Choral singing has been part of Cranleigh life since the turn of the twentieth century, when the parish magazine advertised concerts in aid of the new church fund. The conductor was Mr Vince, organist of the Parish Church (see the war memorial in the south side of the choir).
An extract from Cranleigh Parish Magazine, December 1908, reads: ‘We are very glad to be able to record that at a largely attended meeting in the West Schoolroom on Wednesday evening, the 11th November, the Choral Society was again brought into active existence. The Rector was in the chair. The meeting was unanimous in favour of the revival of the Society, and we trust that a useful period of renewed life is before it. We are very glad to say that Lord Alverstone has most kindly consented to act as President, and a small practical Committee has been formed to conduct the business and watch over the interests of the Society. Miss Dobson was elected to the post of Secretary and Treasurer and Mr Vince to act as Conductor. The work chosen and now in hand is Barnett’s Ancient Mariner, and a concert will be arranged in the Spring of 1909.’
The early activities of the society were fairly sporadic until 1912 when Mr S Mann, son of the founder of Mann’s of Cranleigh, took control of choral singing under the name of ‘Cranleigh United Free Church Choir’. Mr Mann remained as conductor of the society until 1935 and as president until his death in 1938.
In the early 1930s the society developed ties with Cranleigh School, joining with the school choral society for the performance of large-scale works. By 1935 the close association was reinforced when the society’s baton was taken up by Mr Allen, Director of Music at Cranleigh School; a tradition that continues to this day.
The Composer Ralph Vaughan-Williams became President of the Society in 1938, on the death of Sam Mann. Performances continued during the Second World War until 1942, despite the regular conductor, Mr R P Wood and accompanist, Mr Pritchitt, being away on active service. There were other difficulties such as the problem of finding somewhere to rehearse during the blackout. The committee meeting of 24 September 1940, held in the Singing Kettle tearoom, was more eventful than usual: the minutes recorded that it ‘ended somewhat abruptly owing to Mr Hitler sending a Token of his Esteem which fell fairly close to our meeting room’. Find out more
At a General Meeting held on 19 October 1945 it was unanimously agreed that the Society should again become active.
In 1945/6 the society was revived with a performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah, with organ and piano accompaniment, at the Methodist Church. Funding was sought from the Carnegie Trust, and from the surplus funds of the Cranleigh pie distribution scheme. Since then the society has gone from strength to strength, staging performances of choral works every year and succeeding in its aim to promote the development of choral singing in Cranleigh.