Wellingborough Orpheus Choir reaches a landmark anniversary this year. Founded in 1953, the choir’s fi rst public performance was of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ in what was then the Congregational Church on Wellingborough’s High Street. Today’s choir will be celebrating its platinum jubilee with a performance of the same work in the same church (now URC) on Saturday 1st April.

The choir was started by Frank Stalvies, a local publican and musician who played on cruise ships before the Second World War. He directed the Wellingborough Amateur Operatic Society and also worked part-time as a music teacher at the Wellingborough Technical Institute, where he directed the Technical Singers. In 1953, he left and started the Orpheus Choir. Ill health forced him to retire after just one year and he was succeeded by Arthur Jakeman, who directed the choir for 25 years. Under his leadership they won the Marlow Shield in the Northampton Eisteddfod three years running in the 1960s.

Next came Alan Chesters. During his 22-year tenure choir membership reached its peak of around 80 singers and a link was formed with the Chorale des Amis de l’Ecole Normale de Niort, Wellingborough’s French twin town, marking the start of 30 years of exchange visits.

The joint concerts included performances of Brahms’ ‘Requiem’ in France with the Niort choir, the Coburger Bachchor from Niort’s German twin town, and a Hungarian orchestra, and Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah’ at The Castle, Wellingborough. In the late 1980s, the choir took part in several performances at the Royal Albert Hall with other Northamptonshire choirs and the County Youth Orchestra.

Since Alan’s retirement in 2002 the choir has had fi ve musical directors, the current one being Nicolas Moodie. They have continued to give three concerts a year, with one performance of a major choral work each year with professional soloists and an orchestra.

Although membership had declined since the mid1980s the choir still had around 50 singers before the pandemic. Unfortunately, numbers have not yet returned to pre-Covid levels, and the choir will be joined by Kettering’s Camerata Singers for the anniversary concert.

The choir’s chairman, Keith Jones said: “We hope that the performance of ‘Messiah’ will inspire former members to return and new members to join us. You don’t have to be able to sight-read music, there are no auditions, and the fi rst term’s membership is free, so why not come along and give us a try?”

The choir rehearses on Monday evenings from 7.30pm to 9.15pm at Wellingborough Methodist Church on Kingsway. For more information email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., visit their website at www.orpheuschoir.org.uk or follow them on Facebook.

Tickets: £15 (students £5, under 12s free) available in advance by calling 01604 870318 or pay at the door. The concert starts at 7pm.

The concert is supported by Wellingborough Town Council, North Northamptonshire Council, Wilson Browne Solicitors and BCC Telemarketing. www.orpheuschoir.org.uk 

Wellingborough Orpheus Choir