In the mid 1950s Geoffrey Whitehouse, headteacher of Bishops Cleeve Secondary School, joined the Choral Society and was its conductor at one stage. This began a long association with the school when rehearsals and many concerts were held at the school (later Cleeve School) and the Head of Music was traditionally the choir's conductor. This association lasted until the 1980s.
In the 1960s the choir joined with other local choral societies to perform in Gloucester Cathedral and in 1963 presented a joint concert with Tewkesbury Choral Society in Tewkesbury Abbey.
In the 1970s the choir's performances were particularly well received with reports in the Gloucestershire Echo headlined 'Cleeve Society Excels in Spring Concert' (21.05.70) and 'Musical Talent in Area Displayed by Choral Society' (1.12.72). At this time the society usually performed in at least two concerts each year, at Christmas, in the Spring and often either an informal or a joint concert as well. The choir continued to enter the Cheltenham Competitive Festival until 1960.
In the 1980s the Choral Society suffered from a common problem in mixed choirs -
The Choral Society ladies' choir in the 1930s
Cleeve Chorale in rehearsal for Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle, April 2002
In September 2002 Iain Cooper was appointed Conductor of the choir. The choir embarked on a new venture for the society in May 2003, an overseas tour. Choir members toured the Salzburg area of Austria from 24th -
The choir singing in the gardens of the Hellbrun Palace near Salzburg, May 2003.
Cleeve Chorale and Bridgwater Choral Society in rehearsal for Brahms' German Requiem,
Cheltenham College Junior School, April 2007
In September 2010 the choir appointed Alastair Cameron as Musical Director. We were very pleased to be invited to sing Evensong at St Eadburgha’s Church, Broadway; Longlevens and Bristol Cathedral. The choir has continued its association with Bishop’s Cleeve Primary Academy and regularly performs at the annual street fair in Bishop’s Cleeve. In July 2015 the choir was joined at its summer concert by Isbourne Valley Songwriters Choir from Isbourne Valley School. The children performed songs they had written,including a song which had been specially arranged for a joint performance by the children and Cleeve Chorale. Hear the recording from the concert here.
Cleeve Choral Society, December 1991
In the early 1990s the choir held choral workshops led by Esther Salaman and Nigel Perrin. In 1995 the Choral society changed its name again, to Cleeve Chorale.
The late 1990s were a time of change for the choir with several changes of conductor. In 2000 Charles Jones was appointed and the number of concerts held each year increased to three (or more). In 2000 the choir took part in a concert with other local groups as part of Bishops Cleeve's Millennium celebrations and in 2000 and 2001 joint concerts were held with the St. Andrew's Singers at St. Andrew's Church, Toddington. Christmas concerts continue to be held at St. Michael and All Angels' Church with concerts also being held at Cleeve School and Bishops Cleeve Tithe Barn. In June 2002 the choir performed at All Saints' Church, Evesham at the kind invitation of the Friends of Evesham Church and Bell Tower and in May 2003 the choir held a concert at St. Mary's Church, Prestbury. The choir continued to sing with a variety of soloists and was accompanied by the Regency Sinfonia for its performance of Mozart's Requiem in 2001.
Cleeve Chorale can trace its origins back to the Bishops Cleeve Choral and Dramatic Society which was founded in the early 1930s. This society originated from a small group of singers who met in the Rectory in the 1920s. The society performed in concerts, operettas and entered the Cheltenham Competitive Festival..
After closing for the Second World War, the society reformed in 1949 as the Bishops Cleeve Choral Society and met in the Rectory. Works performed included Stainer's Crucifixion, The Messiah and Elijah. The society continued to enter the Cheltenham Competitive Festival and also successfully competed in the Bristol Eisteddfodd.
From September 2015 to December 2016, Helen McNaught took over the role of Musical Director. In January 2017, Heather Parker was appointed Musical Director.
Local musician and author Peter Gill has written a book about the history of music in Cheltenham and there are several photographs and references to Cleeve Chorale in both the ‘Choirs’ and ‘Shows’ sections of the book (as we were originally a choral and dramatic society). The book, entitled Cheltenham’s Music is published by Sutton Publishing. The book covers the whole range of music and would make a great present for anyone interested in music or the history of Cheltenham.
We would be interested to hear from any former members of the choir, please contact us. We will be happy to correct any mistakes or omissions and to include more photographs. More photographs of the choir are available in the gallery.