I asked members of the Dale Singers for a reflection on what this community choir means to them, and after a period of cajoling, I managed to prevail upon Carrie Winger to write something about her experiences . . .
“About 26 years ago, I was part of a group of some six people who met at George and Joan Newman’s house to discuss the possibility of forming a community choir in Allendale. George, having had many years of experience in various male voice choirs, volunteered to conduct, and Jacquie Robson, who owned the King’s Head, offered the function room upstairs as a rehearsal venue. Jacquie was keen to call the group the King’s Head Choir but eventually the group came to call itself the Dale Singers.
The choir started out as a group of about 20 people singing songs chosen by George. We sang Gilbert & Sullivan and a lot of the old choir favourites, some of which I remembered singing at school! George struggled a bit with his motley crew of singers at first but under his guidance we soon improved enough (though that was a matter of opinion!) to do regular performances at the Methodist chapels in the area.
We did put on seasonal concerts in Allendale, but the Christmas concert in the village hall was always the most popular. Sylvia Milburn was usually the compère and the hall would be packed with local families; tickets were always sold out and the concerts were light-hearted affairs with lots of laughs (not always in the right places!)
After George and Joan moved to Scotland, the choir had quite a few different conductors, each with their own style and choice of music, and Fergus Sandison took over much of the administration and organising. Later, the job of secretary/organiser was taken up by different people in turn (I’m afraid I was dipping in and out of the choir over that time, but I do remember Joan Morgan’s enthusiasm). Then, about 12 years ago, after Hilary Aldcroft had become the organiser, the choir was fortunate to recruit Ed Aldcroft, then finishing up a Music degree course at Newcastle University, and a new era of the Dale Singers began. Ed taught songs by ear so there was no need for prospective choir members to feel they had to read the dots, and the numbers in the choir increased. Songs varied from arrangements of pop favourites old and new, to world music and folk. Ed eventually moved to Barcelona to conduct a choir there, and exchange visits were arranged between the two countries.
Of course, losing Ed to Barcelona meant that the choir needed a new conductor, but Ed’s recommendation of a friend of his who had just graduated from the Folk Music degree course proved invaluable. Sofia Castro was keen to take on the Dale Singers even though it’s meant her travelling by train from Newcastle for Tuesday evening rehearsals.
The Dale Singers have latterly concentrated their concert efforts on Sinderhope Community Centre, enjoying its informal atmosphere, and also for the Christmas season on St. Cuthbert’s church (typically to help raise money for the boiler fund), but members help swell the vocal effort for Carols in the Square, for example, or for the annual Nine Lessons and Carols just before Christmas Day. In addition to participation in various workshops and pick-up concerts throughout the region.
The choir, which can number up into the forties now, meet every Tuesday evening at 7:30 in the restaurant upstairs at the Golden Lion. Hilary and Glynnis Carter are joint secretary/organisers now. They’re always on the lookout for new singers who will be stimulated and enriched by Sofia’s musical choices and by her calm, patient method of teaching — you could just turn up and enjoy yourself as you’d be warmly welcomed. And after all, singing is meant to increase personal happiness and longevity! Certainly, the joy of singing together, and the social aspects of both rehearsals and concerts, help to create a feeling of belonging, of sharing in a community endeavour, that can, at times, be transcendent.“