The Dream of Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus

Press release: 28 October 2010

Thursday 4 November will bring back very proud memories for some of Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus’s longest standing members. A handful of their singers who recorded Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius in 1964 for EMI records, are still singing with the Chorus today, and will join the 180-strong choir on the City Hall stage this Thursday evening.

Gerontius 1964 singers
Chorus members who took part in the 1964 recording who will be singing this Thursday

“It’s amazing to think that all these years later I have the chance to sing it The Dream again, still with my friends in the Chorus, and still in our fabulous home base of the City Hall” said Bill Smyllie, a 2nd Tenor who joined the Chorus way back in 1947. “The ten of us who took part in that exceptional recording have differing highlight memories of the two day recording session in Manchester with Sir John Barbirolli, soloists Dame Janet Baker, Richard Lewis and Kim Borg – but then it was nearly fifty years ago,” he laughed. “The fact that we can remember it at all is a testament to the positive physical and psychological benefits of singing!”

Bill is currently one of the Chorus’s longest-standing members and he has gathered together the tales of the Chorus, along with some rare photographs in a new commemorative book “Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus 1935 – 2010” to celebrate their 75th Anniversary this year. One particular story he recalls is back in 1952 when he draws a wonderful picture of a sprightly young chap being rather late to arrive at Midland Station and jumping onto an already moving train to join fellow members on a trip down to London – himself, of course. In his youthful nonchalance he so very nearly missed his chance to sing The Dream conducted by Sir John Barbirolli at the Royal Festival Hall; the piece that was then forever associated with the Chorus due to their later landmark recording.

Stella Jockel, a 2nd Alto, who joined in 1952, said “This recording and the concerts of that time were some of my first with such a large body of singers. It was a wonderful experience then and it still has the same thrill today. Thursday should be quite an emotional occasion for us all.”

It is hoped that nine of the original recording members will be singing on 4 November with the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and The Hallé, under the baton of Conductor James Burton.