Shirley-based choir will go out with a bang at final concert

The curtain will come down next month on a community choir which has been been giving top-level performances for nearly 40 years.

The Ruskin Chorale has been working hard at rehearsals for their farewell concert

But the Ruskin Chorale won’t be singing its own requiem at their grand final concert in Shirley on July 7. They’ve decided to perform “music for the fun of it”.

The choir began in 1981 when Paul Kelly, the head of music at John Ruskin Sixth Form College, put on a performance of Handel’s Messiah.

Not only did students take part, but staff and parents were invited to join in, too. The success of the choir’s first performance led to the formation of the John Ruskin Choral Society.

In its early years, the choir of around 60 singers could depend on a significant input from students, when the college had an active music department. This also provided musicians who played in the orchestra for some of the choir’s concerts.

Over the years the choir’s connection with the college reduced until the link ended when rehearsals and performances moved to other venues, mainly in the Shirley area. However, the choir has always included some former Ruskin teachers, and two members of the current choir taught at the school.

Since it started the choir has performed more than 80 concerts, under five musical directors. Adrian Connell, the current musical director, has conducted the choir for 18 years, the longest term.

During his time, the choir has performed music written by 83 different composers; the most performed being John Rutter. The single most performed work is Mozart’s Requiem. The choir has also given 14 world premiere performances by five different composers.

The active membership of the choir has fallen in the past five years for a range of reasons but suffice to say it is an ageing group.

As one former member said, “I loved singing with Ruskin and it has been a great personal loss not to have done so in recent months.”

Last year, reflecting the fall in numbers and a consequent change in the type of works which could be performed, the choir was renamed Ruskin Chorale.

They have decided to go out with a bang, not a whimper.

Ruskin Chorale will be giving its final, free concert, on Saturday, July 7 at Shirley Methodist Church, on Eldon Avenue, Shirley.

The concert begins at 7.30pm and includes a selection of popular songs and choral items, some piano pieces and a jazz ensemble.

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