By Ray Jago, the Choir’s Historian
The first recorded discussion to form a male voice choir in Brixham took place in the Church House, Bolton Street Brixham on 4th Nov 1953, but it was not until Wednesday 6th of October 1954 that the choir presented the first Annual Concert, which was held in Brixham Theatre. At that inaugural meeting, those present agreed the choir should have the title ‘Brixham Orpheus Male Voice Choir’ and this title has remained since that meeting. The choir made its first recording for BBC Radio in May 1957 and the first TV appearance on Westward TV in February 1964 for ‘Westward Diary’. These and further recordings over the years on Radio and TV have done much to spread our name and music throughout the Westcountry.
From its inception the Orpheus Choir have supported very many local and national charities and appeals, and we are proud to have helped to raise many thousand of, pounds. Over the years we have sung with many choirs. In Devon, these include Barnstaple Male Voice Choir, Budleigh Salterton, and Exeter Male Voice Choirs. Our connection with Cornwall has resulted in eleven exchange arrangements with many well known Cornish Choirs including Mevagissey Male Choir, Polperro Fisherman’s MVC, Nankersey, Wadebridge and Mousehole Male Voice Choirs.
In the last twenty years or so, as the Orpheus Choir has become better known outside Devon, more distant visits and exchanges have been enjoyed. We have been to North and South Wales, Bristol, Dorchester, Dursley, Gentleman Songsters MVC from Dudley and Canoldir Male Voice Choir from Birmingham. Since 1974 the Orpheus Choir have been closely linked with a male choir in Torbay’s twin town of Hamelin in Germany, the ‘Liedertafel Hameln von 1837.’ No less than five visits in both directions being arranged over the years. During this time of cross channel friendships the choir has joined in the Seven Hundred-Year civic celebrations of Hamelin in June 1984. We had the pleasure of sharing the concert platform with the ‘Liedertafel Hameln von 1837,’ in October 1987, during this Choirs own celebration for their one hundred and fifty year unbroken history.
In 1987 The Orpheus Choir joined a concert programme in Eindhoven, with the ‘Eindhoven Royal Male Voice Choir’ and the mixed choir ‘Berk en Brem’ from Zutedaal, Belgium. The Eindhoven Choir visited Brixham in the following year for Concerts with the Orpheus Choir held in Brixham and Torquay.
The Choir has shared concerts with the ‘California Girls Choir,’ and the ‘Riviera Singers,’ a ladies choir based here in Brixham.
We have joined with several bands including Brixham’s own Royal British Legion Band, Royal Marines Bands from Dartmouth and Lympstone, Bodmin Town Band, Bedworth Brass and more unusually the ‘Central Band of the White Russian Army’ during their UK tour in 1998.
The BOMVC has a large following of regular supporters who belong to the Friends of Brixham Orpheus Male Voice Choir group, whose main aim is to help the BOMVC cover the ever-spiralling cost involved with running a successful choir. Since 1992 and up till 2000 we have managed to help and raise over £50,000 for worthwhile charities that need support in these difficult times. We endeavour to keep our expenses down and rely on the support we get from our members and our followers.
A tribute to Ray Jago, by Stan Gregory, the Choir’s Chairman, 2009
I would like to pay tribute to our dear comrade Ray Jago who is leaving us at least for the time being. Ray has been a member since 1970; some 39 years. He has been an outstanding worker for our choir, and nearly all of those 39 years have been spent filling various offices on our committee, and latterly as an excellent secretary. His attention to detail will be sorely missed.
Looking Back, by Don Thompson, the Choir’s President, 2009
As I am now into my 40th year of choir membership, I wondered if you would permit me to briefly look back over the years.
Since joining in 1969, I calculate that I have possibly taken part in some 400 concerts at a wide variety of venues. The little Methodist Chapel in Polperro, to a memorable shared concert with the California Girls Choir at All Saints Church here in Brixham. The great sound of the final chorus to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Indeed, to me, a very emotional moment.
At that time we were under the direction of Eddy Phillips. Prior to this, Musical Directors were Len Pitman, Fred Duerden, Douglas Hutchings, Stella Hemmings, and Cyril Burrow. Previous accompanists include Margaret Pitman, Hetty Smith, Leonora Douglas, Cyril Burrow, Henri Von Zutphen and others who helped from time to time.
A steady membership was maintained, possibly smaller than today. Nearly a completely different set of names from the present, but a first class group of men such as we are today.
To my mind there is no such thing as “The Good Old Days” as far as the choir is concerned. The style and the tradition of the choir continues in the same spirit, for which I thank you.