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The Middle Years      1930 - 1969

                       Birmingham Icknield Male Voice Choir   

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

Festival Successes.

    The 1930s brought about a "golden age" for the choir with stabilisation and wins at Festivals as the following examples show;


1931: MASU Festival 9th May

1933: MASU Festival 6th May

1933: MASU Festival 6th May Icknield Quartet comprised of Alf Dawson, Grocott, Mason, Raban, gained 2nd place and a certificate.

The choir carried on giving concerts and singing in competitions, with most times getting a good placing until 1934.

1934: MASU Festival 12th May Icknield gained 2nd place.

1934: MASU Festival 12th May Icknield Quartet gained 1st place.




    Then Albert Lancaster the  Conductor having reached age of 65 years, he had to retire in accordance with compulsory education rules.

The choir had anticipated this, and one of the choir, namely Harold Winters was being groomed to replace him. This was  subject to Education approval which was granted.




    At this time Harold was about 28yrs with no previous experience, except 2 certificates from the Adult School Festival, one for Solo and one Duet in May 9th 1931 with Alf Dawson. Now Harold Winters was inclined to be a bit stubborn, with his own ideas, but he realized that he would need to improve his musical knowledge to survive. He immediately went to the Midland Institute to have lessons on Rudiment of Music plus Conductorship, he already had got a good singing voice, so for his teacher he chose a well known musician, a Mr W. E. Robinson. Harold as with most things he tackled, he was prepared to give his all, and worked hard to achieve his ambition. In his first year as Conductor, in 1935 he accomplished what had eluded Mr Lancaster namely, to win Adult School Shield not won since 1910. PICTURE OF CHOIR. He repeated this again on 2nd May 1936. PICTURE OF CHOIR, and PICTURE WITH NAMES.  The choir were still enjoying the social side of the choir and embarking on trips. PICTURE 1. PICTURE 2. (KEY FOR NAMES) NAME FILE (MS WORD)  



    After this of course the choir felt that now we were moving forward, as indeed they did, because they were building up a reputation for being a choir to taken note of.

Progress was continued with regular concerts etc, and many members singing solos etc, during this spell and many won or obtained certificates from festivals, and the Quartet’s were still in good voice. “A” Quartets were first winners of Victoriana Quartet’s Cup a success repeated 2 or 3 times, Quartet’s consisted of Messer’s A. Dawson, P. Root, H. Mason, W. Nolan, while 13 Quartet’s Messer’s Norton, Evetts, Sewell, Jones, won the Quartets Prize at the Bournville Festival, this was the only class apart from choirs open to outsiders, other classes were being closed.

1937: MASU Festival 8th May 1st.

Bournville Festival. 2nd place

1938: MASU Festival 1st.




    The choir was really getting known when another disaster hit, namely World War 2 1939 – 1945, but entered in 1940 the MASU Festival and won 1st prize. The choir was virtually closed, but even then during latter period requests for music by Adult Schools and other interested churches, these were fulfilled by scratch Quartet’s provide by members including Alf Dawson who were still at home and well.

    At the end of hostilities, it took some time for the choir to get reassembled, but is was a real pleasure for members to be back on song, and this shown in performances at concerts, and festivals, one disappointment now was that before hostilities the choir had been accepted for Midland Radio 5, but of course as it had been 5 or 6 years it was not now accepted. As for many years members of  the choir provided soloists for Icknield Adult School for each Sunday Morning, thus we really had some fine talent. After the war entries to Festivals & competitions were resumed and the following is an example of the results gained.

1947: MASU Festival date unknown. 2nd place

1948: Sat June 12th, At Grove Lane School, Icknield

Social “wedding” gifts to Harold Winters, Lew Matthews,

parting gift to Joe Boraston.

1949: Chadsmoor Festival: 3rd Place






    As Icknield St. School had been taken off  the list of Evening Classes, the building being old and now not suitable for requirements in the 1940s the Choir moved to Grove Lane Junior School, and as the choir held cupboards, full of music, this was a major exercise and some arrangements had to be made at Grove Lane to receive us. But we settled in well, and spent several happy years there with socials as well as rehearsals.

1946: Alf Kirby was the Chairman at a meeting on Tues 20th August at Grove Lane School. On Sun October 20th noted "9:30 Tiptaft Icknield Street" (Could this relate to the Tiptaft Cup competed for in the 1920s?)

1948: July 22nd Choir General Meeting at Grove Lane



                Recording in 1949 St. Peter's Church Grove Lane.


    On a recording undertaken in 1949 the following is recited;

Announcement: “In the late summer of 1949 the Icknield Choir made a  record in St. Peter’s Church Grove Lane, (Handsworth) Birmingham. One side was “In St. Pauls” by Arthur Worrall, on the other side was “The Wanderer” by Edward Elgar. Both this pieces were sometimes set as test pieces at competition Festivals. The record was at 78rpm and this recording was taken off Mr Albert Dawson’s cabinet type wind up gramophone, on 28th 1992 (sic). The record was supplied by Mr & Mrs Alan Sewell. The record belonged to Mrs Price who is Mrs Sewell’s mother. Mrs Price was the accompanist and is Albert Lancaster’s daughter. This recording is conducted by Mr Harold Winters”.

 1. “In St. Pauls” by Arthur Worrall

 2. “The Wanderer” by Edward Elgar




    With the choir getting stronger and may I add more musical with new members, some consider the early 1950s until mid 1960s this was the best period of achievements of the choir, and the Adult School Shield which had eluded them previously, was made almost their property as they won so often.                               

                        To become their property in Dec 2003



     Also in the 1950s a Black & White Troupe was formed by some members of choir plus one or two Ladies from the Ladies Choir, and they made a very entertaining and successful Troupe.

                        Festival Wins of the 50s and Social Activities.

1950: MASU Festival date unknown. First place, Unopposed

At the Leamington Festival  between 17th June to the 1st of July the choir gained 1st place.

1951: MASU Festival date unknown. First place in 12 classes. PIC OF CHOIR

1951: Bournville Festival: Joint 4th place for Icknield Quartet

1951: Bournville Festival: 7th place for Icknield Choir. Choirs came from far afield as  Yorkshire, Wales, and Luton 

1953: MASU Festival date unknown. First place, Unopposed

1953: Brownhills Festival: 1st Place

1953: 25th September, a CARTOON was produced of the choir rehearsing.

1954: At a dinner October 24th the The Adult School Ladies were mentioned as providing the entertainment.

1956: Chadsmoor Festival: 1st Place




    All was well until the late 1950s when about 1958, the Education Committee, having built a modern school at Church Lane, Handsworth Wood, felt that it should be used fully so the choir moved there.  As we had now moved, from Icknield Early Morning Adult School, and only a percentage of choir members still attended, it was decided to change the name to “Icknield Male Voice Choir”.

1958: A signed card was presented to Harold Winters to celebrate his 25yrs in the choir,(SHOWING THE CHOIR WINS) although it is on record that he was in the choir at least from 1931 having won a prize for a duet with Alf Dawson.

1959: Spring Concert at Church Lane Schools. April 25th. A letter dated of this year, September 15th addressed to the choir, mentioned that Cardinal Godfrey  was to visit Birmingham on November 22nd and a request for the choir to attend a concert at Birmingham Town Hall was made. It is not known whether they attended.



1959 Recording details from a tape.

Music items and commentary.

Greetings Announcement to Wilf Aston in America. (Presumably by Harold Winters)


“Sent to Wilf Aston in America returned to Great Britain. This tape is taken off it”


“Our greetings to you Wilf and your wife Beatty, to your daughter Joyce and her husband. We have set aside this evening to sing and record the songs you especially asked for before you said goodbye to us and shortly before you and your daughter and her husband. We have set aside this evening to sing and record the songs you especially asked for before you said goodbye to us and shortly before you and your dear wife left these shores to join your daughter and her husband across the seas about which we have so often sung. A man’s inventive mind has brought about this means whereby we are able in effect to join you in your home and sing to you., play to you, and speak to you. Well old friend the boys and I are gathered in our rehearsal room in much the same way as we have done over the years, and it won’t need much effort on your part to imagine you are sitting amongst us again taking part with us. It is symbolic the regard they have for you that your old comrades elected to sing all of the items you had set down instead of just a few which you and I discussed when you were here. So now if you have made yourselves comfortable in your chairs we are going to sing two love songs first. “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes” by James Robert Colman and “Passing By” the Purcell setting which you liked best.”


Tape Music Items

Side 1.


  1. Drink to me only
  2. Passing By
  3. ??
  4. All in the April Evening

Announcement: Titles of last two items. (Not clear)

  1. Catastrophe (Soloist?)
  2. The Jolly Roger
  3. The Crusaders

Announcement: “The Crusaders” and “Thanks Be To God”

  1. Thanks Be To God
  2. Steal Away

Announcement: "Les Beach on the piano, Ernie Tuckey as soloist in

                                                                  The Holy City"

  1. The Holy City

Tape Music Items

Side 2


Announcement: “To Wilf Aston to accept this recording," (and then the choir members say their names).


Announcement: “Transfer from Reel to Reel to cassette was done from a machine owned by Alf Dawson’s Daughter.


Repeat of side 1 items.


Announcement: “This is Wilf speaking. Good wishes to all the choir by Beatty and Joyce.


Announcement: “This is your recording engineer Norman (Thornton?) (gives an announcement about the Reel to Reel recording) “sent to America and then sent back to us on a cassette to Mr Ernest Tuckey after a lot of sorting out of the old record made in 1949 and the reel to reel tape of 1959 recording and after a lot of correspondence to and from America has produced this tape in 1992 and the rehearsal room referred to in the reel to reel tape was at the Church Lane Schools Handsworth Wood in 1959.



1960s The choir entered the Ruardean Festival several times.

Ruardean is a small village in Gloucestershire, which is situated within a few miles of the Welsh border so naturally from time to time Icknield met Welsh Choirs, and in the first eight years they won about 5 times and 3 seconds, not a bad record, unfortunately as with many other festivals interest was getting less, so eventually several such as this just faded.

1961 there were 27 engagements and socials. Ruardean was also entered.                            

It appears that Les Bailey had done a recording as he was asked to do the recording again.

It was  proposed many times for choir to have a distinctive uniform but the nearest they got to was in 1961 was to provide a tie, suggested by choir member Mike Atkins.

1962 a concert at Hall Green Parish church is noted, and a visit to Bristol. The Bournville festival is also mentioned.

The current pianist William Dixon was replaced by Mr. L. Yale. The total of members at this time was 39. The Spring concert  was 27th April

1963 The choir managed to arrange 20 Concerts at various venues,  with an unknown competition entered and 88 Marks awarded. Quartette competitions were still being arranged. It was noted that the choir had 41 members.

1964 Ruardean was again mentioned. Bill Dixon who was mentioned in 1962 decided after four and half years in the choir he would leave Birmingham, and the choir gave him a presentation.

The choir dinner this year was at the New Inns Handsworth, and the choir sang “Holy City”, “Silent Night”, “Martyrs”, “Volga Boat Song”, “Lullaby”, “Drinking Song”, “Mwfanwy”, “A’ Rovin”.


1965 success finally came at Ruardean against 6 other choirs and we won a trophy. CHOIR PICTURE.

At the choir Annual Dinner the the choir sang; Beleagued, Silver Branch, Awake Aeolian Lyre & Rest, Huntsman Chorus

Also in the mid 1960s the choir had several engagements  at many Masonic Lodges. With the choir in this successful period they won at Tamworth, Bournville, Leamington Festivals, while being placed in many others. Socials were by this time arranged by Bill Roe one of our Baritones, and he tried many ideas to create interest, as these socials were up till then the main source of income. Of course as time does not stand still, and members were getting older, fashion had changed over the years and it was necessary to review the socials, and it was realised that choir members and friends could not now do the light fantastic on dance floor, so they again concentrated on concerts, and this continued with the Spring and Autumn Concerts, which once again brought in the bulk of money.

 1966 Ruardean was entered again.

      In 1866 the Icknield – Newtown Early Morning Schools were founded, and the Centenary was celebrated this year.

It was noted that thanks to L. Bailey for use of recorder so this would indicate a recording was made in this year. At the Birmingham Town Hall “Creation” was sung in 1965 or 1966

Sid Neal a long standing member was made Life Vice President

A uniform was discussed for the choir of Grey Flannels, White Shirts, Dark Jackets

At the Annual Dinner  the sang  "Loch Leven", "Comrades in Arms", "Soldiers Charms", "Myfanwy", "Carnival", "Lullaby", and "Holy City".

On March 17th Harry Sammonds (Bass of Richmond Quartette)  Died aged 66yrs

1967 It was recorded that there were 37 choir members

1968 Festivals at Ruardean & Coventry were entered, and the choir managed to attain five new members! Quite an achievment.

Again there was a win at Ruardean

Les Beach was Deputy Conductor & Pianist and the Coventry Festival was entered.

In one of Alf Kirby's diaries he states; "Icknield St. E.M.S. Anniversary, last time at Icknield St." A concert was held on Saturday May 4th at Church Lane Schools.

1969 Festivals entered were Coventry 31st May, Ruardean 28th June, and Bournville 5th July.

Bill Roe died who was a member for 40 years. 





                                    This brings the choir to the late 1960s.















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