The Choir

Marsh Ladies Choir was founded in 1955, with Muriel Walker as its Conductor and Barbara Todd as Accompanist. Later, Barbara became our Conductor and under her baton the choir won many trophies at various music festivals in the North of England.

In the Beginning...

In June 1955 a group of ladies, Mrs Mary Ainley, Mrs Bottomley, Alice Jones, Mrs Tolley and Nan Wilson met in Virginia Road, Marsh at the home of Kathleen Clayton, to discuss forming a choir from members of the newly opened Marsh Townswomen’s Guild. Alice Jones was asked to contact Muriel Walker who lived in Marsh, to see if she would accept the position of conductor. Muriel invited the ladies to her home at Luck lane, to meet and run through some familiar songs. Not many of the ladies could read music, but impressed by their enthusiasm, Muriel decided to accept the invitation and ‘Marsh Townswomen’s Guild Choir’ was formed. Mrs Bottomley was persuaded to accompany the ladies on the piano temporarily and Nan Wilson offered the use of her sitting room in Cleveland Road for rehearsals. Alice Jones who was Treasurer of the Guild did not sing, but offered to deal with the finances of the choir.

In a short space of time other Guild members became interested, including Mary Carter, Phyllis Haigh, Brenda Hall, Winnie Hey and Dolly Taylor. There were no tests, so it was necessary to tactfully praise the ladies with strong voices for their enthusiasm, but ask them to sing ‘just a little more quietly’ so their neighbours could also be heard. They understood and were happy to comply. As some of the accompaniments were becoming increasingly difficult, Mrs Bottomley was happy to relinquish her position and on the recommendation of Muriel, Barbara Todd was appointed accompanist. She became a great asset to the choir and as new members joined it became necessary to find larger room to rehearse. Nan Wilson was duly thanked for her splendid hospitality and rehearsals began at Marsh Methodist Chapel on Cleveland Road.

The first concert was at the Church Hall, St James’ Road Marsh. It was a great success with the choir singing a wide variety of two-part songs with solos from Barbara (piano) and Muriel (contralto) accompanied by Barbara. From then onwards there were requests which the choir gladly accepted, to sing in local nursing homes and hospitals. In February 1958 the choir entered their first competition, ‘The Mrs Sunderland’. The set piece was ‘A Funny Fellow’ and their own choice was ‘All in the April Evening’. They were placed third.

So encouraged, the choir welcomed the introduction of more difficult pieces. They had acquired a taste for competition. On 13th May 1959 the choir was invited to sing at a Spring Fair in Huddersfield Town Hall organised by Huddersfield & District Federation of Townswomen’s Guilds. There was a welcome by the Mayor and Mayoress of Huddersfield in the afternoon, followed by a concert in the evening with items by combined and individual choirs and a recital of songs by Muriel.

Huddersfield Town Hall In April 1961 the choir were invited to take part in a concert by the combined Choirs of South West Yorkshire Federation of Townswomen’s Guilds in the concert version of ‘Merrie England’ in Huddersfield Town Hall. It was a great success, but by this time Muriel was getting too busy to devote the necessary time to the choir. She sadly handed over the baton to Roy Firth, who kept them in good form until such time as Ann Hoyle was available to take over.

Mrs Sunderland Competition

Mrs Sunderland, 2004 Former accompanist Paul Iredale became Musical Director with pianist and organist John Bailey the next accompanist. With Paul and John, the choir went from strength to strength, most notably taking first place in the 2001 Mrs Sunderland Choir Prize Winners Challenge and winning the trophy for the best overall performance of choirs.

Our First Trip Abroad

Tallinn, 2007 In 2007, the Marsh Ladies Choir ventured out on a trip to Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. Energetically conducted by Gordon Stewart and accompanied by Andrew Dean, the choir performed at two historic locations in the city.

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