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History of the Choir


Richard Hoyle 

Dr Richard Hoyle was the choir's music director from 2000 to 2018.  On the occasion of his hundredth concert, in May 2010, he wrote this appreciation of the cultural importance of male voice choirs, followed by a list of all 100 concerts.  

Dr Richard Hoyle grew up in a musical family in Huddersfield, Yorkshire.  He learned the piano at seven and played for local amateur operatic companies from his early teens. He studied music at Goldsmiths' College and the piano at Trinity College of Music and has accompanied singers for concerts, recitals and competitions at many venues.  He was an enthusiastic baritone in several choirs and choral societies.  Richard joined the CMVC as its accompanist in 1991.  He became musical director in 2000, succeeding previous incumbent Ozzie Arnold, and has presided over the choir's dramatic growth and its increasingly ambitious repertoire.  He can be an exacting task-master and is a keen competitor, but he never loses his infectious enthusiasm and sense of fun.


Richard writes:

In this country, male voice choirs were forged from the comradeship found in mining and manufacturing industry. If you have ever crawled along a dug out coal seam hundreds of feet underground, as I have, you will appreciate the tough working life of a miner in the years before the nationalisation of the mines brought stringent health and safety regulations. My own great uncle Thomas was crushed to death by the collapse of a coal seam in the Barnsley area in the 1930s.

Given these harsh conditions in the coalfields of Wales, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, as well as the tin mines of Cornwall, it is easy to understand why men found solace by singing together; and not surprising too to discover that what they sang was mainly hymns. In the same way that a strong spiritual tradition emerged in the cotton fields of the USA, a tough physical existence in this life was easier to face through the aspiration to a better life to come.

This is the background of the male voice choir scene today. There are a number of choirs that still steep themselves in this tradition and continue to sing those very stirring hymn arrangements with emphatic 'Amens'; there are also some English choirs that appear to want to experience a musical naturalisation and become Welsh. Choirs must never get stuck in a rut.   The glorious tradition of English choral singing and the tremendous expansion and diversification of repertoire now available for male ensembles cannot be ignored.

In the last ten years Croydon Male Voice Choir has developed considerably. While holding the 'Welsh tradition' in great respect, I have steered the choir, often against gentle resistance, towards more open waters. Our repertoire turns over gradually but insistently to the benefit both of the members' own musical development and of the entertainment of our regular audiences.

Although we occasionally sing in other languages  my own penchant is for English. The interpretation of the sentiments of a song that can be conveyed directly to an audience through musical word painting is something that has always appealed to me and this choir's skill in expression is now one of its strong points.

The choir has very disciplined rehearsals. Technical challenge is deliberately mixed with easy sings. Banter is a regular feature between one song and the next and this is important  - we might not be crawling through coal seams any more but we still have day-to-day pressures that need expunging and exorcising.

My aim is to take this choir forward. To do this we need to seek new challenges and regularly disturb our routine. The choir has grown substantially over the last five years and will soon reach a size that I wouldn't want to exceed. The camaraderie that we currently enjoy would weaken if we began to resemble a choral society - but recruitment remains important to us to ensure the choir's longevity and success.

As the choir develops, so does its musical director. Conducting technique, the exploration of repertoire, programme planning as well as arranging and composing opportunities are all  progressing and this maintains my own interest and commitment to this choir. As long as the choir is willing to move forward with me I am happy to be at the helm. The success of any organisation depends on its avoidance of still waters.

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