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Alison Bletcher with one of our competition trophies
Celia Maylor playing piano at the Bowes Museum

About our choir

Musical Director – Alison Bletcher

Alison gained an honours degree at the Royal Academy of Music, London with singing and recorder as a joint first study. She also studied trumpet and piano. In recent years Alison returned to education and achieved an MA in music performing (singing) at Salford University. Since leaving the Academy, Alison has had a varied and full performing career. As a singer she has sung as the contralto soloist in numerous oratorios, taken leading roles in operas including Carmen, been the guest soloist with a large number of choirs and performed in many recitals. Alison also plays in recorder recitals and has been a regular performer as a trumpet and cornet player in different orchestras and brass bands.

As well as performing, Alison also greatly enjoys teaching. She teaches singing, recorder, piano and brass, and her pupils have received great success in examinations and competitions. Quite a few pupils have continued to read music at universities or music conservatoires. Alison has conducted various choirs and brass bands in the past and is greatly enjoying her post as MD with the Ladybrook Singers.

 

Accompanist – Celia Maylor

Celia was born in Wallasey, on the Wirral peninsula. At the age of 13 she was awarded a music studentship by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Education Department, studying piano first with John Ramsden, Principal of the Liverpool Matthay School of Music, and later with Eva Warren, who then taught at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Celia continued her studies with Czech pianist Jana Frenklova at Lancaster University, where she performed Shostakovich Piano Concerto No.2 with the University Orchestra. She also studied harpsichord continuo with Richard Langham Smith. Celia now works as a pianist and piano teacher from her home in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester.

She has also taught at schools in Stockport, Manchester and for Liverpool Music Support Service. Besides accompanying the Ladybrook Singers she also works as an accompanist for Liverpool Music Support Service and has performed for a number of years with soprano Sylvia Martignoles as the duo “Two’s Company”.

At the 1995 Eisteddfod

Our history:

In 1928, a music teacher called Elsie Harrop combined the girls and ladies from her church choir to form The Ladybrook Ladies Choir (named after the stream running between Hazel Grove and Bramhall). Elsie`s brother, J. Worsley Harrop, was the founder of ‘The Hazel Grove Musical Festival’.  In the early days, rehearsals took place above a bakers shop in Hazel Grove and Bramhall Methodist Church. Their young accompanist at the time was Irene Hallworth.

On 10th May 1929, The Ladybrook Ladies Choir took part in their first Music Festival at Alderley Edge. They came second in the women’s choirs (open) Class. The two songs they performed were Songs of Shadows, by C. Armstrong Gibbs and Elfin Music by G. Bantock. The adjudicator was Mr. Armstrong Gibbs 

The start of the Second World War saw a change of accompanist with Irene Barkworth taking over from Irene Hallworth. During the long school holidays Irene Barkworth's son who had ambitions to be a Music Hall Comedian when he grew up came and helped the choir with their entertainment…….he was the famous actor Peter Barkworth.  The choir were kept busy during the war years performing for the armed forces at various venues.

In 1950 the choir travelled abroad to The Lausanne International Music Festival. There they achieved the highest honour gaining First place and a special diploma for `Madame Elsie Harrop'.

To mark the choir`s Silver Jubilee, Michael Head composed `Under the Bower of Night` and `I am only a Singing Bird`, pieces that the choir first learned from manuscript copies.

In 1956 the choir travelled again, this time to Cork in Ireland for the Cork festival. Elsie Harrop commented that the trip was a great success and that everyone taking part had a real love of music and a passion for singing.

Conductors & Accompanists:

Sadly in 1960 Elsie Harrop died. She had given the choir 32 years of inspired leadership and devotion. Alice Harwood was appointed the new Conductor. She was already a member of the choir and also a music teacher.

When Alice retired in 1968, Olive Mawer, a member of the choir, was appointed as the new Conductor.

During 1970, Irene Barkworth retired after accompanying the choir for 30 years. She was presented with a silver Rose bowl. During the next couple of years several accompanists helped out in the absence of a permanent accompanist then in 1973 Irene Fantom was appointed.

Though the 70s and 80s, under the leadership of Olive Mawer, the choir went from strength to strength and in 1976 & 1977 they took part in BBC Radio Broadcasts. The choir went on to compete in many festivals including The International Eisteddfod.

1988 was The Diamond Jubilee year and Olive Mawer retired. Mary Lister, her deputy, took over as caretaker conductor until she was replaced by Pamela Golightly. When Pamela stepped down she was replaced by by John Rodway

Irene Fantom retired from her post after 16 years as the accompanist and was replaced by Sandra Paterson (a piano teacher).

One year later, John Rodway retired and Eileen Halsall, who had been a choir member for a number of years, became the choir's new Conductor. She was a regular competitor as a soloist at music festivals and also competed in Lieder classes with the choirs accompanists Irene Fantom, Sandra Paterson and Celia Maylor. 

During 2004 ,Eileen Halsall stepped down as conductor and has remained a choir member.

Sandra Paterson also retired as the choir`s accompanist in 2004 and was replaced by Celia Maylor, who is our present accompanist.  In the same year, Ian Hamilton who had been the deputy conductor joined us as Musical Director. Ian retired in 2009. 

Since May 2009, Alison Bletcher has been our Musical Director and has worked hard to build on the choir’s singing techniques, achieving success in several festivals and taking the choir on tour within the UK and Europe!

We celebrate our 95th Anniversary in 2023 and hope to continue for many more years!

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