Grangemouth choir celebrate 60 years in style

Grangemouth Choral Society in 2013
Grangemouth Choral Society in 2013

Grangemouth Choral Society will once again shine in the spotlight when they mark their Diamond Anniversary with a special performance next week.

The group’s annual concert, which takes place at Grangemouth High School, on Friday, April 25, will celebrate 60 years of the society and carry on its fine tradition of standout turns from guest soloist

Over the years many big names from the world of opera and choral music have graced the choir with their presence and talent, including Frank Legario, Joan Davies, Raphael Rojas, Marliyn Hill-Smith, Janis Kelly, Linda Ormiston and Donald Maxwell.

This year’s 60th anniversary concert’s star attraction will be former Braes High School pupil Lynn Bellamy.

The 23-year-old mezzo soprano is currently studying for her Master of Music degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, having graduated in 2013 with a BMus(Hons) in Vocal Performance at the conservatoire.

Society president Douglas Semple said: “The programme has been complied by members of the choir, digging into the archives to come up with songs which haven’t been performed for a while.”

This year’s concert will be the first for new accompanist Stephanie Kelly and conductor by Stephen Robbie, who follows in the wake of baton swirls by the likes of George Semple, John Allan, David Robertson, Richard Stanners, John Cranston and Alex Christie.

Society spokesman Paul Bellamy said: “There are plenty of connections with the choir of 60 years ago in today’s society. Current president Douglas Semple is the son of the founding conductor George Semple and bass Craig Ireland is the son of the first president of the choir Cecil Ireland.

“Pride of place, however, goes to founding member and alto Rae Walker who was present at the first meeting to form the society and is still singing with the choir today.”

The long established choir was born back in 1954 following a meeting in the Grange Church Hall, with the first rehearsals taking place in September of that year.

Making its debut on Remembrance Sunday during the Festival of Remembrance, the fledgling choir then performed its first full concert in March 1955 with an eclectic mix of Scottish songs, folk numbers and choral music standards.

The choir went from strength to strength during the 1960s, performing concerts in the town for local groups and charities and in 1969 it began what would become a local institution and the highlight of the choir’s season, the Annual Concert.

Paul said: “Building on this foundation, the choir’s reputation and standing grew during the 1970s and 80s as it became an established part of the music scene throughout Central Scotland.

“In 1975, they took part in a concert in Grangemouth Town Hall with Jim MacLeod and Helen MacArthur and in Falkirk Town Hall along side Peter Morrison. The following year they performed to their largest audience of 3000 people in Edinburgh’s Meadowbank Stadium.”

During the 80s, the choir participated with other groups from West of Scotland in the live BBC TV broadcasts of Spirit of Christmas, which ran from the 1987 concert in Glasgow’s George Square until the 1990 event in Dundee.

Over the years the choir has been involved with many charities raising money through sponsored sings and concerts, notably Kidney Research and Children First.

The society’s current president believes the society’s longevity is down to the commitment of the people who have been involved in it over the years.

Douglas said: “It’s the enthusiasm of the members and the interest locally from people who are keen to sing. We have around 50 members at the moment, including some from outside the Grangemouth area.”

Tickets for Grangemouth Choral Society’s Annual Concert are now available from choir members.

Singers soar from 7.30 p.m.