On this Day 18th January 1859

Nunn conducts inaugural concert

Penzance Choral Society is one of the country's oldest mixed voice choral societies, and almost certainly its most westerly one.  It was founded by Mr.J.H.Nunn, R.A.M., its first conductor, assisted by a committee of other gentlemen.  On 18th January 1859, it gave its first concert, in the Assembly Room at Ball's Hotel.  There were 93 vocalists: gentlemen in full dress, and ladies in their fashionable costumes and sparkling jewellery – they made a spectacular sight to behold, but they were a little squashed….  The audience had even less space, and all this furthered the demand for a more commodious public room to be provided.

The choir sang a varied programme which included the part songs The Dawn of Day  (a tranquil, sentimental Victorian song); O, Who will o'er the Downs (a more lively number); All Among the Barley (a traditional folk song) and Since First I Saw Your Face (a madrigal).   There were also two pieces written by Mr Nunn himself, as well as the National Anthem, and Dr Arne's Rule Britannia. All of this was presented with great gusto and expertise and was very well received by the audience, who demanded at least one encore.  

Reports suggest that Mr Nunn, the indefatigable conductor, had worked very hard indeed with his choir.  Though the manner of the choral singing was 'not altogether finished', and the reviewer (in a curmudgeonly fashion) did not like the inclusion of children amongst the singers, it sounds as if everyone concerned did his and her absolute best to deliver the goods, and that Penzance might legitimately expect to 'take the lead of all similar societies ever established in the county.' 

And indeed, the Penzance Choral Society is going very strong to this day.  Since 1859 they have had a few low patches and once disbanded entirely, but in the 1960s they came under the musical directorship of Mr Edward Weymouth, and surged back to a membership of over 100 singers and a professional standard and reputation.   

In 2000 Mr Tim Hosken took over the role of Musical Director, and the choir still has over 80 singers, all of them enthusiastic, experienced vocalists who turn out every Friday come rain, snow, wind or hail, and perform two splendid concerts every year, one near Christmas and one in the spring, in St Mary's Church, not Ball's Hotel, and there is plenty of room for both performers and audience.

Source: Cornish Telegraph, 19 January 1859 




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