Everything from Elvis to Snow Patrol - how Portsmouth's Milton Glee Choir attracts and entertains people from all ages and backgrounds
For 46 years, Linda Taylor has spent almost every Friday evening at St James’ Church Hall in Milton.
As a member of the Milton Glee Choir, it’s her passion for music and singing that takes her there.
Linda, now deputy chairperson of the choir, has spent all those years with a group of male and female singers of all ages and has been privileged to meet and make new friends with hundreds of people.
She recalls: ‘I first went to an MGC concert in 1966 with my grandmother, who absolutely loved the choir and looked forward to the concerts. The family doctor, Alistair Mead, was a trustee of the choir and she first went along to support him.’
During the 1960s, concerts at Portsmouth Guildhall were a sell-out. The combination of the choir and the HM Royal Marines Band were irresistible to the Portsmouth and south east Hampshire population.
Linda loved the concert and vowed to take part one day. Six years later she joined MGC and her life became entwined with the adventures and fortunes of the choir.
‘In 1977 we were invited to meet a choir from the Ahr Valley, near Bonne, in Germany that was visiting Portsmouth’, Linda says.
‘This first meeting led to over 25 years of fellowship and lots of opportunities to sing in each other’s concerts.’
There were also concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall. As a Royal Navy wife, Linda was glad to have a wider, extended family and enjoyed the company of people from a range of ages and backgrounds.
‘I feel I have been living in a community within a community.’ she explains.
‘My friends in the choir have been nurturing and interested in my family and encouraged me to grow my career when I became an adult education tutor and then worked in Regeneration and Culture in Portsmouth City Council.
‘I have been deputy chair of the choir for the past 16 years and have had fun marketing the concerts.’
Linda had a very personal reason for falling in love with the community element of the choir. The social and supportive side came to the fore at the beginning of the year when Linda’s husband, Owen, passed away suddenly.
She says: ‘It felt like the whole choir was enveloping me with love and friendship. I came back to the choir as soon as I could and I am convinced that the music saved me from spiralling downwards. I focused on learning the music and singing the amazing tunes.’
The Milton Glee Choir meets on Friday evenings at St James’ Church Hall, Milton Road, Southsea, from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Last year, the choir celebrated its 70th anniversary. This year has seen them come together to perform at the 75th anniversary of D-Day commemorations on Southsea Common in front of 10,000 people.
Every week, more than 100 people join together to sing. The energy and the vibrancy from the singing ensures a warm welcome to anyone who wants to join the choir.
At each meeting, the members spend some time chatting together and catching up on the latest events from the past week and what’s happened in their lives before they are split up into groups depending on their voice.
They are split into tenor, bass, alto and soprano before taking on a vocal warm-up together. Due to the scale of the group, each one has a representative which sits on the choir.
The choir is no one-trick pony either. They sing a variety of songs from a variety of artists, from Elvis to Snow Patrol to Mozart, meaning there is something for everyone’s music taste.
Linda believes that everyone should have the opportunity to do something to increase their social circle and learn new skills.
She adds: ‘Joining a choir is one of the options, if you can hold a tune and have time to look through your music in between practices.’
Three musical directors have led the choir during Linda’s time – Stanley Mortimore, Brian North and Andrew Cleary. Linda says that each one has brought their unique talents to draw out the best from the singers and to make sure that they are ready for the next concert.
The Spirit of Christmas
The Milton Glee Choir, with guests the Royal Marines Association Concert Band, will be performing The Spirit of Christmas at Portsmouth Guildhall at 3pm on Sunday, December 8. The concert will be full of festive music and favourites from shows and movies. Tickets are from £9, under-16s can go for £2 with an adult. Visit portsmouthguildhall.org.uk for tickets.
The Milton Glee Club (its original name) began back in 1948 under the leadership of Stanley Mortimore. At the first meeting, just eight people turned up. Soon after that first meeting, it was declared a charity and since then has raised money for many good causes.
Most of the singers that joined at the beginning came from St James’ Church in Milton. Stanley stayed with the club until he died in 1986 and the next musical director was Brian North, who joined with his wife Mary in 1975.
The choir has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall and in the cathedrals of both Portsmouth and Chichester.
New musical director Andrew Cleary took over in February 2018. He is head of music at Cams Hill School in Fareham.
Over the years, the choir has formed close relationships with the Royal Marines bands and orchestras, The Hampshire Police Band and the London Show Orchestra.
To find out more about the MGC, go to http://mgchoir.org/