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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.


In May 2010, Richard conducted his hundredth concert for the choir.  Here is the list:

1        8 Jul 2000     St Lukes Sevenoaks

2     23 Sep 2000    United Reform Sanderstead

3       7 Oct 2000    Croydon Parish Church

25th Anniversary Concert

4     12 Nov 2000    All Saints Sanderstead

5     17 Nov 2000    Upper Norwood Citadel                    with Salvation Army band

6       2 Dec 2000    Shirley Methodist                            Croydon Welsh

7     15 Dec 2000    St George Shirley

8     17 Feb 2001   Shirley High School                           Croydon Rotary

9      24 Mar 2001   St May Magdelene Addiscombe

10    19 May 2001   St Margaret Chipstead

11      2 Jun 2001   All Saints Cheltenham                      with Churchdown MVC

12    16 Jun 2001    St Paul Woldingham

13    20 Sep 2001   White House, Upper Norwood

14      6 Oct 2001   Beckenham Methodist

15    18 Oct 2001    St Benet Orpington

16    15 Dec 2001    Christchurch Methodist Addiscombe

17    16 Feb 2002    Peter Kennedy Court

18      2 Mar 2002    Shirley Methodist                           Chennai Samuel Centre

19    16 Mar 2002    Shirley High School                         Croydon Rotary

20    20 Apl 2002    Holy Trinity Sth Woodham Ferrers     with Swift Singers

21     8 Jun 2002     Fairfield Halls                                  Festival of Male Voices HM Golden Jubilee

22      6 Jul 2002     West Wickham Methodist

23   28 Sep 2002    Addington Methodist

24   12 Oct 2002    Morden College Beckenham

25   15 Nov 2002    Upper Norwood Citadel                    with Salvation Army band

26     7 Dec 2002    Shirley Methodist                            Croydon Welsh

27    23 Feb 2003    Beckenham Methodist

28    22 Mar 2003    Shirley Methodist                            with Velvet Harmony

29    17 May 2003   Hayes Village Hall

30    19 May 2003   Arnhem Gallery                               Inauguration of Mayor

31    14 Jun 2003    St Margaret Chipstead

32       5 Jul 2003    Arnhem Gallery                              Inaugural Patrons Concert

33    18 Oct 2003    Shirley High School                        with Swift Singers  Croydon Rotary

34      8 Feb 2003    St John Shirley

35    13 Dec 2003    Shirley Methodist                          Croydon Welsh

36    21 Feb 2004    St Mary Caterham

37     24 Apl 2004    Downe Church

38    15 May 2004    St John Old Coulsdon

39      5 Jun 2004    Richmond Methodist, Penzance      with St Stythians MVC

40      17 Jul 2004   Croydon Parish Church                   Patrons Concert

41    25 Sep 2004    Holy Saviour Croydon

42      7 Oct 2004    Royal Hospital Chelsea

43      7 Nov 2004    All Saints Sanderstead                  Sanderstead Neighbourhood Care

44      4 Dec 2004    Hayes Free Church

45    11 Dec 2004    Shirley Methodist                         Croydon Welsh

46     7 May 2005     St Mary Hayes

47    1 June 2005     St John Old Coulsdo n                 with Blaenavon MVC

48    18 Jun 2005     Fairfield Halls                               F.Halls benefit concert

49    15 Oct 2005     Old Palace School                       Patrons Concert

50    19 Nov 2005    Tower of London

51    10 Dec 2005    Shirley Methodist                        Croydon Welsh

52     18 Feb 2006    Westerham Church

53     12 Mar 2006    St John Shirley

54       8 Apl 2006    Chelmsford                              Swift Singers, French and German choir

55     10 Jun 2006    Fairfield Halls                            Festival of Male Voices

56      8 July 2006    Cudham

57      3 Sep 2006    Shirley High School                   Croydon Rotary for NSPCC

58      4 Nov 2006   Whitgift School                         Patrons Concert

59      9 Dec 2006   Shirley Methodist                       Croydon Welsh

60    14 Dec 2006   Merstham                                 Merstham Society

61    17 Feb 2007   St Johns, Old Coulsdon              with Swift Singers

62       6 Mar 2007   Masonic Lodge                         memorial for Jim Diplock

63    21 April 2007   St James’, Kenley

64      5 May 2007   St Marys, Hayes                       for Demelza House

65     1 June 2007   Ascq, France                           1st International weekend

66      2 June 2007  Nechin, Belgium

67       7 July 2007  Blaenavon, Wales                     Welsh weekend

68     29 Sep 2007  St George’s, Beckenham

69     27 Oct 2007  St.Luke’s, South Norwood

70    17 Nov 2007   St.Mary’s, New Addington

71      8 Dec 2007   Shirley Methodist                    Croydon Welsh

72     16 Feb 2008   Ralph Perrin Court, Beckenham

73    8 March 2008   Croydon High School               Patrons’ Concert

74    19 April 2008   British Home, Crown Point

75     17 May 2008   Rotary Dinner, Arnhem Gallery

76     30 May 2008   St Mary, Barnsley                    Yorkshire Tour

77     31 May 2008   St George, Brockholes             Yorkshire Tour

78     27 Sep 2008   St Francis, West Wickham

79     22 Nov 2008   St Mary’s, Hayes

80     11 Dec 2008   Merstham

81     13 Dec 2008   Shirley Methodist                    Croydon Welsh

82     21 Feb 2009   St Matthews, Chichester Road

83       6 Mar 2009   Tonbridge School Chapel

84      28 Mar 2009   St Marks, Biggin Hill

85       2 May 2009   International Competition, Truro

86       2 May 2009   Launceston Methodist Church  Festival Joint Concert

87       3 May 2009   The Eden Project, Cornwall     Festival Joint Concert

88       3 May 2009   Redruth Methodist Church       Festival Joint Concert

89     16 May 2009   St Johns, Shirley                     Zimbabwe Appeal

90     3 June 2009   Whitgift School                       Patrons’ Concert

91      9 Sep 2009   St Martin’s, Dorking

92    10 Oct 2009    All Saints, Carshalton

93     14 Nov 2009  St.Mary’s Addington

94     10 Dec 2009  St Clement Danes’s, Strand      RAF Christmas Concert

95     12 Dec 2009  Shirley Methodist                    Croydon Welsh

96     20 Feb 2010  St.Francis, West Wickham

97     13 Mar 2010   St.John’s, Old Coulsdon           with Swift Singers

98       9 Apl 2010   Holland

99     10 Apl 2010   Holland

100   22 May 2010   St John’s, Eden Park, Beckenham


A history of the choir

When we entered the Truro International Competition in 2009, we were asked to provide a 500-word history of our choir.  Here it is, brought up to date as at May 2013.

The Croydon Male Voice Choir has been singing for nearky 40 years. From modest beginnings, it has become a choir that is firmly established in the local community, benefits a range of local and national charities,  and aspires to the highest musical standards. Yet it has always retained a sense of sociability, enjoyment and fun.

The choir at Bath Abbey, 2011

The choir grew out of a schism in the Croydon musical world. In 1975, David Neal, a member of the L.J. Singers, led a 12-strong breakaway group which set up the David Neal Gentleman Songsters. Mr Neal died two years later to be succeeded as leader by Phil Ratcliffe, and the choir was promptly renamed the Croydon Male Voice Choir. It secured sponsorship from the local South Suburban Cooperative Society and rehearsed in the Co-op HQ canteen. It sang ballads and pop songs, and performed in dinner jackets, raising money for causes such as local hospices and homeless charities.

The choir lost its sponsors when the Croydon SSCS closed down. It found new premises in a pub, the Cherry Orchard. It replaced the dinner jackets with vee-necked pullovers (think Val Doonican) and recruited members by advertising in local newspapers and newsagents. Its musical renown was spreading and in 1990, at the third attempt, it won the prestigious Morriston Orpheus prize, awarded in competition for the best choir in southern England.

The 1990s brought further change and growth. The choir adopted its current uniform, silver/blue jackets and a maroon tie with a Croydon motif. It moved to its current rehearsal rooms at Sandilands, home of Addiscombe Cricket Club (happily equipped with a bar). It acquired a new musical director, Ozzie Arnold, and staged a mass choir concert - the first of many - at Croydon's Fairfield Hall. It embarked on further tours, to Cornwall and South Wales and continued its fund-raising work on behalf of local and national charities.

In 2000 the choir acquired its fourth director, Richard Hoyle, previously the choir pianist. Under Dr Hoyle's dedicated and exacting leadership, our standards have continued to rise and our repertoire has become still more varied and eclectic. We sing English and Welsh hymns, spirituals, British and American folk songs, songs from the great musicals, and classic opera pieces. We renew our repertoire constantly in order to surprise our audiences and present our members with fresh challenges.

We have regularly supplied singers for the choir at the Remembrance Day concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, in the presence of H.M. Queen. We have toured to Wales, Cornwall, Yorkshire and notably Lille, where we performed before French and Belgian audiences.   In November 2007 we sang at the memorial service for Lord Weatherill, former Croydon MP and Speaker to the House of Commons.

In the spring of 2008 we conducted a successful tour of Yorkshire and in the autumn we attracted an audience of around 500 for our Foyer performance at the Royal Festival Hall.  We took part in the International Choir Competition and Festival in Truro in 2009, achieving a creditable fifth place in the main competition.  We toured to Holland in April 2010 and have conducted further tours to UK venues.  We have more than 70 members and have just recorded our seventh CD, a delightful selection of secular and religious songs and carols for Christmas.

In June 2012 we hosted a 400-voice mass choir Jubilee concert at Croydon's Fairfield Halls that was widely acclaimed as a triumph.  Since then we have staged joint concerts with choirs from Canada and Australia.  We feel that we are going from strength to strength and have concerts booked through 2015 and into 2016.  We look forward to exicting challenges ahead!

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