The birth of the Choral Society occurred in 1971 when the Longsands School Choir, augmented by staff and conducted by Reginald Searle, performed a concert version of Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas". This proved a great success and Mr Searle proposed the formation of a choral society, which would enable members of the school, staff, parents and friends to perform works beyond the scope of a school choir. This idea was well received and the Longsands Choral Society was formed, with the first concert taking place in September 1971. Fittingly, this was a performance of Haydn's "Creation". and it took place at St Mary's Church, St Neots.
The next few years saw two concerts performed each year, one supported by an orchestra made up of peripatetic music teachers and good amateur musicians from the local area, and the other was a "fund-raiser" using soloists from the Society and only piano accompaniment. This continued until 1974 when the Society received an invitation from Great Staughton Parish Church to help them celebrate their millenium and after that, three concerts per year became the norm.
At that time, only one of the concerts would benefit from using an orchestra and professional soloists. but in Easter 1975 the Society risked the cost of using an orchestra for the second time within a season and was to prove a turning point. The cost of hiring orchestral players and professional soloists is probably the most significant outlay for most choral societies and Longsands School, which had nurtured the Society through its formative years, felt it could no longer underwrite the losses incurred by the Society; in turn, the Society was unable to approach funding bodies for the Arts whilst still a school organisation. The decision was therefore taken to change the name to St Neots Choral Society and become independent, though it retained a link with the school by joining the Longsands Association (for affiliated clubs and societies) and was able to use the school facilities for rehearsal. Affiliation to the National Federation of Music Societies came in 1977, brining help, advice and financial guarantees which were crucial to the development of the Society.
1976 had seen the start of a close relationship with St Mary's Church, Eaton Socon, which continues today, and in 1979 the first of our regular Carol Concerts was held following which four concerts per year became the norm. Fund raising was also important with regular Jumble sales, cake stalls, raffles and Victorian Evenings. Better players and soloists meant bigger fees, and with no local venue capable of seating more than 350 people (allowing for the choir and orchestra, ticket sales can only do so much.
Since those early days, the Choral Society has gone from strength to strength and it continues to be a fine example of local, amateur musicionship.
(This brief history has been taken, in a much abbreviated form, from the "Early Years" history prepared for the 25th Anniversary of ths Choral Society. Please click hereto read or download that document.)