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same as it ever was
14th-Jan-2011 07:32 pm
children playing
Mum (and Dad) passed on to me a love of music, especially singing. Mum was one of 250 children who sang with the Manchester Children's Choir. =

The photograph is unique in that it records the only collaboration between the universally renowned orchestra and a choir of 250 working class school children lacking conventional musical training
The photograph was arranged spontaneously, thus the children are not in concert dress, but dressed in school uniform or evening clothes and they are out of formation; it is the first photograph of any sort of the choir. As the prints cost 5/- each at the time, the children, given their background, could not afford copies (only six of the 180 members contacted in 1975 held a copy).

The Children's choir recorded a version of Purcell’s Nymphs and Shepherds (with the Halle Orchestra conducted by Sir Hamilton Harty) at the Free Trade Hall in 1929. The 78rpm recording became a huge hit in record shops across the country. “After a year of training, they recorded Purcell’s Nymphs and Shepherds – and it started selling like hot cakes.These children were singing their hearts out and it just choked the nation."

Grammar School pupils were assumed to have no time to spare for non-academic endeavours such as this, which required two evenings a week rehersal throughout the whole academic year.

The Choir consisted of 60 boys and 190 girls, aged 9 to 14, drawn from  Manchester's Elementary schools (mainly 'central' - Mum attended Armtage Street School). The choir was predominantly working-class since those children whose parents could afford musical instruments and music lessons went into the School Children's Orchestra.  Estimates state that a third of the choir's parents were unemployed. The children were taught to sing phonetically to erase local dialect and Gertrude Riall did a wonderful job in eradicating the extremes of the Manchester accent. Fifty years later Gertrude Riall conducted members of the 1929 choir at a reunion in the Manchester Town Hall.

The whole endeavour encapsulates the social history of Manchester at the time. The photograph shows the old Free Trade Hall, before the interior was destroyed during the bombing of 1940-41. The orchestra consists entirely of men because of the conductor's (Hamilton Harty) insistence that, during the Depression, women were not to be employed as they might be taking a place that a man, as the dominant bread-winner of a family, could fulfil.
Nymphs and Shepherds - Purcell
And the B-side Dance Duet from Hansel and Gretel (HUMPERDINCK)

14th-Jan-2011 09:21 pm (UTC)
They may have been lacking musical training but you certainly couldn't tell it by the performances. Lovely voices.
15th-Jan-2011 11:28 am (UTC)
Nymphs and Shepherds was a regulat request on Children's Choice, a popular radio show of my childhood. I thought that the choir was a professional one and it was only after I moved out and had my own family that Mum told me she'd sung with the choir.
24th-Mar-2011 08:43 am (UTC) - Childrens Choir Photo
Great article. My grandma was also a member of the choir and has recently taken part in a forthcoming BBC documentary on the making of the record. There are now only 4 known members remaining.

I was wondering whether it would be possible to get a copy of the picture somehow, as we didn't know that one existed before.

Please get in touch at mattbailey811@gmail.com.

24th-Mar-2011 10:06 am (UTC) - Re: Childrens Choir Photo
Hi Matt. Thanks for the comment.

Have sent you a link to the National Archives reference.
2nd-Sep-2014 12:55 pm (UTC) - New BBC documentary
Hi There,
Thanks very much for posting this and the tune on You Tube. I am currently directing a new BBC documentary with Victoria Wood looking at inspiration and the making of her film and play "That Day We Sang". As a result we are seeking to talk to anyone who may have memories of their parents or grandparents talking about having been in the choir. We are especially interested in the reunions that took place in the 1970s and 1980s, one of which was filmed for a documentary at the time. We'd especially love to talk to anyone connected with the Nymphs and Shepherds that appeared in this documentary which was made in 1975.

As you seem to have a great deal of knowledge on the subject if it were possible just to have a chat to help with our research we'd be extremely grateful. You can drop us a line through replying to this, or at hilaryassistant@endorproductions.co.uk. or alternately call me or my colleague Fiona on 07983 798995.
Regards, Chris Eley
2nd-Sep-2014 03:18 pm (UTC) - Re: New BBC documentary
Hi Chris

I did a lot of research online (where I found the recording and the pictures), so I don't know that I have much to contribute. My Mum did tell me about the elocution sessions the choir endured to iron out the thick Mancunian accents. She reverted to the 'posh voice' when she was on the phone.

Mum didn't attend the reunions, but I can give you background details about the school she attended at the time and where she lived if that's of any use. I'll PM my email address.
11th-Feb-2016 10:31 pm (UTC) - Children Participants List
You mentioned that the children had been contacted since the event (in 1975) and so I wondered if you had or knew of anyone who could provide me with a list of the children who participated. I am researching to establish if a very close friend, recently deceased at 96 years of age, had participated as she often mentioned in conversation. If so I will arrange for the performance to be played at her funeral.
Thank you
Contact 07930 141 399 or viljo@btinternet.com to discuss if preferred.
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