Male Voice Choir

The Netherthong Male Voice Choir was formed by Arthur Sanderson in 1926 when he was only 21. A dozen or so of his friends used to sit on fences and sing when they went on walks, and they decided to hold a meeting with a view to forming a male voice choir. News spread and more men joined. The first rehearsals were held in the Zion Sunday school and by the end of the year their numbers had reached 30. The first piece of music they rehearsed was “ Awake aeolian lyre “,  and the pieces were generally of a lighter type with an alto lead. They entered musical festivals and one of their earliest successes was at Barnsley Music Festival in 1928. They won  1st. prize and re-gained it several times over the years at this festival up to 1939. In October 1934, the choir broadcast from Leeds in the programme “ Sounding Brass and Voices “.

Their AGM was held in June 1928 with Mr.H.Sanderson in the chair. The following officers were elected. Conductor – A.Sanderson, deputy – R.Buckley, accompanist – E.Risby, deputy – R.Singleton, secretary – G.Wood, treasurer – J.Dixon, librarian – G.Charlesworth. A review of the choir’s work since its commencement a year before, showed that it had been very useful and successful. Three months later they  held a Grand Concert in the National School  and the prices of admission ( incl. tax ) were first seats 2/- and second seats 1/6. Children under 14 were  charged 9d.

In March 1929 they returned to the Barnsley Music Festival and won first prize with their test piece ” Cargoes “.Later that year in July, they journeyed  to Stocksbridge to take part in the Male Voice Choir section and the special choral class of the South Yorkshire Musical Festival. The party, consisting of members of the choir and supporters, was conveyed in the new “H.M.S.” all-weather coach, a luxurious vehicle. In the male voice section with two test pieces, the Choir was awarded 80 and 86 points for first place, just pipping Chesterfield Male Voice Choir. In the special class where choirs could sing two pieces of their own choice ,they came second to Chesterfield. For winning the Male Voice Choir section they received the Victory Club Cup and £4 4s ( 4 guineas ).

The second Annual Concert by the choir was held in November at the National School. The concert included special artistes and the conductor was Arthur Sanderson. Admission prices were :  first seats ( reserved )  2/- : second seats 1/6 and children under 14  9d. The Express carried a  detailed report and said it was a decided success. A further report said the choir received valuable support from the President and Vice-presidents and listed all the officers. President – J. Charlesworth. Vice-presidents – T. Turner, C.S. Floyd, F. Dickinson, W. Wagstaff, T. Goddard, J. Woodhead, W. Batley, F. Ogden, A .Dixon, S. Butterworth and L. Heywood. Officers – Conductor – Arthur Sanderson : Deputy conductor- Robert Buckley : Accompanist – Robert Singleton : Librarian – Frank Wood: Treasurer – Mr.J. Dixon :  Secretary – G.A. Wood.

T. Turner presided at the AGM in March 1930  but no details were given. The following week  they held their Annual Tea and Dance and an excellent meat tea was supplied by Challenger & Hulme of Netherthong. During the evening a presentation was made to their conductor, Arthur Sanderson, of a framed cabinet photograph of members of the choir recently taken by Bamforth & Co.

They placed a public notice in the Express about their 3rd. Annual Concert, which was to be held in the Drill Hall in Holmfirth on January 3rd. 1931. The following month the members of the choir and their friends held their annual party in February 1931, and a substantial tea was followed by dancing to the Roses Band. At the South Yorkshire Music festival held at Stocksbridge in July, the Choir won the Stocksbridge Temperance Cup for special choral competition.

Having held their 3rd. Annual Concert in January, they proceeded to hold their 4th. Annual Concert in October in the National School. The conductor was A. Sanderson and the artistes were Miss Phyllis Young – contralto, Frank Dickinson – bass and Clifford Gamer – entertainer. Tickets were 2/- numbered and reserved, 1/6 reserved and 1/- unreserved. There was a large attendance and numerous encores. The 5th. Annual Concert was held in October 1932 in the National School, but the attendance was moderate due to the wet weather. The same month they competed at the 35th. Annual Summerscales Music Festival at Keighley and won the 3rd. prize in the male chorus ( B ) class out of ten entries

The  photograph of the choir below could be from 1934? Arthur Sanderson is seated in the middle of the front row holding his baton and  many of the other members have been identified.

Back row standing from l to r.  ?  , ?, Robert Singleton, Herman Beaumont, Robert Hudson, Raymond Charlesworth, Lewis Charlesworth, Arthur Buckley.

Middle row standing. Raymond Gill, Albert Cartwright, Thomas Dufton, ? , ? , Eric Rusby, Reggie Hirstle.

Front row seated . Topping , Smith, ? , Frank Wood, Philip Dixon, Arthur Sanderson, ? , Eric Porter , ? , Cecil Hoyle

Front . Eddison Taylor ,  shield & cup , Walter Mallinson.

Choir & trophies 1934
Choir & trophies 1934


In the following photograph the choir has more trophies and shields than in the one above and they are not dressed in their ” singing costumes “. It could have been taken in 1939 before the choir disbanded for the war.


Choir and trophies
Choir and trophies

 By 1931, the choir had 40 singers and achieved their highest standard of performance. It had 10 first tenors, eight second tenors, nine first bass and 13 second bass. They held their very first ” sing ” at a field at  Oldfield in July 1933 – they began at 7am with a good attendance. Later that year in November, they made their first appearance at the Huddersfield Town Hall Popular Concert alongside other artistes. 

 On Christmas Day 30 members of the Choir went round the district singing carols at various places. On the same day, a party from the Working Mens Club followed their annual custom and also went round carol singing.

The choir received a rare honour  in October 1934, when they broadcast from Leeds in the programme “ Sounding Brass and Voices “. They were busy in 1935 when, in March, they contributed items to  special musical services in the Zion Church, and the following month they contributed to a musical service  at the Parish Church. On June 23, a good crowd assembled for an early morning sing at 7am on Oldfield Ridge and the singing was led by the Choir. These ‘early morning sings ‘ seemed to be a regular and popular feature,  and June 1936 saw the Choir , in good voice, at Honley Fields at Oldfield Ridge.

The Choir held their annual party in February 1938 which took the form of a tea, a short whist drive, dancing, songs and various competitions under the direction of W. Wood and N. Haigh. A few months later in May, the Male Voice Choir promoted an early morning sing at Oldfield Ridge in aid of local charities.

When war broke out in September 1939, the choir broke up and about 12 of them went round singing in a group called “The Pennine Glee Men “. Note however, that it is recorded that there was a Netherthong Glee Party who were at the Co-op party in 1882.

They held a general meeting in February 1942 in the Zion Church schoolroom and the president, Walter Wagstaff opened the meeting. J.P. Dixon presented the balance sheet and said a portion of the credit balance had been invested in Defence Bonds, The secretary gave a report of the year’s activities and said that ten members were in HM Forces and one had been wounded and received a discharge.

After the war, the choir had 26 of the original number left as several members had been killed.  In May 1946 a meeting was held in the Zion Methodist School with a view to restarting the Choir, and between 30-40 old and prospective members were present. Mr .W. Wagstaff presided, and he said that the objective was to re-form and he made reference to the boys from the village, including members of the choir, who had made the supreme sacrifice. The finances were in a healthy state. The following were elected . Mr. Wagstaff – president. Conductor- Arthur Sanderson. Deputy conductor – A .Buckley. Secretary – G. Earnshaw. Assistant secretary and treasurer – P.G. Dixon. Librarian – F. Wood.  Auditors – A. Dixon & N. Haigh. Rehearsals would be held on Mondays at 7.45. In September under the conductorship of A. Sanderson they completed in the male voice class at Mexborough Music Festival and were placed 4th. out of the 14 choirs taking part. In May 1947 they organised a concert in the Zion chapel and raised £7 3s 10d  for the Flood Relief Organisation.

Between 1955-1958 membership had reached 40 and during this period they won five festivals in a row. The choir slowly decreased in numbers between 1958-1961 before finally disbanding. This choir and its conductor, Arthur Sanderson, played such an important role in  village life that I have devoted a separate chapter  on the family history of Arthur Sanderson.

They competed in the Mrs. Sunderland musical festival in Huddersfield Town Hall in February 1947 and were placed 5th. out of  11 choirs. It was fund-raising time the following month when they organised  a Whist Drive, supper and dance in the National School. Admission was 2/6 and music was by Beaumont’s Band. They competed in the Blackpool Music Festival in November . 34 choirs entered but no results were given.

In June 1948 they held a special general meeting in the Zion Methodist Church with Fred Lockwood presiding. The honorary conductor ,Arthur Sanderson, unveiled a photograph of L/Corpl. William Heel, a member of the choir, who was killed in Tunisia.

October was fund raising time again  and they organised a whist drive, supper and dance in the Council School. Members of the choir served an excellent supper and dancing was to the strains of the Vivian Rawlins Club Swingtet.

 In November they visited  Blackpool and competed in their Musical Festival in the Senior Section for Male Voice Choirs. Previously they had only sung in the B class, but their courage in venturing into the higher class was amply justified. Although they did not reach the final round they were placed joint 5th. The conductor, Arthur Sanderson, and the members were well satisfied as they were competing against the pick of male voice choirs in the country.

The Annual party was held in March 1949 in the National School and the guests were welcomed by the president, Fred Lockwood. Tea was followed by a short whist drive before Vivian Rawlin’s Club Swingtet supplied  music for dancing. In October they gave a concert at Wakefield with A. Sanderson conducting and Mrs.E. Mortimer as accompanist.

They returned to Blackpool in November to take part in the annual  Musical Competition. They entered Class A for male voice choirs which had 15 entries but unfortunately they did not reach the final.

In January 1950 they visited Deanhouse County Hospital and sang carols to the patients in various wards. The following month they competed in the Mrs. Sunderland Musical Competition and, conducted by Arthur Sanderson, they came second in Class A.

The same month they held their AGM at the Zion Methodist Church. The President, Mr.F. Lockwood, presided over a very good attendance. The secretary, Mr.G. Earnshaw, presented his annual report and said that the choir had 47 singing members on the books and he extended thanks to all for the standard the choir had attained and also referred to the time and patience put in by the conductor, Mr.A. Sanderson. He ended by saying that the club was in a very healthy financial position.  The election results showed no changes with  the following retaining their positions. F. Lockwood – president : Hon. conductor – A. Sanderson. Deputy conductors – A. Walker and S. Whitehead. Secretary – G .Earnshaw. Treasurer – J. Dixon.  Librarian – F. Wood. Accompanist – Mrs. E. Mortimer. Platform steward – A. Charlesworth.  Committee members were – C. Daniel, J. Pell, S. Whitehead, W. Mallinson, S. Wood, A. Bontoft, W. Jones and V. Shaw.

The Choir held a Grand Concert in Holmfirth Civic Hall in April 1950 with Mary Hampshire, the  soprano, and Keith Swallow as the pianist. The accompanist was D. Lockwood. Tickets were 2/-, 1/6 and 1/- In July the MVC, conducted by A. Sanderson, sang at a special service at All Saints. Mrs. Mortimer accompanied the choir.

The Holmfirth Male Voice Choir which had been formed on July 21 1910 was disbanded in November 1950.

The final event for the choir in 1950 was in December when they took part in a concert in Huddersfield Town Hall.

In March 1951 they placed the following notice in the Express.  ” The Netherthong Male Voice Choir – rehearsals now take place in the Co-op Hall, Huddersfield Road, Holmfirth. Every Monday at 8 pm.”. Presumably they were hoping to attract ex-members from the disbanded Holmfirth Choir.

The same month they held their annual party and elections in the National School. They started with an excellent tea, followed that with a short whist drive and ended with music and singing. F. Lockwood was re-elected as president. The vice-presidents were Rev. S. Black, W. Wood, W. Batley and K  .Lockwood. The other positions were Hon. Conductor  Arthur Sanderson with deputy conductors A. Walker and S. Whitehead. G. Earnshaw was the secretary and J. Dixon the treasurer. Mrs. E. Mortimer was the accompanist , Mr.F. Wood the librarian and the platform steward was Mr.E .Fisher. The eight committee members were S .Whitehead, C. Daniel, J. Pell, S. Wood, A.  Bontoft, W. Jones, H. Haigh and J. Hirst.

The following month they competed in Class A for Male Voice Choirs at the Cecil Bateson Memorial Festival of Music & Drama at Nelson. They were placed 3rd. in the prize list against two choirs of bigger numerical strength.

Their annual tea, whist drive and social evening was held in February 1953 in the National School and the guests were welcomed by the president, Fred Lockwood. Music for dancing was provided by Mr.F. Beaumont’s Band and during the evening Frank Dickinson entertained with songs and monologues. The following month was the occasion of their AGM which was held in the Zion Methodist School. All the members stood as a mark of respect for the late John Smith, a life member of the choir, and Mrs.W. Batley, a patron. The following officers were elected. F. Lockwood – President. Rev. S .Black, W. Wood, W. Batley & K. Lockwood – vice- presidents. A. Sanderson – conductor. Mr.S. Whitehead – assistant conductor. Mrs.E. Mortimer – accompanist. H. Haigh – secretary. J.P. Dixon – treasurer. F .Wood – librarian. J.H. Brooks – platform steward. S. Whitehead, G .Earnshaw, M.  Hamer and J .Brook – committee members.

Later that year in October, they were awarded the 1st. prize, the “Samuel England ” trophy at Holmfirth Music festival for their singing of Elgar’s ” It’s oh! to be a wild wind” which received 89 points out of a 100. They scored 87 points for their second song ” A Wanderer’s Song.” Arthur Sanderson was the conductor and it was the very first time the choir had won 1st.prize.

Their annual tea and social evening was held in the Day School in February in 1954. The President, F. Lockwood,  welcomed all the guests and an excellent tea was provided by Messrs. Beaumont of Meltham.  H. Webb officiated at the whist and members of the choir rendered many tunes. The music for dancing was by F. Beaumont’s Band.

The main item of discussion at the AGM held in April, which received full support,  was to  attempt more enthusiasm for the work of the choir by returning to concert work. The choir should enter the Holmfirth Music Festival and should make a point of holding a concert in the village. It was also agreed to continue to hold rehearsals in the Co-op Hall in Holmfirth. The elections resulted in all the committee and officials being re-elected en bloc.

They continued to compete and, at the “Mrs. Sunderland ” Competition at Huddersfield in March 1955, they gained 1st. prize in the Male Voice Choirs “B” class with a total of 263 points. They repeated their success in the same competition in 1958. In the 1955 Holmfirth Musical Competition they won 1st. prize in the Open Class.

A meeting on May 20th. 1964 was a very traumatic affair  as the Choir, which had been in existence for 38 years, was disbanded due to lack of interest which was evidenced as only 12 members were in attendance. Mr. Fred Littlewood, one of the former presidents, was appointed chairman and he said that it was a great pity that the choir should be faced with this situation. A lot of organisations had run down during the past years and it would have been nice if the choir could have carried on ,but they needed lots of new members to survive.. Mr. Arthur Sanderson, the choirmaster, said that he was not in favour of closing down straightaway. After discussions Mr.Sanderson proposed and Mr.S. Holyroyd seconded ” that the choir be not disbanded and that its members use every endeavour to secure new and younger members and that a further meeting be held at a later date”. A ballot was held and four members voted for the proposition and nine members voted in favour of disbanding. It was decided to allocate £15 to the Zion Church, in acknowledgement of the use of the school, and £5 to the Village Feast. It was also decided to offer the choir’s music to Honley Male Voice Choir.


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