choir has a number of long serving members, many of whom have received 50-year awards, with the longest serving member Betty Willoughby clocking up an incredible 65 years.

“Singing is a huge part of our lives.” Margaret explains, “It’s good to learn and I think music is a big part of people’s lives in some way or another even if it’s just listening to it. We’re a large group and you can guarantee that at every rehearsal we’ll have about 50 people.”

The group rehearse at the St John’s Methodist Church in Colne but it isn’t all about the music for the choir.

“The choir is like a family and when tragedies happen we support each other. The choir supports anyone who needs it in lots of different ways.”

The choir also helps local charities and chooses one charity every year to donate money too. They’ve helped Pendleside Hospice, Holygrove School and various other local charities and have raised an estimated £10,000 in the last 14 years and they hope to be helping raise money for charity in another 60 years?

“I don’t think I’ll be here!” Margaret chuckles, “But there’s no reason why it can’t go on. The youth will go off to university or get married but as with the ladies choir, they come back. We also have open evenings for people to bring friends and we recruit every year – it’s an ideal time for people to come and join us.”

Anyone wanting to join can call 07711808140 to find out more about one of the area’s best known choirs. Or, if you prefer to just listen, why not pop along to their big 60th anniversary concert and help raise money for Dementia Awareness?

The big concert is on 13th July at Pendle Hippodrome. We’re being joined by Pendle Community Orchestra and the Pendle Hippodrome Youth Theatre. The theme is music through the decades!