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    Choir Personalities     1900 - 2006

                   Birmingham Icknield Male Voice Choir   

                        The history of the oldest choir in Birmingham. 1900 - 2007



Albert Lancaster. B.? Believe Died June 10th 1944

Mr Albert Lancaster an Engraver with a business in Hockley Street in the Jewellery Quarter, was a man who planned everything he tackled, hence his influence on the choir. He was a local man who lived at 43 Grosvenor Rd, Handsworth. His daughter, Mrs Price was a fluent pianist, and was later to become official choir pianist, and his son Les was a very fine violinist, these played as a trio, and with Albert playing Cello, you get a picture of the man, who was to take over. One of the first things Mr Lancaster realized was, that with just one practice a week this was not good enough to maintain a good choir. The first recorded rehearsal was Tuesday Jan 11th 1921. Rehearsal nights have historically been on Tuesdays. Also an application, was made to Birmingham Education Evening Institute for a class at Icknield Street School, this was granted for a New Icknield Music Class on Sunday July 17th 1921.  The next thing was to get an organised choir working to achieve a reasonable standard of singing. As regards organisation, Mr Lancaster had formed a committee to make certain decisions, with a Secretary for booking engagements, also a Treasurer for subs, and banking which was very important in early days, starting from scratch it was necessary to build funds to buy music.However it is apparent that a lot of hard work was put in by members because around 1921 the choir was again giving concerts in and around the district. Albert Lancaster also formed a quartet with singers Mr Reynolds 1st T, Mr Kirby 2nd T, Unknown (presume 1B), and Mr Edwards 2nd Bass.





·                                        Alf Dawson born 1905 died 1993

Alf Dawson’s father the family believe walked from Higham on the Hill, Hinkley to Birmingham looking for work in the late 1800s. Those that could not get employment were catered for by places such as workhouses, When he arrived in Birmingham he made Ivory figurines and handles for the handles of tea & coffee pots. Alf joined him and made amongst other items ebony plinths for cups. Presumably these would have been trophies. He joined the choir at Evening Class at Icknield Street School in September 1924 at the age of 19. He was introduced to a Mr Colley, who was at the choir to give breathing and Voice Production instruction, a very important function, as most members knew very little of how to breathe, and use their voice correctly. In 1928 he was appointed to be the M.C. for dances, a task he performed for next 10 to 12years. This helped to build up funds and socials were the main source of choir income. Alf later worked for Unique & Unity Cycle Co., in Camp Lane Handsworth. During the second world war the factory in common with many others turned it’s hand to manufacturing parts for weapons & munitions. As Alf was middle aged he was not called up but classified as being in a reserved occupation. However he still liked to sing and was employed in quartet’s and octet’s with others such as Harold Winter, the conductor of Icknield Choir and Joe Boraston a member.  Alf was also employed in war work dealing with the rescue of persons in bombed premises. After the war Alf worked for the Golden Cross company based in Anne Road Handsworth making prams, and also helped in designing one.  Unfortunately this firm folded and he moved on to Alfred Roberts Rubber Co. based near the GEC works Witton. Again he was made redundant and ended his employment at Birmingham Tool and Gauge as a Works Supervisor. One of the biggest sadness of his life was in 1955 when he sadly along with his wife, suffered his cruellest blow, namely death at an early age of 19 years of his son John,  In 1980 when he lost his leg, he said “luckily I can keep on singing without my leg, I don’t jump around the stage like young singers do these days” a signed “Get Well Card” was presented to him by the Choir & friends. At a choir dinner, in 1984 on Feb 21st to celebrate his 60 years in the choir, we presented him with a clock, together with an Album of Photographs, and a signed card as a memento of the occasion.  He was also  interviewed by Birmingham Post on the same day when he was 75yrs of age. 

He died aged 87 on the 14/6/93 after being in the choir for 69 years.

         Alf Dawson Music List.  Passed on to me by his Daughter Jean Rainbow. Other choir names are on the music.




  Alf Kirby Born 1899 - Died 1983

Elected Secretary of Icknield St. EMS. 1926

Party to celebrate winning W.H. Bennett Cup at Leamington Festival  (quartet )May 7th 1927

Alf's dad was born on June 13th 1869. CHOIR PIC 1912

Alf Kirby Choir Engagements. List of.

    Alf Kirby Quartet Engagements. List of.

    Alf Kirby Diary Entries Info Icknield EMS etc Choir etc history

    Alf Kirby died 5:15 am 1983

    Alf Kirby sang regularly at the Freemasons Arter Lodge. Links below.


    Arter Lodge No. 2654


    Alf Kirby worked all his working life at;

     FRANK Ashby & Sons



    He was Captain of  the EMS Football Team and the 1921 fixture list.



    Les Beach   born 10th March 1927

Les was born in a fish & chip shop owned by his parents at No. 9 Ryland Street. He lived there until he was two years old (1929) and then went to live in Abbey Street, Hockley, until he came to Blakeland Road. Les’s Dad worked at Scriven's Bakery in Goode Street, Hockley, after finishing with the chip shop. He joined Icknield Choir in 1949 and sang for nine years before becoming accompanist. He took up the baton for two years, 1970 – 1972, before reverting back to his “sitting down job” which he has done excellently ever since. He has been a member for 58 Years. (2007) His wife Hortense’s Dad kept a restaurant (Bensons) in Lower Temple Street, Birmingham in the early 1920s and her brother used to serve performers from the Theatre Royal, so she was used to theatrical people. She knew of Icknield Choir in the 1940s. She first heard them sing at "The Gables" Finch Road, Handsworth, and then at the Co-op Hall in Lozells Road and then the Friends Hall Hockley. Also the Christ Church (Baptist), Six Ways Aston. Harold Bates was the pianist. She first saw Les play at Burlington P.S.A. Lozells Co-op Hall about 1958.



Don Beach    picture 1968

Don joined the choir as a 2nd Tenor in 1951. Don has sung in the choir, and he had a short spell  as deputy conductor

and pianist before eventually taking the baton permanently in 1978.Emigrated to Australia in 2002


        Harold Winters   B. ?, Died Sept 4th 1970


Mr Harold Winters from being a humble choir member with no experience, who at first refused to take over the conductorship, he became in various spheres, someone well respected and admired. Beside leading choir to its many festival successes, he was invited to conduct Massed Adult School Choirs at a Rally held at Birmingham Town Hall and later was appointed to conduct Massed  Choirs from Evening Classes, by the Education Committee, once again at Birmingham Town Hall. It is noted on his 1958 presentation card that the choir had appeared at the Memorial Theatre, Stratford on Avon, date unknown.

The Roberts Brothers:

The following is taken from the Autumn concert programme 1990.

“Charlie, Bob, George, Jack and Frank. Their father Charles who was caretaker at Tennant Street School, insisted that his family attend church and it was through singing in the church choir that his sons developed a love of singing. Charlie was the first to join the choir back in 1939, however it was not until Frank joined in 1960 that he had the company of a brother in the choir. The combined encouragement of the eldest and youngest soon brought Bob, George, and Jack to Icknield. Each of the Roberts contributed to the choir in their own way through singing and service. In particular Charlie served as Chairman for many years and was succeeded in that role by Frank. Jack, too, served for many years as Librarian. The close bond between the brothers has an infectious quality in a larger group and the unique character of the choir is in no small part due to their legacy of fraternal regard for fellow singers. Frank, the last of the brothers, sang with us at last year’s concert and has since passed away. We remember him and his brothers with great affection for all the joy they brought into our lives.”

 1980  Charlie Roberts Died, 1987 Jack Roberts Died, 1990  Frank Roberts Died


        Steve Roche. Present MD.

He learned to play the piano at 8 years of age, and conducted his first choir at 16.. He was assistant conductor of Icknield Choir for 5 years, and became Musical Director of the Dunlop Operatic Society, and he conducted the Royles. Steve Roche commenced as MD of Icknield MVC on 14th April 1992 He teaches piano and plays the organ at a local church.


David Rosser Present Pianist

David joined the choir as accompanist in 1997. He has been a teacher for over 40 years with a particular interest in music education, choral singing and drama for young people having served advisory groups and organising workshops. As a prize winning student, his first professional engagement was with a pop group in the early sixties! Later he took in jazz and accompanied singers and instrumentalists from around the Midlands including as a festival accompanist. He has performed in and accompanied, conducted and produced operas and musicals especially after becoming Musical Director of the Arosa Opera Group. Several notable productions, including the first British production of a "lost" Mozart opera and two by Benjamin Britten, followed sometimes involving some of David's pupils.





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