1921 - 2021

Many of our loyal followers will know that the choir was founded in 1921 in the Sussex village of Ditchling when a group of keen singers from the Women's Institute came together to form a choir. The 'Ditchling W.I. Choral Society' was led by a Mrs Torry who can be seen (wearing a hat) in the photograph above, taken outside Lewes Town Hall. The choir was competing in the 1923 Lewes Music Festival and men were permitted to join as honorary members to provide a balanced sound.

It was thirty more years before the choir became known as Ditchling Choral Society and it grew from strength to strength, particularly when Janet Canetty-Clarke became Musical Director in the 1960s.  Under her leadership - and boundless enthusiasm - the choir developed a varied and extensive repertoire, commissioned new music and premiered new works. We enjoyed the patronage of the late Sir David Willcocks as Vice President and are honoured to have Dame Felicity Lott as our current President.

In more recent times, singers and audiences have enjoyed performances ranging from big choral works such as Haydn's Creation and the Mozart Requiem to the contemporary, jazz-influenced work, Mass in Blue, by British composer Will Todd.

Our Centenary Year, 2021, was challenged of course by lockdown restrictions, but by meeting online every week we were able to catch up with each other, share music-related stories and enjoy quizzes. Every other week, our Director of Music, Stephen Anthony Brown provided coaching in singing technique and rehearsed items planned for future concerts.

Director of Music Stephen Anthony Brown

We were delighted when Stephen Anthony Brown  agreed to become our Director of Music in 2020. He is a valued friend of Sussex Chorus, having performed with us on several occasions in his role as a professional tenor. The choir has also benefitted from Stephen's skill as a composer, using his reduced orchestration versions of the Verdi and Mozart Requiems for our performances.

Stephen has some wonderful ideas for concert programmes as we look ahead and, with his good humour, extensive musical knowledge and singing talent, will be ensuring rehearsals are fulfilling and enjoyable and lead to high quality performances.

Accompanist, Jeremy Weaver

Our accompanist Jeremy Weaver joined us in 2019 and has become a well-liked and valued member of the Sussex Chorus team.  Jeremy also supports performances both on piano and organ. 

Sussex Chorus in the Community

So who runs Sussex Chorus?   As a charity, we manage our affairs through a committee of Trustees, elected by the members. When you join the choir, you automatically become a member and so also have opportunities to contribute your views and ideas. But the choir is so much more than its committee! Many dedicated and skilled people ensure that concerts run smoothly, music scores are hired, soloists booked and refreshments provided. This voluntary support is invaluable of course and also gives those individuals experience in running events.

We pride ourselves on bringing high quality choral music to the local communities in and around Mid-Sussex. Reasonable ticket prices (significantly reduced for young people), accessible venues and a wide repertoire ensure that local people can enjoy great classical music on their doorstep. We are very grateful to both Mid Sussex District Council and Burgess Hill Town Council for their support.

In the recent past, we've hugely enjoyed bringing local young people into our performances. A choir of Burgess Hill primary school children provided the 'street children's' choir for Carmina Burana and Hurst Prep Choir joined us for John Rutter's Mass of the Children

Rehearsing at school for Carmina Burana
Mass of the Children dress rehearsal

Supporting our local hospice

At all our concerts, we support St Peter &St James Hospice. The hospice provides specialist care, love and support for those who live with a life-limiting illness. Their services are free of charge and this means they need to fundraise for an average of £10,000 every single day. You will always see collections boxes as you leave our concerts.