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News archive

Richard Hoyle: 100 up

Croydon MVC musical director Richard Hoyle conducted his 100th concert for the choir at St John's, Eden Park, on Saturday, May 22  2012.

Richard Hoyle enjoys a joke with Dick Diplock at St John's

Richard was warmly applauded by choir members at Eden Park ahead of the concert.  The choir was on top form and afterwards Richard said it had been an excellent concert with an enthusiastic audience.

"I  was conscious of how much had changed in the past ten years.  The choir has grown in size, scope and ambition in a way that none of us would have envisioned."

Jubilee concert triumph

The 400-voice choir celebrates Jubilee at Fairfield Halls 

Croydon MVC hosted a triumphant Jubilee Mass Choir Concert on Saturday, June 2 2012 at Fairfield Halls, where a near-capacity audience was treated to a thrilling repertoire of hymns, anthems and patriotic songs complete with flag-waving and bunting.

Eleven choirs comprising more than 400 voices  took to the Fairfield stage for two hours of songs, ranging from the delicate My Lord What a Morning to the rousing Battle Hymn of the Republic.  Then came the celebratory climax, conducted by Croydon musical director Richard Hoyle and including Land of Hope and Glory, Rule Britannia! and Jerusalem, with repeated encores and full-on audience participation.

Soprano Ann-Louise Straker, who had earlier performed three Italian arias, sported a union flag costume as she sang five verses of Rule Britannia!  in true Last Night of the Proms style.

The musical directors of the ten visiting choirs spoke of their pride at being invited to conduct one song each during the concert.  Their range of interpretations of traditional male-voice numbers was a musical treat, and they were brilliantly supported by Croydon MVC pianist Lana Bode, organist Richard Mander and accompanists from some of the visiting choirs.


Croydon MD Richard Hoyle enjoys moment of calm during Fairfield rehearsal

The eleven choirs and their supporters enjoyed an enthusiastic après in the Arnhem Gallery that continued to almost midnight.  The ten visiting choirs came from as far afield as Cornwall, Manchester and Yorkshire.  The full list of MVCs is as follows: Basingstoke, Epsom, Greater Manchester Police, Honley,  Royal Tunbridge Wells Orpheus, Rushmoor Odd Fellows, Snowdown Colliery Welfare, St Stythians, Vauxhall and Weybridge.

The concert raised funds for the Seeing is Believing charity, backed by the Standard Chartered Bank, a world-wide initiative to tackle avoidable blindness.  Collection boxes were rattled by cadets from the 66 (Selsdon) Squadron Air Training Corps, who also acted as ushers for visiting choirs and their supporters.

Greater Manchester Police MVC take their turn at the post-concert après

St Stythians MD Ken Downing conducts the Cornishmen belting out Trelawny at après


In this stunning photo by David Barnes LRPS, Croydon MD Richard Hoyle conducts mass choir and audience in concert finale


Choir welcomes Canadians

Canadian Orpheus Choir lines up at Shirley 

The Croydon choir welcomed visitors from Canada at a joint concert in Shirley on Wednesday July 4 2012.   The Canadian Orpheus Male Choir, from Hamilton, Ontario, presented two spirited sets of songs, ranging from Stout Hearted Men to What Would I Do Without My Music, while CMVC sang seven numbers from its current repertoire, ending with the rousing Hallelujah Chorus.


Darren Wilkins conducts the combined choir in Battle Hymn of the Republic (photo: JWT)


The two choirs then combined on the stage at Shirley Methodist Church to sing Morte Criste, conducted by COMC music director Janice Moro, and Battle Hymn of the Republic, conducted by CMVC assistant musical director Darren Wilkins, who was standing in for Richard Hoyle on the night.

A sell-out audience applauded both choirs enthusiastically and the two choirs came together again for apres singing at the Cricketers pub in Addiscombe.  Canadian choir members thanked Croydon for its hospitality - and invited CMVC to a return match in Hamilton in 2014.


Chair Kimball Ormond presents CMVC shield to our Canadian guests (photo: JWT)


Canadian Orpheus music director Janice Moro gets it on during the apres


Choir heralds Marsden walkers


The Croydon choir staged a 30-minute performance at the finishing line of the Marsden Charity Walk in Sutton on Sunday March 11 2012.  The walk, which raises funding for the Royal Marsden cancer charity, attracted more than 3,000 entrants and the CMVC was there to welcome them at the end of their 14-mile journey.

The Croydon choir sings for the Marsden cancer charity walkers


Bass Pete Smith receives his medal at the Sutton finishing line

Croydon bass singer Pete Smith, who is a Marsden patient, took part in the walk, receiving his finisher's medal just in time for him to join the choir on the Marsden open air stage.  Also singing was bass Ian Harmer, who did the walk last year in memory of his wife Wendy, who died of breast cancer in 2008.

The choir treated the audience to a rousing ten-piece set, ending appropriately with You'll Never Walk Alone.  Among the listeners was a contingent from Epsom MVC, which performed before the Croydon choir and is also taking part in the Mass Male Choir Diamond Jubilee Concert at Fairfield Halls on Saturday June 2 (tickets are selling fast!).

The choir's Marsden appearance came two days after another charity performance, when it sang for the Mayor of Croydon's charity dinner at the Croydon Hilton on Friday March 9.  The choir was enthusiastically received by the 100-strong audience, resplendent in their evening dress.


Croydon MVC moments before going on to the Marsden stage



Following our report of the award of the CMVC Alan Shield to the choir ladies at the annual dinner, the shield itself was presented to the ladies at Sandilands on Thursday January 26 2012.   The shield was handed by chairman Kim to Jean Cantrell, with Gloria Rowe, Dot Stevens and Margaret Jacob also in attendance.

Kim repeated his thanks to the ladies for all their help and support.   Jean thanked the choir for the award, giving a special mention to the large team of helpers who host visiting choirs when the CMVC stages a joint concert.  The choir serenaded the ladies with a rousing rendition of There is Nothing Like a Dame.

Gloria, Jean, Dot and Margaret receive Alan Shield from Kim (photo: JWT)


Croydon choirs leads singing at Lanfranc memorial

Croydon Male Voice Choir led the singing at a civic memorial service at Croydon Minster on Sunday August 14, 2011, in memory of the pupils and staff from Lanfranc School who died in an air-crash in Norway fifty years ago.

John Ward Turner reports: It is fifty years since an airliner carrying 34 pupils and two members of staff from Lanfranc Secondary Modern School in Croydon crashed into a Norwegian mountain, leaving no survivors. That terrible tragedy is not forgotten and a most moving civic memorial service was held in Croydon Minster on Sunday 14th August.

The Reverend Canon Colin J. Luke Boswell officiated before a congregation of around 500 people that included many local dignitaries, among them Councillor Graham Bass,  Mayor of Croydon, who also read the lesson.  In line with the theme of local participation, Croydon MVC led the singing of stirring hymns such as ‘O God Our Help in Ages Past’, ‘Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer’ and ‘I Vow to Thee My Country’, accompanied by Andrew Cantrill, the organist and master of choristers at Croydon Minster.

The choir’s recognition of the importance of the occasion was shown by a near maximum turnout of 50-plus members who also sang the lovely choral setting of the Lord’s Prayer, the beautiful ‘Gwahoddiad’, and a stirring rendition of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’, shortly before the final blessing, that drew spontaneous applause from the congregation despite the seriousness of the occasion.

It was an emotional afternoon and the total silence that accompanied the reading aloud of the names of those who died on ’Papa Mike’, including three aircrew as well as the 36 from Lanfranc School, bore witness to the solemnity felt by all. It was greatly appreciated by everyone present that Mrs. Bjorg Tysdal Moe, the Deputy Mayor of Stavanger, had travelled from Norway to offer a most moving and beautifully worded tribute to the dead.

Perhaps the fact that the memorial service closed with choir and congregation joining to sing ‘God Save The Queen’ with great fervour and not the least trace of embarrassment is the greatest proof of the value all participants gave to the occasion.

Choir on fire in Holland

Croydon Male Voice Choir returned tired but happy from its first ever Dutch tour over the weekend of April 9-11 2010.   The choir performed two concerts, at Callantsoog (see picture) and Anna Pawlona.

Musical Director Richard Hoyle (in white jacket, above) praised the choir for a “truly outstanding concert”, performed before 400 people, on April 10.  “The choir was on fire.”

The choir left Croydon early on Friday April 9, travelling by coach through France, Belgium and the length of Holland and arriving at the North Sea coastal resort of Callantsoog at 5.30pm.  The choir sang that evening at the local church, the oldest building in Callantsoog.

The select but appreciative audience particularly enjoyed the choir’s Dutch Medley, composed for the tour by Richard Hoyle.

Following a day’s sightseeing in Amsterdam on April 10, the choir sang to a 400-strong audience at the church of Anna Paulowna, 15 miles from Callantsoog.  The Dutch medley was again especially well received.   The choir’s assistant musical director, Darren Wilkins, performed solos on flute and piccolo at both concerts.

The concert’s host, Hans Kapiteijn, thanked the choir warmly, praising it for making the long journey to  West Friesland.  He said that the concert was "absolutely wonderful, a perfect performance" and was "thoroughly enjoyed by the audience".   He shook hands with tour organiser John Ward Turner, a long-standing friend whom he had known for 40 years.

The choir made the return journey on April 11.  Summing up the tour, Richard Hoyle said: “Once again a tour to distant parts brought out the best in the choir – togetherness and a real sense of mission.  Despite a long and tiring journey our first concert was hugely enjoyed. Twenty four hours later, after rest and recreation, the choir produced one of its best performances for a long time.  It was a truly outstanding concert when the choir was ‘on fire’, as it is from time to time.”

The choir at Anna Paulowna, where 400 people saw a "perfect" performance

No rocking John's memory

When musical director Richard Hoyle handed out the music for Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat at a recent choir rehearsal, bass member John Giffen had a thrill of recognition.

John performed in Guys and Dolls, the musical in which the number appears, way back in 1968.  He did so again in 1986, and his memory of the song had stuck.

So when a fellow choir-member queried the meaning of one of the lines, John was ready to explain.

The line in question arises when the character Nicely-Nicely Johnson tells how he dreamed of a playing the dice game craps – and “hollered, ‘Someone fade me’.”

Was the line correct?  And what did it mean?

John knew the line was right – and later told the choir that Nicely-Nicely was calling on someone to bet against him when he rolled the dice, otherwise the game was over.   The phrase echoes the street patois immortalised by Damon Runyon, on whose stories Guys and Dolls is based.

John’s two performances in Guys and Dolls were as a member of the Croydon Stagers, the local operatic and dramatic society which has been performing in Croydon since 1908.   Both productions were staged at the Ashcroft Theatre.

John sang and danced in both shows, and recalls that in 1968 “the show was superb – it was a complete sell-out all week.”

The Croydon Advertiser singled out Sit Down for praise, reporting that it was "stirringly sung”.

The 1986 version, which followed an acclaimed production by the National Theatre, was hailed in the Advertiser as “a delightful show”.

John felt that the quality of the dancing was better in 1986, and particularly remembers “complicated bobbing up and down” in the Sit Down number.

John appeared in over 60 Croydon Stagers musicals between 1965 and 1999, when he left and joined the CMVC. Although his dancing years are over, he is delighted to be able to sing the number again.  “There is great affinity between musicals and male choir repertoires, as our current programmes show,” John says.

Singing with history

Star-struck Lana Bode with Vaughan Williams' piano.

Croydon MVC sang along to a very special piano when it performed at St Michael's church, West Croydon, on September 18 2011.

The piano once belonged to composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, and choir pianist Lana Bode praised its "lovely tone and huge resonant bass sound - it was an honour to play." She added:  "I certainly felt a bit star-struck."

The church acquired the piano in the 1970s.  It was previously owned by parishioner and church member Harold Parsons, who had acquired it in turn from Vaughan Williams in 1953.

According to Father Donald Minchew, parish priest at St Michael's, Harold used to visit Vaughan Williams for singing lessons at the composer's home in Dorking.   When Vaughan Williams got married in 1953 and moved to London, he invited Harold to take his piano.   Harold installed the piano at his house in Croydon.  Around 1970, Harold moved into a nursing home and offered the piano in turn to the musical director at St Michael's, John Timbury.  It has been in the keeping of the church ever since.

One of the great names - a Bluthner grand from Leipzig

The piano, a Bluthner grand, made in Leipzig,  is a key artefact in the history of British music.  During his time at Dorking after WW2, Vaughan Williams composed his sixth and seventh symphonies - the latter, Sinfonia Antartica, was based on the film score he composed for the movie Scott of the Antarctic (1948).  He was also writing instrumental and choral works, including his arrangement of the Old One Hundredth Psalm for the 1953 coronation.

The transfer of the piano to Harold Parsons also marks a crucial intersect in Vaughan Williams' emotional life.  From 1896 to 1951, Vaughan Williams was married to Adeline Fisher.  In 1938, Vaughan Williams began an affair with the poet Ursula Wood, who also became his personal assistant, literary advisor and occasional librettist.

In 1953, two years after Adeline's death, Ralph and Ursula were married. In September they moved from Dorking to a house near Regent's Park in London - at which point Vaughan Williams offered the piano to Parsons.  The composer died four years later, at the age of 85.

CMVC accompanist Lana Bode was thrilled at the prospect of getting her hands on the piano.  Before the concert she said:  "Vaughan Williams is my favourite English composer, and I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to play a piano that once belonged to him.  I've come across pianos that were played in concert by Chopin and Liszt, but not yet played one that actually belonged to a great composer.  I'm so pleased that the Vaughan Williams piano is still in use."

After the concert, she added the further comments:  "It was such an honour to have the chance to play Vaughan Williams' piano.  The instrument had a lovely tone and a huge resonant bass sound.  It has obviously been very well looked after in its time at St Michael's. It would have been wonderful to play even without the connection to Vaughan Williams.  I certainly felt a bit star-struck."

The concert, at which the choir sang a full selection from its current repertoire, was held in aid of the restoration fund for the chapel at Mayday Hospital - known and frequented by many members of the Croydon choir.   The soloist was talented soprano Victoria Whittaker, daughter of choir favourite Ann-Louise Straker.

St Michael's and All Angels, West Croydon, venue for CMVC concert on September 18 - and on February 19 next year.


Compare the Hwyl!

Four Croydon choristers helped provide hwyl for the Welsh rugby team against the Australians as members of the British Lions choir at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff on November 6 2010.  The four also sang with the choir at the Wales Festival of Remembrance where they accompanied celebrated Welsh tenor Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario in the TV ads.

The British Lions choir at Cardiff


The four members of the Croydon choir who helped fire up the Welsh team were John Aitkenhead, Stewart Robinson, Ernest Williams and Dave Bannister.  The Welsh term "hwyl" – coincidentally pronounced "Hoyle" – has no true  English equivalent but approximates to "passion".

Croydon barrie Dave Bannister (back row centre) at Cardiff

Although Ernest Williams was the only Welshman in the Croydon quartet, the other three being English, all four helped inspire both the team and the 60,000 crowd with Welsh-language favourites such as Llanfair, Sospan Fach and Calon Lan.  The 150-strong choir lined up behind both teams on the pitch, and alongside the regimental mascot the Goat Major,  to sing the Australia and Wales national anthems.


Croydon's Stewart Robinson

The singing clearly inspired the Welsh to an early lead against the intimidated Wallabies.  Sadly this was reversed after half time, following the choir’s departure to rehearse for their evening engagement.


The Goat Major

In the evening the Croydon singers joined massed choirs and the Band of the Royal Welsh at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall as part of the Wales Festival of Remembrance. With the conductor’s baton shared by Alwyn Humphreys and Haydn James, pieces included Croydon and male-voice favourites Mansions of the Lord, Bring him Home and Battle Hymn of the Republic, in which Wynne Evans (aka Gio Compario) took the solo verse.

Choir headlined in Daily Mail

The Croydon choir was featured in the Daily Mail in August 2010, thanks to choir stalwart Nev Clark.

Nev responded to a reader’s question as to whether there were words for the tune The Dambusters March, composed by Eric Coates.

Nev points out Mail article to Ben Kennedy and Roger Lee at the Kim and Annie barbecue

(Scroll down for more photos)

Nev told the Mail that he had written lyrics for a male voice version of the march in 1990.   “It was absolutely true to the original including the great allegro parts between the themes and the big climactic end,” our Nev says.

Ozzie Arnold, choir musical director at the choir, composed a musical arrangement and the choir duo presented the result to music publishers Warner/Chappell.

At first W/C were reluctant to publish – but Eric Coates’ widow and son told them that they considered the version a fitting tribute to Eric’s music.

W/C signed Nev and Ozzie on a publishing contract but the project stalled when Nev and Ozzie felt that W/C were asking too high a price to print the music.

The Croydon choir nonetheless recorded the song for its 1992 CD Now and Then, and it performed the piece at concerts over the following five years.

This story was told at length in the Daily Mail on August 10, and Nev showed the article to choir members who attended the barbecue chez Ormond on August 14.

Here are Nev’s words.


When we fly among the clouds our hearts soar so high

The worries of our lives just seem to vanish in the sky

Our dreams no longer empty our bodies filled with pride

We are warriors who fight to staunch the battle tide


We are fighting men as brave as the soldiers on the ground

We have wives, sons' mothers helpless in the country and the towns

We will die to make our country free we will fight and die for victory

We will brave our lives to live and breathe for Freedom.


How deep the engines roar how steep the wings do soar

Life is dear but in the strength of battle we defy

God grants us hope and peace, we must make his labours cease

Live or die our battle cry is freedom. 

Our enemies are strong, they think that god’s their own

Faith must be our saving grace

Right and strength bring peace

Life dies if no one fights

Strength and truth must be our right

We who give ourselves to fight for freedom

When we fly among the clouds our hearts soar so high

The worries of our lives just seem to vanish in the sky

Our dreams no longer empty, our bodies filled with pride

We are warriors who fight to staunch the battle tide


We are fighting men as brave as the soldiers on the ground

We have wives sons mothers helpless in the country and the towns

We will fight to save our Country's need; we will fight and die for victory

We will brave our lives to live and breathe, for the country of our birth who needs

Our strength and hope in those who lead ourselves to give a braver deed for life! 

Life that gives us hope, our prayers that we might cope

Our god that holds the rope of life shared with our dear folks below

Slaves or free! Slaves or free!

We'll fight for death and Glory, our hell is man's great story


Life is blind if freedom's gone so the battle goes on

We'll die for love and freedom our fights for hope and reason

Give us now our angel's wings if hope means death

That truth and love and peace and joy are evermore



Kim and Ben: "There's a better forecast for later."

Nev with Daiily Mail 

Nev determined to make a bigger splash

"Come on in, the water's lovely" 

The three basses (Keith, John, Chris) exhibit their culinary skills

Ben walks the plank, watched by Nev and Bulla

Just elegant!  Ben converts fall into dive

"I think it's brightening up"

George and Neil venture out

Singing in the rain

"Anyone know the Dambusters' March?"

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