Portsmouth Choral Union 1880-2018

Portsmouth Choral Union (PCU) was founded in 1880, originally as the Portsmouth Temperance Choral Union. In 1975, Jonathan Willcocks was appointed as its Musical Director. Under his leadership, the choir soon became recognised as one of the south of England’s leading amateur choruses. Its repertoire was extended to cover most of the established choral masterpieces and a range of contemporary works, including some commissioned by the choir.

In 2012, the baton was passed to a new maestro, David Gostick, who also conducts the Bath Choral Society, the Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir and the choir of Wimborne Minster. Under his direction, PCU’s recent performance of Jenkins’ The Armed Man received a standing ovation from a capacity audience. Other acclaimed performances directed by David in his first four seasons have included Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s St John Passion, Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius and Britten’s War Requiem, all accompanied by the Southern Pro Musica.

It was with Southern Pro Musica, and joined by tenor soloist Allan Clayton and the English Cathedral Singers, that PCU recorded Jonathan Willcocks’ A Great and Glorious Victory in 2006. The work was commissioned by PCU to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, and the recording is available on the Priory label.

Other orchestras with which PCU has performed include the Royal Philharmonic, the Bournemouth Symphony, the Guildford Philharmonic and, in a frequent and particularly happy relationship, the Hampshire County Youth Orchestra. Further dimensions to the choir’s repertoire have been added by opportunities to perform with the Band of HM Royal Marines, notable amongst which were two occasions when the choir took part in the International festival of the Sea. In 2015, the choir joined other local choirs in recording a CD to raise funds for the Portsmouth D-day Museum’s Transformation Project.

PCU tours abroad have taken the choir to internationally acclaimed music venues. A memorable tour of the USA included performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall and, in Hickory, North Carolina, with the Hickory Choral Society. Other overseas tour have taken the choir to, amongst others, Canada, France, Belgium, Germany and Italy. In the UK regular performance venues include St Mary’s Portsea, Portsmouth Guildhall and the Cathedral Church of St Thomas, but the choir has also sung at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon, and Anvil Concert Hall, Basingstoke and in the Cathedrals of Worcester, Salisbury and Derby. In 2015, the choir joined Guildford Choral and the Chichester Singers at the Royal Albert Hall in a performance of the Berlioz Te Deum. In 2018 the choir will be returning to Germany to perform Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony.

Many of the choir’s concerts have featured soloists of international repute, including Dame Janet Baker, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Robert Tear and Sir Willard White. A particular feature of PCU’s repertoire is the regular inclusion of works involving young voices and particularly strong links have been formed with Castle Primary School, Portchester. This collaboration has led to notable performances of, amongst others, Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, and Jonathan Dove’s Arion and the Dolphin.

In 2017, a recording of Samuel Wesley’s Confitebor Tibi, Domine was made possible due to a generous legacy from Marion Earll, a former long standing member of the choir.

Further information about the choir and concerts can be found on this website and on Facebook and Twitter. Registered Charity No. 266974.

Portsmouth Choral Union