Our Conductor – Julie Parker studied singing at the Roual Northern College of Music and trained as a teacher at Manchester Metropolitan University. She now works as a music teacher in several schools in Manchester and Salford and is the Salford Project Manager for ‘Halle Shine on Manchester’. Julie also undertakes professional singing engagements and teaches singing privately at home. She is a member of the Association of British Choral Directors and from 1994 -2009 was the conductor of Manchester Girls’ Choir Junior Singers and subsequently, of Salford Youth Choir. She has conducted Urmston Choral Society since May 2009 and Irlam Male Voice Choir since March 2012.
Our Piano Accompanist Gareth Curtis is a freelance lecturer and writer of music with a background in further education. He became president of Urmston Choral Society in 1995 and its accompanist the following year. Over recent years he has provided the choir with a number of arrangements and some compositions of his own.
The Urmston & District Choral Society was formed in 1940 when most church choirs were depleted by the absence of their young men away in the Forces and several church choirs from Urmston joined together to perform “The Messiah”.
Following this the performers decided to make their singing more permanent and in January 1941 the Choral Society was established. Its first performance, “Elijah”, took place that May.
The first rehearsals were held at Brook Road Methodist Sunday School which has remained the rehearsal venue until quite recently when we moved to Greenfield Church in Urmston town centre.
During the 1940s the choir grew in strength and attracted several eminent musicians to perform such as an orchestra that included some Halle members and soloists such as Isobel Baillie.
In early 1954, after a rapid turnover of conductors of what was then known as Urmston and District Choral Society, Paul Crashley, a 28 year old school teacher from Cadishead was unanimously elected to become our Conductor. Here began a long and fruitful period, which saw performances of many of the standard choral works, notably Handel’s Messiah, Medelssohn’s Elijah, and Faure’s Requiem; and some like Poulenc’s Gloria which were relatively little know at the time. There were also regular more popular concerts often based on light opera, including those by Gilbert and Sullivan and Edward German.
After an amazing 55 years as the Society’s conductor, Paul eventually decided it was time to retire and chose to hang up his baton in April 2009 with a performance of his own favourite oratorio, Haydn’s Creation. When he passed away in 2017, the choirs’ May concert of Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle was given in memory of Paul.
Julie Parker, a former society member who studied singing at the Royal Northern College of Music and trained as a teacher at Manchester Metropolitan University replaced Paul as conductor of the choir in 2009.