The Portsmouth Chorus was founded by Harold Hall in November 1930. Originally called The Portsmouth Glee Club its aim was the practice, performance and advancement of music. The Chorus started with 16 members and their first meeting place was a room above a laundry in North End. The number of members soon grew, however, and they relocated to the Methodist Hall in Copnor.
The Chorus’ first concert was held in March 1931 at the Royal Sailors Rest. The Chorus appeared at the Portsmouth Guildhall in 1937 and featured the music of “Merrie England” which was always a favourite of Harold Hall. The Chorus were one of the last choirs to sing at the Guildhall before it was destroyed during the Second World War.
The Chorus continued to meet during the war years although it was a difficult time as some members were lost to the war and the Chorus’s musical library was destroyed by fire. Lookouts had to be posted at concerts and sirens frequently ruined the singing. Three hundred pounds was raised for the Red Cross during the war and regular concerts helped to keep the residents spirits up.
A Victory Day concert was held on Saturday 6th June 1946 with the Chorus once again singing the music of “Merrie England”.
In 1948, the Chorus was the largest in the city with 44 male voices. As one review of the time put it:
“This is a very large choir and it has three good points: –
It is very attentive to the conductor.
It sings in tune.
It exhibits exceptionally clear diction.”
The Chorus continued to grow and expand in the next few years. Various artists of national repute joined the choir in their performances, including Jacqueline Fugelle who is now our current president.
The Chorus was the first choir to sing in the New Guildhall in 1959. They were often reviewed by The News and their concerts were always well attended.
In 1980 the Chorus held a Golden Jubilee Concert. Her Majesty the Queen sent a Royal telegram to congratulate Harold and the Chorus. A record, “50 Golden Years of Music”, was produced to commemorate the occasion.
Harold Hall stepped down as Musical Director in 1984 after 53 years of service. John Down took over from him and the name of the group was changed to the Portsmouth Chorus to reflect its growing size.
In 1989 the Chorus went on tour with ‘The Band of the United States Air Force in Europe’. The tour took in The Albert Hall, the Bournemouth Pavilion, Colson Hall, the Newport Centre and the Portsmouth Guildhall. The highlight of each performance was the “Bridge of Freedom Suite” especially commissioned to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Allied Forces Air Crews overcoming the Berlin Blockade in 1949.
On Saturday 22nd September 1990 the Portsmouth Chorus celebrated its Diamond Jubilee with a concert in the Guildhall.
The Portsmouth Chorus is still going strong and continues with its mission statement of the practice and performance of good music.