In 1964, the Scottish Amateur Music Association (SAMA) held
its Annual Conference in Dunblane Hydro.
Oldham, the creator of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus and the then Director of
Music at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Edinburgh, approached George McVicar,
the Secretary of SAMA, and requested that he form a small choir and teach them
the notes of a programme of part songs. It
was Arthur's intention to use this group of singers to instruct budding conductors
in the techniques of choral conducting. George, who was Music Adviser in Stirling
County, formed this group of approximately 14 singers from music staff and
pupils from local schools.
weekend conference, which had been a great success, Arthur Oldham suggested
that the choir remain as a chamber choir.
He was so impressed with the quality of the singers that he offered them
places in the newly formed Edinburgh Festival Chorus without audition! George
arranged a rehearsal venue and the choir was duly formed.
At this point, the choir had no formal name and discussions
were held as to what might be suitable.
There was already a Stirling & District Chorus, so a similar name
was not really practical. George Farmer
suggested the name ‘Rosneath’, at the time one of the sports houses at St
Modan’s High School. Following
discussion with the choir, the name ‘Rosenethe Singers’ was adopted as ‘a nice
sounding name’. The spelling was modified to differentiate
from the place Rosneath in Argyll.
remained a chamber choir with a repertoire of part songs and motets accompanied
by piano. The choir performed in local
venues and, such was their reputation, the BBC invited them to make a recording
in Glasgow for broadcast.
In the late
1960s, the Rosenethe Orchestra was formed, again from local music staff and
pupils, to perform orchestral items as well as accompanying the choir in
performances. The combined choir and
orchestra became known as the Rosenethe Ensemble. The choir continued to flourish and expand
slightly in numbers. By the early
1970s, membership was by invitation and the choir was no longer formed
solely from council staff or pupils.
There was no subscription and no committee; George decided on suitable
repertoire for a chamber choir and orchestra and where public performances
would take place. Recitals were given
mostly by invitation from churches, music clubs and other groups in Central
Scotland, but on occasion other venues such as the MacRobert, at Stirling
University, and the Albert Hall were used.
memorable concert took place in the Museum Hall in Bridge of Allan. The choir gave the first performance of a
beautiful setting of well-known Tennyson poems by W.W. Kitchen, at that time
music critic of the Stirling Observer.
This work had been composed decades before, but never performed. It was a most moving occasion.
his retiral from the Council in 1979, George McVicar became involved with
Trinity College, London, and worked as a musical examiner. This work necessitated him travelling a
lot. In consequence, there was some
discussion as to the future of the Ensemble.
An inaugural meeting, attended by George as an observer, was held in
Bridge of Allan from which a plan emerged to form a Committee, draft a
Constitution and begin planning for the future.
time, former choir members George Stewart and George Farmer shared the
conducting responsibilities until a new conductor, George Wilson, was
appointed. Initially the repertoire and
pattern of concerts continued as before.
In time, the choir grew and undertook performances of larger-scale works
such as J.S.Bach’s St John Passion
with professional soloists. This
increasingly led to the use of a professional orchestra, and ultimately the
Rosenethe Orchestra ceased to exist. The
choir developed a loyal and enthusiastic audience, many of whom have been
supporters for many years and remain supporters to this day.
Matthew Beetschen succeeded George Wilson as conductor and continued the
development of the Rosenethe Singers.
Notable highlights in recent years include a performance of Benjamin
Britten’s War Requiem in Dunblane
Cathedral with choir members from Berlin, and Sergei Rachmaninov’s Vespers.
The latter provided a timely reminder of the choir’s early repertoire of
challenging music suitable for a chamber choir.
member says, ‘As a very young member of the choir I was privy to a wonderful
training in choral singing. George
demanded high standards of everyone and consequently good habits for choral
singing were embedded at an early age as well as becoming familiar with a vast
choral repertoire. We had fun in among
all the hard work and not surprisingly received many a ticking off for
giggling! Friendships were formed and
have lasted through the last 50 years and we still make beautiful music!’
Thanks to Pat Middleton, Bill Anderson and George Farmer for
details of the early years of the choir.