History-Newchurch Male Voice Choir

The choir began as a turn in the long established village concert in1967 and became known as The Hart Ash Male Voice choir. Its members were dressed in white smocks, red handkerchiefs and string gaiters. Under the baton of their second conductor David Forrest, the choir entered the Isle of Wight Music Festival for the first time singing `All Through The Night` and shortly after cut a vinyl disc, "Village Voices".

In 1973 a link with Sandown High School (SHS) was established when Jason Smart, a music teacher at the school took over as conducter. His successor at Sandown, Neil Cloake followed in his footsteps (despite hearing the early record - "Solent Voices"). Legend has it that it was Neil who started an awareness among the choir members that the conductor was not just there for ornament but had to be watched. The link with SHS continued with Neil`s replacement Andrew Duxon who led the choir from 1977 to 1978. Ken Clarke `rose from the ranks`to take over as conductor from 1979-82. Ken introduced light operatic works and musical comedy into the choir`s established repetoire of traditional male voice songs.

Between 1982 and 1999 the choir was privileged to work with yet more talented and gifted musicians. John Watson conducted the choir throughout this time, apart from a brief spell when he accepted an appointment in London. For much of John`s era, Bassett Stevens accompanied and sometimes conducted the choir until his death in 1993. Bassett had been Professor of singing at the London College of Music, a member of the BBC singers and a rehearsal pianist for the BBC chorous before retiring to the IOW in 1972. He arranged many songs for the choir, including several unaccompanied items. Following on from Bassett, John`s wife Kathleen, herself a professional singer, accompanied the choir.

In 1999 the conductor`s baton passed to Gareth Balch, a music teacher at SHS and around the same time Joan Chaundy became accompanist. In 2001 Isobel Edwards, a local piano teacher, took the baton for a short while until in the summer of 2001. Roy Bevan then took over as Musical Director. Roy had been a singer in the choir since 1982 and he is the current MD today. Roy was assisted for a while in his role by Pauline Stephens as an assistant MD, but Pauline has now relinquished the post to undertake work overseas. At the end of 2005 Jenny Sanford joined the choir as accompanist and later married one of the Baritones, to become Jenny Riddell. In 2014 long time member of the choir Howard Wilkie became deputy MD.
Jenny retired from her accompianist role in July 2015, and Cate Clarke took over that position.

Choir numbers have grown from around 12 to around 39 members in 2017. The choir mainly sings on the Isle of Wight but in recent years has gone "on tour" to Cornwall a few times as well as visiting Fairford in Gloucestershire to feature in the Music festival there and a visit to Wales. Choirs often visit the IOW to sing with Newchurch, recent choirs being the Polperro, Haverfordwest, Northampton and Gloucestershire Police Choirs. For a number of years the choir had competed at the IOW Music Festival, winning their category on many occasions. Amongst performance highlights in recent years, singing at the Bestival Music Festival in 2009, performing in one of the domes at the Eden Project and singing with Aled Jones have all competed for top spots

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