NYC logo North Yorkshire Chorus
Future Programme
History of NYC
Past Concerts
Principal Conductor
Joining NYC
Ticket Information
Buy tickets online
Charity Reg. No. 508619
Making Music
Site Map
The early history of NYC

Peter Harbord talks to Mike Mason

Back to History of NYC page

NYC website feature
The Chorus had its origins in singing courses organised by the then County Music Organiser, Dr Arthur “A.J.” Bull, and subsequently by his successor Barry Griffiths, at Wrea Head, the North Riding County Council’s adult education centre near Scarborough.  Mike Mason, from the bass section of the Chorus, is the only current member who was at the inaugural meeting to form the “North Riding Chorus” in October 1968.   “Barry Griffiths had circulated a notice to the music staff of all the schools in the county and other singers and choir trainers, and around 25 people turned up at the Allertonshire School” he remembers.  A committee was formed and Mike himself was appointed Librarian.  “Even though it was a business meeting, Barry was determined we should sing something.  So he produced copies of Fauré’s Requiem and we sang the ‘Libera Me’.”  Mike has had spells on the committee ever since and has just this year (2009) stepped down as Concerts Secretary.

The first rehearsal was on a Saturday afternoon a few weeks later, when nearly 60 people from all over the county attended, including a small group of monks and pupils from Ampleforth College.  (The Chorus still rehearses on Saturday afternoons because of the long distances which some members travel.)  “Everyone was so young then that a creche was provided!” Mike reminisces.  “Sadly it’s not the same now: the majority of members are retired people.”  Another difference was in the funding.  Mike remembers that for the first few years the Chorus received a handsome annual sum from the County Council in addition to getting free use of school halls; but nowadays, apart from occasional small grants, it has to cover all costs entirely from members’ subscriptions and ticket sales.

The main aim of the new Chorus was to sing pieces rarely heard outside big centres of population. The first concert, in Richmond in May 1969, featured Beethoven’s Mass in C, and Mozart’s Requiem was performed in Northallerton later that year.  A concert in Guisborough in May the following year produced a sensation: “There was a standing ovation for Carl Orff’s Camina Burana.” says Mike. “People were not so familiar with it then and they really appreciated a new experience.”  The Chorus still tries to perform new and lesser-known works, but it has to rely more on popular pieces in order to attract large enough audiences.  “We never put on Messiah in the early days, but now the Chorus sings it regularly” Mike points out.  In the 1970s audiences of upwards of 400 were not unknown: today 200 is regarded as good going.  

Not everything in the Chorus' history has been plain sailing and it has survived some difficult periods when its future has been in question or when it nearly ran out of money.  But the members were determined to fight on.  And despite a generally older membership, the declining popularity of choral music and changes in concert-going habits, Mike Mason believes the Chorus is now as strong as ever.  “There are some younger voices in the soprano section, which gives good balance to the overall sound” he says. “And Greg Smith has a knack of making people feel good about their singing.  Relaxed, happy singers make a nicer noise!”

Back to History of NYC page  
Joining NYC Ticket Information

Text only
Web Site