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History of the Choir

Quick Overview

The ‘Westinghouse Mens Choir’ was originally formed in 1940 by the Westinghouse Company in Chippenham to entertain the workers during the War. At that time it was forty strong and the first conductor was Harry Keeshan. Many concerts were given in the Westinghouse Works (including live radio broadcasts in the lunchtime “Worker’s Playtime” series) and in the Chippenham area. The choir frequently performed with the Westinghouse Orchestra which was also formed in 1940.

After Harry Keeshan, further conductors were Charles Hulbert, Herbert England, George Flanagan, John Astle, David Fidler, Denis Cole, Charles Smith, and David Fidler (again).

In the 1960’s David Fidler introduced a wider selection of music, much arranged by himself. The choir, although smaller in size, won the Mallory Cup at the Mid-Somerset Festival in Bath on four occasions.

The choir later separated from the Westinghouse Company and changed its name to Chippenham Male Voice Choir to open its membership to singers from the local area.

Bob Jones became conductor in the 1980’s and under his direction the choir re-established its former size to around 50 members. The repertoire was further widened and Bob arranged many pieces to suit the choir. Most concerts included a solo or two by Ron Morgan, Ronnie Park and others, plus humorous monologues by Peter Field.

Since the 80’s the choir has performed with many Brass Bands and Orchestras in the area and has twinned with the Choir (Chorale du Carroi) of La Fleche, France. The choirs meet every few years, in England then France and a strong association has developed.

In 1984 and 1986 the choir hosted the California Girls’ Choir during their European Tour. The choir also appeared at massed choir events at Cardiff, Cornwall, Exeter, and Wells Cathedral.
In September 1998 Bob Jones’s daughter, Sarah Gale became our pianist/accompanist.

Unfortunately in October 2017, Bob & Sarah decided to retire, and Howard Topper & Mary Ballard took over the Conductor & Pianist reins.

Also, unfortunately, our soloist & President Peter Field passed away in 2018.

2014/15 Season

The Choir celebrated its 75th Anniversary this summer with a concert on Saturday 25th June at 7.30 at St Andrew’s Church, Chippenham.

They were supported by the Bath Spa Band and by renowned vocalist Jane Francis , as well as the ever-popular Peter Field with his monologues.
The concert was very well attended. St Andrew’s Church was almost full and the acoustics in that fine old church complemented the performance.
All in all, a great success.The Choir and partners enjoyed an Anniversary Dinner at Chippenham Golf Club on 17th January. A fine time was had by all, and the singing was improved (?) by the liquid refreshment that lubricated the vocal chords!

On 18th April we will took part part in the Calne ‘Spring Sing’; local choirs and singing groups performing in various locations round the town , culminating in a combined ‘Sing’ on the Green or in the Market Place. This included ‘The Frog Song’ (remember that?).

2015/16 Season

New Rehearsal venue
It was with great sadness the choir learned that the United Reform Church, St Mary’s Street, the choir’s home for rehearsals for many years, was no longer able to continue. The Choir had been rehearsing there for nearly 40 years, so it was with much regret that we packed up our store of sheet music, teacups, etc to move to our new rehearsal venue.

The Choir was most grateful to the Elders and Congregation of the United Reform Church for their help and friendliness over the years, and wished them well for the future.

From 11th January 2016, the choir began meeting for rehearsals at St Peter’s Church, at the junction of Lord’s Mead and Frogwell, Chippenham.

Last Rehearsal at St Mary’s Street United Reform Church.

The choir celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1990, its 60th in 2000, and of course its 70th in 2010 and encourages younger members to join so that the choir will continue to flourish.

Annual Cracker Concert

The Choir held its annual ‘Christmas Cracker’ concert in the refurbished Neeld Hall, using the traditional seating format as opposed to using the new tiered seating. The choir were supported by the Bath Spa Band, the ‘4+1’ jazz band (on this occasion further supplemented to be the ‘4+2’) and, as ever, Peter Field and his monologues. Mention should be made of the important contribution made by the audience as they joined in the communal carols and songs.

The Neeld Hall was full to capacity and a fine time was had by all.

St Andrew’s Church, Devizes

The choir were invited to perform at St Andrew’s Church Devizes for their Christmas concert. The church was beautifully decorated by the congregation on the theme of ‘Angels’. The photo below gives some idea of the effort involved, and the effectiveness of the result. The choir and audience enjoyed the performance, although it must be said that the choir didn’t look particularly angelic!

2016/17 Season

Everyone at St Peter’s made us most welcome, and we thanked them most sincerely for making the transition so simple.

Annual Cracker Concert

For a variety of reasons our annual concert moved from the Neeld Hall to St Andrew’s Church. Dispite some misgivings this proved very successful. We also changed the format; entertainment was provided by the choir, the ‘4+1 jazz band’, piano duets from Sylvia Staples and our accompanist Sarah Gale, and the wonderful Peter Fields, who fought off a recent spate of ill-health to entertain us with his monologues. From the choir’s perspective, one advantage of the new venue was that we were able to enjoy the other performers without having to watch them over our shoulders on the stage! The audience made a great contribution with the communal carols and Christmas songs.
An Excellent Evening

Spring 2017

CMVC gave several performances in the first four month of 2017, including at the Assembly Rooms, Devizes, Steeple Ashton Church and contributing to the excellent annual ‘Calne Spring Sing’. We also enjoyed a social event for members and partners held at the Leigh Park Hotel, Bradford upon Avon, We had a very good lunch, and were entertained by our old friends, the ‘Four plus One’ jazz group. Needless to say, we managed a few songs ourselves!

CMVC Social Event, Leigh Park Hotel

2017/18 Season

At the end of October the choir had to bid a sad ‘au revoir’ to Bob Jones, our conductor for 37 years, who retired. At the same time we lost our accompanist of 19 years, Sarah Gale, due to other commitments. However the Choir continued its activities and was very fortunate to have so quickly obtained the services of two new people, Mr Howard Topper as Conductor and Mrs Mary Ballard as Accompanist. Refer to CMVC Musical Team for more information about Howard and Mary.

Bob Jones and Sarah Gale

After 37 years in the role of Choir Conductor it was with great regret in September 2017 that Choir Members heard that Bob had decided to retire from the Choir. Bob and the committee had been looking out for a new Musical Director for a couple of years and it was finally decided to take the ‘bull by the horns’ and advertise.

There will be many happy and enjoyable memories from the choir practices which were always held with good humour and patience, particularly when learning new songs!

Also over the years there must have been more than 600 Concerts. By far the majority of the Concerts were Fund Raisers for local and national Charities, Church Funds and other local organisations.

There were also a number of twinning exchange visits with the La Fleche Choir, a visit to Cardiff Arms Park to sing with the World Choir, and weekend visits to Cornwall with concerts and return visits to Chippenham.

Bob is an extremely accomplished woodwind player, seen above playing with the ‘4+1’ jazz group at a choir social event.
He was involved in many musical areas over his life, including choral work with Swindon Music Society, opera – including many solo parts with Bath Opera Group – together with dance band, jazz band, pit orchestras and concert instrumental solo work on a frequent basis. He also made numerous choral arrangements for the choir.
Also in September it was again with much regret by Choir Members that, after 19 years in the role, Choir Accompanist Sarah Gale had decided that that she would like to finish as accompanist due to other commitments in her life.

Sarah was born and educated in Chippenham. She is Bob’s daughter so it is unsurprising that from an early age, music played a significant role in her life! Many evenings were spent listening to instrumental and choral rehearsals downstairs or musical arrangements being made for different musical groups. She began learning the piano at the age of six.
A qualified teacher, she continues to use her musical skills. After 19 years she would like to devote more time to her family.
Members of the choir wish both Bob and Sarah ‘All the Best’ for whatever they chose to do in the future.

The 2023 Christmas Cracker Concert . .

. . was performed to a full-house audience, and feed-back was uniformly positive! We intend to take that forward and continue to deliver enjoyable Concerts next year and beyond!!

All other Completed Concerts in 2023

* Our performances at The Library and Marden House (our contributions to the Calne Spring Sing day on March 25th) were both received well by the good-sized audiences who attended. 

Calne Library

Marden House

* The Lyneham concert on Friday 19th May at St Michael’s Church was well attended and feedback was very positive.

* Our contribution at the Memorial Service for ex-choir member John Webb at St Peter’s Church, Chippenham on Saturday 20th May was also well appreciated.

* Also, the concert for those at Fairways Residential Home, Chippenham on Thursday 25th May involved lots of applause!

* The first Concert in July – a joint performance with The Mendip MVC at St. Andrew’s Church, Chippenham on Sat 1st – was a great success, with much praise for both Choirs!

* And our last Concert for July – at St Andrew’s Church, Devizes on Sat 15th – was also a great success and was performed to a full house! Much positive feedback was received!

* The concert for the residents at Flowers Manor Care Home, Chippenham on Saturday 26th August was well received and brought a few smiles to faces (particularly for the soloists – below is a shot of our pianist, Mary, performing “Wouldn’t it be Lovely”)!

* The Concert on Saturday 16th September at Melksham United Church was well received by the enthusiastic audience – and feedback was very positive! Needless to say, we enjoyed ourselves – as you can see below!

* Our contribution at the Memorial Service for ex-choir member Colin Green at St Mary The Virgin’s Church, Steeple Ashton on Tuesday 3rd October was also well appreciated.

* Attendees at the Chippenham Sports Club Christmas Fair on Sunday 3rd December, enjoyed our contribution to the festive spirit!! Our inclusion of a Beatles’ song went down particularly well!!

2024 Season

In May 2024 the Choir moved it’s rehearsal venue from St Peter’s Church, Chippenham to Pewsham Community Centre. For purely historic reasons (!) the directions to St Peter’s are :-

Directions to St Peter’s Church

From Chippenham town centre, either

  • Proceed North West along the A320 Bristol Road. When you come to a double mini-roundabout turn left down Hungerdown Lane. Take the second right (just before the ‘Kingfisher Pub’) and continue along Lords Mead to the junction with Frogwell. St Peters Church is on the left.
  • Proceed South West along the A4 Bath Road. Turn Right immediately after the Pheasant Pub (before you reach Sainsbury’s) up Hungerdown Lane. Turn left immediately before the Esso/Tesco garage up Frogwell. After about 200 yards St Peter’s Church is on your right.

Link to map:-,-2.1423376,18z?hl=en&authuser=0

Music and a folder are provided free.