Early Years 1900 - 1930
Birmingham Icknield Male Voice
The history of the oldest choir in Birmingham. 1900 - 2007
Circa 1912 ..................... to ............................. 2007
St. Pauls (Jewellers Church) June 2006
Icknield Street school was one of those
that as part of music studies formed a Male Choir, at about
the turn of the 20th century
it is known that "Icknield Street Early Morning Adult School Male Voice Choir" as
was then known, was singing at concerts in Hockley district, around the early
years of the century. There is sure proof a little later, in as much as when
Adult School Union introduced a Musical Festival, Cadbury’s furnished a large
Challenge Shield for Male Voice
Choirs Competition, this being 1910,
CLICK ON LINK FOR SHIELD WEB
was presented by Barrow Cadbury,
(born1862-1958), and his wife Geraldine Southall Cadbury, b 1865 – 1941. Barrow
was the eldest son of chocolate magnate Richard Cadbury, and nephew of George
first winners under Conductor E. Norton were Icknield
Street Early Morning Adult School Male Voice Choir, (rather a long title as you
will see later), and medals were presented to the winning choir members one of
which has survived in the name of Mr Grantham.
Medal Front View,
It is known that choir kept singing at concerts, up to 1914 when First World War
caused a suspension of activities for duration,
and some departed for the killing fields
of the Somme, including
ALF KIRBY. After the war the school tried to return to some
semblance of normality with activities such as
competing for the Tiptaft Cup, named after
Norman Tiptaft, and
indeed in March 1921, an L(Len?) Bedford left the School team and signed as
professional for West Bromwich Albion, and the school were sent a cheque for
£10! Other activities included those of a musical bent, including
They started to reform in 1919 – 1920, and members were returning, but
what had happened to Mr E. Norton the Conductor, no one appears to know,
is of no surprise considering the
events of the past five years, putting apart the loss of life in the Great War,
many families were decimated by an Influenza epidemic that swept Europe.
Whether he left the Midlands or just gave up,
it is unclear,
but he was not available as Conductor, so someone had to be found with ability
to control and bring up the choir to the required standard for concerts and
competitions. Several people tried to fill in, but found it too much and gave
up. Eventually along came a man with musical knowledge and some connections with
the Adult School. Mr Albert Lancaster an Engraver with a business in
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.
Rehearsal nights have
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
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.
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.
It was always the intention, to
be able to give a good concert, and have pleasure in their
performances. Around this time the choir would fulfil between 30 and 40
engagements a year, so it was necessary to maintain a high standard, plus a
large repertoire. There were so many engagements of interest, including as on
June 4th the choir had a holiday at the MASU house at Bewdley for the
grand sum of 12/6d board. In this year it is also mentioned that there was a
Icknield Ladies Choir so they were not neglected.
Of course at this time there was not much in
way of entertainments on Sunday Evenings, no cinemas were allowed to open,
except for charity, thus the
Observance Society would put on concerts
at some cinemas and theatres. The choir was invited to give concerts at Villa
Cross Cinema, the Lozells Cinema, Grand Cinema, Soho Rd Handsworth,
and the Bordesley Palace Theatre, which
was situated at Camp Hill. The Lozells Cinema was destroyed by bombing in the
second world war.
We also gave concerts on Sunday afternoon,
to prisoners at Winson Green Jail, one of which in 1923. It was an experience to
sing solo or choir items, and they, the prisoners were always a very attentive
audience also it was surprising what type of solo they were prepared to accept
and enjoy, Alf Dawson personally sang, the “Ave Maria”, Bach-Gonoud,
Sanctuary of The Heart”, Ketelby, which confirms that opinion, and of course
prisoners were at that time wearing uniforms, three different colours to denote
class of prisoner. Also in 1923 we sung at Sparkbrook and Farm Rd EMS. In March
of this year in the monthly magazine 'One & All' it was stated that, "The
beautiful shield which Mr & Mrs Barrow Cadbury presented to the Union is at
present held by Nelson Street. I hope that in the not too distant future Moseley
Road will want to know why." Mr & Mrs B. Cadbury were leaders at the Moseley Rd.
on April 14th at the MASU
Music Festival for two classes we gained a 4th out of 17th, and a 7th.
June 23rd there was a choir ramble. Good ideas never die, and in 2005
this idea was revived. There was also a school ramble at
Marston Green on July 1924.
In 1925 we sang at Soho Hill Mens. Also in the area there were a number of
groups. (Pleasant Sunday Afternoons).
PSA meetings always had the same format, with an
address on an ecumenical topic,
such as ‘Life’ or ‘Hope’,and musical solos with
The movement spread
throughout the world.
PSA Banbury. and
Scotland, Click on the links for more details.
In 1926 April 17th at
the MASU festival the choir gained 2nd place with 172pts.
The Quartets won
first prize with 190 pts.
We also sung at Northfield.
June 19th 1926 the choir sang at
the Leamington Music Festival and gained 4th place. On Sept 29th
1927 we sung at a Police Choir concert at Birmingham Town Hall an association
with which as the West Midlands Police MVC continues to this day. Also in 1927,
on Oct 8th the choir decided to spread it’s wings, and entered Leicester Musical
Festival on Oct 8th, along with some 26 Choirs,
such as Chesterfield, Barnsley, Doncaster, Moira,
South Melbourne all first class choirs of 50 to 60 voices, and we sang just over
40 strong, the Test Piece, “Peace and War” all 12 to 14 pages, and we finished a
very respectable 10th. At the end of the
competition, the Adjudicator had the choirs assemble on stage at De-Montford
Hall, approximately 800 to 900 singers,
The First Tenors Block A, Second Tenors B,
First Bass C, and Second Bass Block D. This formation is the one we have today,
but in those days most choirs sang in lines, First Tenor Line 1, Second Tenor
Line 2, First Bass Line 3, Second Bass Line 4, so to many of us it was a new
experience, but very interesting. The choir have always been known for it’s
Quartet's, at one time we had 4 Quartet's, all capable of giving a concert on
Also with many of top choirs in and around the Midlands, we also took part on
June 11th at the Bournville Festival.
Also in October 1927,our Quartet
the "Richmond Male Voice
Quartet" at this period with Messer's Will Smith, Alf Kirby, Harold Cross, Harry
Sammons, entered, and won 2nd place and a
Certificate with 81 points at Leicester,
whilst Alf Kirby won the Tenor Solo class, at the MASU Musical Festival on May 8th,
accomplishments of which
we were very
Of course there was social
side going on as well, rambles to country side, including
Hampton in Arden to Berkswell, and also to the Lickeys,
One of the ways of travelling was by tram
and a ticket could be purchased for 5d, 2d for children, (2p and 1p
respectively), and the tram would start from Navigation Street and go along the
Bristol Road, to arrive at the Lickeys. The poem below, by Irene Newey, and
published in the, “Down The Old End” a
Birmingham Mail Christmas Tree Fund raising book in 1977 of poems
that encapsulates the
spirit of the times;
Let’s have a day at
The top of the tram
is the place!
Let’s get up the
front where it’s open
And feel the wind in
As it rocks up the
We’ll enjoy every
clang that it makes
And the sound of the
bell adds it’s tune
To enliven the time
that it takes.
The trees can be
green in the summer
Or tinted with
But they give a
promise of beauty
That the Lickey’s
There’s no longer a
tram to the Lickeys
The buses are not as
But there’s still a
few trees to delight us
And that’s something
– when all’s said and done.
Many of these outings would not cost more
than 2/- to 2/6d including tea, to a lot it may sound ridiculous but
many members would put 2d or 3d in the bank in order to go
on outings. When the choir went to Llandudno it was 3/6 for fare,
quite a sum for many, but it was also the first time for some to see the sea,
such a difference to modern times.
Also in 1928 the choir held it’s first
Annual Dinner, this was held at “Farcroft Hotel” Rookery Rd, Handsworth, where
"Mine Host" at that time was a well known sportsman Mr Jim Murphy, cost of dinner
was 10/- head, part was subsidised for choir members by the choir, and about 120
The choir was building up
it’s funds by Social Evenings at Icknield St. School, about 6 per year, The
evenings consisted of 7:30 to 8:30pm, 12 hands of whist, with about 7 prizes,
refreshments, then a concert by the choir and members. Also in 1928 the choir
decided to update socials, and a Dance with a break for two musical items. This made it possible for
many choir members to make their singing debut, so that the choir had many
soloists to chose from. The functions at Icknield School on a Sunday included
speakers, a Mr Robinson appeared to be popular!
When the Adult School festival was held
each April or May (the 5th May in 1928) quite a number of Icknield St.
members entered, and many times there would be 26–30 Tenors 20-30 Baritones,
10-12 Basses, besides entries in Elocution, Pianoforte, Violin and other classes
and to obtain a
certificate, was an achievement.
With regard to Icknield Street,
the following Sunday morning was a “Musical Morning”, at which all Soloists,
winners or otherwise, performed their piece, then at the end of the morning,
certificates would be presented again to those winners, and it was usual for at
least 14 to 16 Certificates to be presented, quite a good percentage. Prizes
were vouchers to buy music, First Prize £1-1-0, Second 10/6d, third 6/-, so if
someone had a good Festival, they could have between £2 to £3 to spend on music,
2/- per copy, so it was a problem to know music to get.
On May 15th Mr Lancaster asked Alf Kirby to
“take the stick”, and try his hand at conducting. He declined, had he accepted
the choir’s history may have been different.
It was felt that the choir should
consider forming their own 4 Piece Band, and had a good pianist in Ernie
Wakefield, a violinist in Evan Roberts a Welsh Lad, Fred Adamson on banjo and a
drummer whose name is not known.
the choir whenever required, but also made a name for themselves outside, but
always remembered the choir, which gave them their foundations.
This brings the
choir to the late 1920s.
Phone No. 07985041167
Webmaster: Icknield Choir History
We take no responsibility for the information on external links