The East Cornwall Bach Choir is an auditioned choir of amateur singers, currently about 30 strong, based in Liskeard, East Cornwall. Bach features in many programmes but the choir also performs a wide range of music from the choral repertoire. ECBC usually gives three concerts a year in Spring, Summer and at Christmas, please check the Concerts page for details of forthcoming events. The choir employs a professional conductor throughout the year and professional instrumentalists and singers for the concerts.
A particular highlight of our year is our Choral Singing Day, which is open to all. We meet on a Saturday in early spring to rehearse a work from scratch followed by an informal performance in the evening. This is well-supported by individuals and local choirs and for many it provides a stepping-stone to membership of ECBC.
Founded in 1965 by James Sargent, then County Music Adviser, the choir has had only six music directors, all of them distinguished musicians.
James held the post for 9 years. His vision was to create an annual choral festival at St Germans, in the old Celtic Cathedral of East Cornwall, and to provide a culture of excellence of the classic choral tradition. He drew his singers largely from experienced teachers and other musicians, in East Cornwall where he identified the need.
The choir's endeavours have been centred around an annual May Festival and have greatly benefited from the generous hospitality of the Earl of St Germans at Port Eliot. Christmas and Spring concerts were slowly developed at other venues in Liskeard, Callington, Saltash, Menheniot, St Neot, Calstock, North Hill, Cardinham, Altarnun, Polruan, and latterly Bodmin, especially for Christmas.
Nigel Amherst, Director of Music at Dartington, took over from 1974 to 1987, widening the repertoire, and directing tours to Brittany, Freiberg and Constanz. Nigel had extensive contacts that brought us eminent soloists before they became famous, such as the young John Mark Ainsley as Evangelist in the St John Passion. Nigel established the choir's reputation for contrasting 20th C works with the music of Bach and his contemporaries.
John Railton only had two years with us, but he directed some epic works, from the B minor Mass to a sell-out African Sanctus in front of 500 people. His especial gift was to involve children. He conducted the choir when it featured at Cotehele in the ITV programme Highway, with Harry Secombe.
Caroline Stephenson, whose breathtaking innovations and musicianship dominated our activities for ten years, succeeded John. The choir undertook all its main repertoire while engaging in exciting commissioned new work, tours to Italy and Denmark, new venues such as Truro and Lanlivery, and cross-over experiments in Bach, with folk music, jazz and projects involving children.
Simon Ible was with us for four years. He brought a completely new style, boundless optimism and inclusiveness, and a wave of new younger enthusiastic singers joined the choir. His connections with Ten Tors Orchestra and Plymouth University built our membership and our confidence and his performances were grand occasions, with superb orchestras and soloists. He also introduced the annual Choral Singing Day which has proved most popular. Simon left in 2004 to become Music Director at Plymouth University.
Paul Ellis was our musical director for the next 10 very successful years. His concerts drew in some impressive soloists like Emma Kirkby, Barbara Degener and musicians from the Globe theatre as well as young performers fresh from the Royal Academy. His very precise and highly skilled style of choral direction brought us to new heights of performance with some truly memorable concerts, including the St. John Passion, the Lady of Shalott, Mozart's Requiem and Beethoven's Mass in C. We greatly enjoyed singing and learning with him and will continue to use the skills he taught to us as we move forward into our 50th anniversary year with our next new conductor.
In 2016 Chris Howarth joined the choir as the Music Director and in his first season conducted the
glorious 50th anniversary concert, a great start to his excellent tenure which included Beethoven's Mass in
C minor and the wonderful Mozart requiem. Bach music featured regularly throughout Chris's years with
the choir, and the two-day festival 'Celebrating Bach' was a particular highlight. His concerts included
shorter works by Finzi, Brahms, Elgar and lovely Christmas music by Charpentier and Poulenc plus
music from a host of other well-loved composers. Sadly for the choir, Chris resigned after completing the
2021-2022 concert season, to relocate to Salisbury.