Portishead Choral Society was formed in 1955 with Winston Jackson as Hon. Conductor and Chairman. Subscriptions were set at five shillings, they rose to 7s 6d in 1957 and 15s in 1958 – and we think we know about inflation! The first concert, in Holy Week 1955, was The Passion of Christ by Sir Arthur Somervell.
The 10th Anniversary concert in 1965 included two works by Gordon Jacob, Highways and News from Newtown (Portishead was expanding at the time and the motorway was being built) with the composer in the audience. As a result he dedicated The Diverting History of John Gilpin to “Mr Jackson and the Portishead Choral Society” and we gave the work its first performance in December 1965. 1976 saw our first performance of a commissioned work; The Valley of Seclusion by Malcolm Drummond, son of our then President, Brigadier Drummond – a great old Portishead character.
In 1990 we celebrated our 35th Anniversary with a performance, by an augmented choir conducted by Ian Sloan, of Verdi’s Requiem in the Colston Hall, Bristol. A more recent highlight was a performance of Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony in 1995.
The 2004 – 2005 saw us celebrating our Golden Jubilee. Our Spring concert, entitled Music for Lent featured an a capella setting of the Mass, The Neretva Mass, written especially for us by our conductor, Jonathan Coore. Our Jubilee Concert was in Clifton Cathedral where we sang Robert Latham’s setting of Psalm 150 which was commissioned for the occasion. The main work was Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man. A Mass for Peace. The season ended with a most enjoyable Jubilee Dinner.
Ten years further on saw us celebrating our Diamond Jubilee which marked a significant step forward for the Society. Two of the concerts were in Gordano School Main Hall and were accompanied by the Portishead Sinfonia, formed specially for the occasion. The December 2014 concert featured Handel’s Zadok the Priest, Bach’s Magnificat in D and Awake the Voice! – a work written for us by Jonathan Palmer our conductor. The March concert was of music by Mozart and Haydn, with the climax being a performance of Mozart’s Requiem. In June we returned to Portishead Methodist Church for An Evening at the Opera.
During the 2004-5 season, one of our long-standing members, Freda Scrase wrote a brief Reminiscence of Portishead Choral Society