A history of the BRIZE SINGERS
formerly known – from their founding in 1969 until 2003 – as
THE RAF BRIZE NORTON SINGERS.
The longevity and success of this group of people is down to their love of singing and willingness to give of their time and talent to a cause. In the following history, which is very much a potted version, many, many people have been involved to a greater or lesser degree but their names not recorded.
It is perhaps worth recording that at the time of updating there is a programme on BBC TV called Gareth Malone’s Workplace Choirs. One of the stated aims of this was to bring together differing members of a workplace i.e. GPO Bristol, Thames Severn Water and a large NHS hospital. Whilst this was not one of the stated aims in the constitution of the RAF Brize Norton Singers it did unwittingly achieve this by bringing together all ranks; commissioned, non-commissioned and all trades; aircrew, engineering and administrative as well as their wives forging friendships which are still extant over 40 years later -and very soon after their founding civilians from the local area broadened the membership.
In the early years the Singers carried out numerous engagements during the year being young and full of enthusiasm. Encouraged by the RAF to off-set the noise, disturbance and opposition of the local populace.
HISTORY OF THE BRIZE SINGERS – formerly THE ROYAL AIR FORCE BRIZE NORTON SINGERS
1969 The Singers were formed on 5th March 1969 by, and under the musical directorship of, Flt Lt Bert Walker with his wife Barbara – an experienced accompanist. First musical performance at the Sgts’ Mess RAF Brize Norton on 19th August 1969.
1970 The first big production, ‘March Aires’ takes place in the Carterton Social Centre. Appearance on TV’s ‘Opportunity Knocks’ with Hughie Green. Performance at Cwmbran, making of two records ‘The Big Sound’ and ‘RAF Wonderland’ before Bert and Barbara posted to Gibraltar towards the end of the year. Flt Lt Frank Davies takes over as Officer in charge, Flt Lt Derek Longstaff takes over the baton temporarily and June Neilson moves from the Contralto section to the piano.
1971 The Singers sing before Her Majesty The Queen during opening of all ranks ‘Spotlight Club’ at RAF Brize Norton. Flt Lt Frank Davies takes over as Musical Director for a very full year of some 29 local engagements, annual show ‘Musical Review’ and another TV appearance with Hughie Green on the Variety Club Show
1972 Another busy year of local performances following the new show ‘May Fever’ presented at the old Spotlight (Cpls’ Club) at RAF Brize Norton.
April 23rd. St. James Church, Ramsden. Centenary Celebration.
1973 Departure of Frank and Kath Davies on posting, arrival of Flt Lt Wilf Burns who was Musical Director for the first of his annual shows ‘The Green Leaves of Summer’, a further appearance with Hughie Green and another busy year of local performances.
1974 The Singers take part in the opening of the RAF Brize Norton Community Centre which is to become our regular rehearsal and annual show venue. Annual show ‘Our World of Song’ and 27 local performances.
1975 Wilf Burns’ last annual show ‘The Rhythm of Life’ and many local appearances including BBC Songs of Praise recorded in St. Christopher’s – the station church. Wilf and Joyce leave us on Posting, Chris Nicholls from HM Customs and Excise at RAF Brize Norton becomes our first civilian Musical Director.
1976 Annual Show ‘All at Sea and Up the Creek’ in the Community Centre, RAF Brize Norton 13,14 and 15th May and more local performances. (admission 50p!)
1977 Annual show title, ‘Elizabethan Serenade’ in honour of HM The Queen’s Jubilee year.
1978 Following the success of this year’s annual show ‘Singers on Shows’, (MD Chris Nichols, Accompanist; June Neilson) the Singers enter a float in the first Gala to be held in Carterton and are awarded first prize. Reg Beale takes over as Musical Director from Chris Nicholls. Joint concert with the Central Band of the RAF in St. Mary’s Witney. Dec 8th ‘Friday Night is Music Night’
1979 Annual show ‘Decade’ celebrates the Singers 10th Anniversary, with Joan Williams from the Contraltos taking over the piano. MD Reg Beale. Numerous local performances including an appearance on 27th March with the Aylesbury Police Band, in Aylesbury, ‘ Sounds of Brass and Voices’ compered by Steve Race. RBL Festival of Remembrance, Wantage. Sat 3rd Nov.
1980 Oi/c Flt Lt Vic Baker. Deputy; F Sgt Maurice Spalding, MD; Colin Ridgers, Accompanists; Doreen Richards and Mary Hill. Treas; Tom Williams Sec; Maurice Clack
Colin Ridgers takes over as Musical Director, June Neilson returns to the piano for the annual show ‘Wings of Song’ and familiar round of local performances. Doreen Richards joins us as accompanist later in the year due to June’s ill health.
Mary Hill steps out of the contraltos to share the accompanist duties along with Doreen for the annual show ‘Come Season Come Song’ and many other local appearances.
1981 Oi/c: Flt Lt Vic Baker. Deputy: F Sgt Maurice Spalding. MD Colin Ridgers. Accompanists: Doreen Richards & Mary Hill. Secretary Maurice Clack. Treasurer Tom Williams.
Date? Hailey Primary School – Village concert
Dec 5th John Radcliffe Hall – Helen House and Friends of JR
May Annual Show ‘Come Season Come Song‘ the year set to music.
Nov 4th Salvation Army. St. Ebbes Oxford.
1982 O I/c Flt Lt Roy Morris, MD Colin Ridgers. Sec: F Sgt Maurice Spalding -from Maurice Clack. Mary Hill takes over as accompanist and later Gail Johnston, whose husband is serving with the USAF at RAF Fairford, joins as joint accompanist for the annual show ‘East Meets West’ which takes place at the newly refurbished Witney Corn Exchange on May 13th, 14th and 15th. Many other performances follow with a joint concert on 5th June with the Band of the RAF College, Cranwell in St Mary’s Witney.
The Singers had, previously under Bert Walker, visited and performed in a local Leonard Cheshire Home and from that stemmed an invitation to St. Annes on Sea. There, the Singers performed in The Drive Methodist Church on the evening of Saturday 16th October 1982 (for the Leonard Cheshire Foundation) and formed the choir for a service the following morning. On 28th November the Singers performed in a joint concert in the Colston Hall, Bristol A ‘Royal Air Force Concert Spectacular’, and a third record ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ is made in London, this one under the direction of Colin Ridgers.
Feb 14th RAF Fairford for ‘Women of the Chapel’
May 13,14 & 15th Annual Show ‘East Meets West’
May 21st Hailey WI
June 5th Joint Concert with band of RAF Cranwell College in St. Mary’s Church, Witney. (Freedom of Witney celebration.)
June 19th Flower festival
July 16th Carterton Social Centre
Sept 11th Banbury Horton General Hospital
Sept 17th Holyrood House, Southleigh
Oct 1st Stonesfield
Oct 8th Lady of Lourdes School, Witney
Oct 16/17th Blackpool/St Annes on Sea
Oct 28th Colston Hall, Bristol with Western Band of the RAF and appearance of Sir Douglas Bader.
Nov 20th Oxford University Press (Ex-Servicemen’s Ass)
Dec 4th London for recording of ‘Here, There & Everywhere’
Dec 11th Cabaret Night
Dec 17th Filkins Village Hall
Dec 19th Station Church
Dec 20th Abingdon
Dec 21st Freeland Tuesday Club
1984 MD Colin Ridgers. O i/c Flt Lt Roy Morris, Deputy i/c & Sec: F.Sgt Maurice Spalding (Maurice posted to RAF St. Athan later in year ) Treas. Tom Williams. Accompanists: Gail Johnston & Mary Hill.
Annual show, ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ with the title taken from the record, and another busy year of engagements.
Feb 13th RAF Fairford (for ‘Women of the Chapel’)
April 21,22 &23 Spring Show ‘Here, There & Everywhere’ Corn Exchange, Witney.
May 2nd Bampton Street Fair.
May 13th Carterton
May 20th Ramsden
June 10th Tower Hill Primary School
June 18th RAF Brize Norton Air Day. 3 x 20 min sports and selling records.
June 25th Temple Cowley United Reformed Church
July 15th St. Bartholomew’s Church Ducklington
Aug 6th Carterton gala
Sept 17th Horton General Hospital
Oct 1st Islip Village Hall
Oct 28th Church House Headington -for Mission to Seamen
Nov 11th Buckland Village Hall
Nov 25th Burford Methodist Church
Dec 10th Cabaret Night
Dec 16th Corn Exchange Witney, by & for, St. John’s Ambulance
Dec 19th Stonesfield Village Hall
Dec 20th Brize Norton Elder Bank Hall ‘Happy Circle’ followed by carols at Carterton Town Hall -Mayor: D Bulley.
1984 Gail’s husband is posted back to the States and selfishly takes Gail with him. Fortunately, Gail introduces Marcia Elliot, also the wife of a USAF Officer serving at RAF Fairford, and sees us through the annual show with Mary. This show ‘Musical Memories’ marks the Singers 15 year milestone. (Corn Exchange, Witney. Wed –Sat 16-19th May. Admission £1.80 -Conc £1 ) MD Colin Ridgers, Accompanists Mary Hill & Marcia Elliot, O I/c Flt Lt Simon Drew, Treas: Tom Williams. Sec Margaret Lawley, In the latter part of the year June Neilson, restored to full fitness, returns.
On June 2nd the Singers visited Llantwit Major in South Wales and performed a joint concert with the L Major choir in the station theatre at RAF St. Athan. Maurice Spalding, a member of the RAF BZN Singers had been posted to RAF St. Athan and ,also being a member of the L Major choir, arranged the visit.
1985 Early in the year baton changes hands from Colin to John Garrick. There being insufficient time left to produce an annual show to the expected standard, the decision was reluctantly taken to miss a year. With June back at the piano, the familiar round of local performances continues whilst working on the 1986 show.
Oi/c Sqn Ldr D Jones. Accompanist: June Neilson, Treasurer: Tom Williams,MD: John Garrick, Booking Sec: Jean Barbara, Admin Sec: Margaret Lawley
Jan 25th Shilton
Feb 23rd Bampton
March 15th Hailey Village hall
April 23rd Carterton St. George’s Day– Mayor’s Ball
April 26th Burford School
May 22nd Salvation Army Citadel, Swindon
June 6th Yarnton – William Fletcher School
June 29th Jumble Sale WI Hall Carterton
Aug 3rd Stall at Carterton Gala
Sept 20th RAF Brize Norton Community Centre St. Christopher’s Church Appeal
Oct 5th Banbury, Horton GeneraL Hospital
Oct 21st Witney Community Hospital
Nov 15th Swindon -Brimble Physically Handicapped School
Nov 23rd Temple Cowley Methodist Church
Nov 30th Buckland
Dec 7th Cabaret Night
Dec 8th Burford Methodist Church – afternoon
Dec 13th Didcot Power Station – Pensioners’ reunion
Dec 18th Age Concern Carterton
Dec 20th Milton u-Wychwood
1986 MD John Garrick. Accompanist June Neilson O i/c Sqn Ldr Denis Jones
April 24-26th (Thurs-Sat) The annual show back again with ‘Another Op’nin of Another Show’
24th-26th Thursday-Sat April. Corn Exchange, Witney. (tickets £1.80)
May 9th Lechlade -Girl Guides
May 18th Carterton Arts festival. Joint concert with Stonesfield Silver Band
June 14th Jumble sale WI Hall
June 16th Concert with Salvation Army -Carterton
July 12th Kidlington Beckley School
Sept 19th Minster Lovell V. Hall (for Methodist Church)
Sept 27th Kidlington St Mary’s Church
Oct 11th Carterton Methodist Church
Nov 8th Church Hall Grove, Wantage
Nov 28th Swindon Brimble Hill School
Dec 8th Age Concern RAF BZN Community Centre
Dec 14th Burford Methodist Church
Dec 16th Witney Methodist Church. Christmas Music and Carols—with the Myers Family Handbell Ringers and Blakes School Children’s Choir – for Rotary Club.
Dec 21st RAF BZN St. Christopher’s Carol service
1987 MD John Garrick, Accompanist June Neilson. Oi/c Flt Lt Sue Slater (WRAF) Treas: Tom Williams. Sec Margaret Lawley.
Jan 10th Appleton
Jan 17th Headington Mc Master House
Annual show ‘Best of the West’. Corn Exchange 14,15 and 16th May (tickets £2)
June 5th Temple Cowley (Methodist Church)
June 26th Hailey Village Church
Oct 10th Beckley School
Oct 15th Elderbank Hall Brize Norton -Inner Wheel
Nov 28th Grove St. John’s Church
Dec 6th Burford Methodist Church
Dec 7th Age Concern. Carterton
Dec 15th Witney High St Methodist (Rotarians)
Dec 20th St. Christophers RAF BZN 9 lessons and Carols.
After a busy year with the Singers, due to pressure of work, John Garrick returns the baton to Colin Ridgers.
1988 Annual show, traditionally held around Springtime, is moved to the Autumn under the appropriate title of ‘The Late, Late Spring Show’ as Colin Ridgers rejoins for his second tour as Musical Director.
Corn Exchange, Witney Sept 29th, 30th and Oct 1st. Accompanist: June Neilson.
O i/c Flt LT S Slater (from June-Fl.t. Lt Al Humphries. Deputy I/c and Sec: WO Maurice Spalding. Treas: Tom Williams. At AGM subs increased from £2 to £3 per quarter. June 11th salvation Army. Oxford
June 17th Leafield (South Leigh)
Sept 29, 30th and Oct 1st ‘Late, Late, Spring Show’
Oct 11th Tackley WI
Oct 28th Witney Inner Wheel (Seeward Hall)
Nov 11th RAFA- Social Centre Carterton
Nov 18th Leafield (Church Spire Appeal)
Dec 9th Inner Wheel Windrush Valley (Seeward Hall)
Dec 10th Cabaret Evening
Dec 11th Burford Methodist Church
Dec 14th Horspath
Dec 18th Station Church
1989 Officer in charge Flt Lt Alan Humphries. Deputy I/c & Sec W O Maurice Spalding Treas; Tom Williams,Sec; Mary Hill. MD Colin Ridgers. Accompanist; June Neilson, .
Singers asked to be referred to in publicity as Brize Norton Singers and not RAF for security reasons i.e. IRA but this was not maintained for any length of time.
14th April Yarnton (in aid of 6 year old with cerebral palsy going to Hungary for treatment)
2nd June North Leigh Methodist Chapel
25th June Grove Senior Citizens
8th July Bampton
8th Sept Officers’ Mess RAF Brize Norton
7th Oct Annual Show ‘Autumn Serenade’ (for Witney Ambulance Service)
15th Nov Hardwick & Ducklington WI
18th Nov Ramsden V H -Cats Protection League
5th Dec Sgts’ Mess RAF Brize Norton
16th Dec Cabaret Night
17th Dec Station Church
18th Dec Stonesfield Derby and Joan Club
Annual Show ‘Autumn Serenade’. Colin had had a heart attack early in the year and much of the preparation for this show was lead by Dave Bates who stepped out of the basses to relieve Colin. Happily Colin was fit enough to take the baton for the show.
1990 AGM 2/7/90 O i/c: Flt Lt Alan Humphries, Treasurer: Tom Williams, Secretary Mary Hill, MD: Colin Ridgers, Accompanist: June Neilson. Choreography: Doreen Weeetman,Publicitty :Di Poole, Librarian: Flt Lt Chas Roach, Entertainments: Beryl Marrs. Maurice Spalding took over Sec post later in the year when Mary Hill moved to Blackpool.
On 9th June, Colin Ridgers handed over to Chris Ward who took over as Musical Director just two weeks before the annual show ‘A 21st Celebration’ the proceeds of which were shared between Springfield School and RAF Benevolent Fund. This was followed, within a month, by the Singers taking a major part in The Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.
Jan. 3rd St. John’s Carterton. (Witney Hospital)
Jan 5th Headway
March 9th Woodgreen School (Cancer Research)
March 17th St. John’s Carterton (Charlie Luke Trust)
May 18th or 19th Woodgreen School Joint concert with Stonesfield band.
June 9th Oxford Town Hall. Heartbeat Club for JR Coronary Unit. The Singers shared the stage at the Oxford Town Hall with the Maesteg Children’s Choir. This occasion was to result in a close association forming between the two organisations.
June 16th In aid of John Masefield Cheshire Home. Burcot, Dorchester. Concert held in Amey Hall, Abingdon School.
Aug 4th Wedding at Benson (Miss Katryne Blackwell)
October 18,19 and 20th Annual Show: ‘ 21st Celebration’ Corn Exchange, Witney
Nov 10th Festival of Remembrance. Royal Albert Hall (see story at bottom)
Nov 24th Parish Church, Wantage
Dec 1st Cabaret Night.
Dec 7th Carterton Methodist Church
Dec 13th Rotary Club Carol Concert. Witney High St Methodist Church.
Dec 18th Carterton Town Hall
1991 AGM. 4th Feb ’91 O i/c: Flt Alan Humphries. (Later in year, F.O. Chris Lay, Deputy Flt Lt Chas Roach) Treasurer: Tom Williams. MD: Chris Ward. Accompanist: June Neilson. Secretary: Maurice Spalding. Publicity:Pat Clements, Choreography :Beryl Marrs, Librarian: Sarah Luke, Entertainment :Linda Barns
Jan 26th Appleton WI
Feb 1st Bartholomew School. Eynsham
Feb 4th AGM
March 14th Ceeward Hall Witney -Inner Wheel Club
March 22nd Finstock School. Raise funds for adventure playground
April 13th Maesteg – to perform with the Maesteg Children’s Choir in Maesteg Town Hall at 7pm following a civic reception by mayor at 3pm.
April 23rd Carterton Town Hall. St George’s Day
May 18th Shipton-u-Wychwood
Oct 10, 11 and 12th Annual Show Witney Corn Exchange. ‘Singers in Concert’ (Proceeds -£1,000 -to Western Corner Project -The Children’s Society).Tickets £4 (£2 concessions)
Oct 26th Swindon Salvation Army Citadel. -Over 60’s Club
Nov 3rd Swindon Festival of Remembrance
Nov 16th Witney Masonic Hall (Dr Amos Griffiths Memorial Fund)
Nov 24th Grove – Senior Citizens’ Sunday Night Club
Dec 6th Chipping Norton Town Hall in aid of Ramp Fund
Dec 7th Cabaret Night
Dec 8th Age Concern
Dec 13th Witney Rotary Club – Carols. High St Methodist Witney
Dec 18th St. John’s Carterton
1992 AGM 2nd March O I/c: F.O. Chris Lay. Treasurer: Tom Williams, MD Chris Ward, Sec: Maurice Spalding. Accompanist June Neilson, Choreography: Beryl Marrs, Publicity: Pat Clements, Librarian: Margaret Lawley,
March 28th Caversham Reading -Save the Children
Local performances as far a field as Caversham with annual concert ‘World of Song’.
Feb 7th Gateway School Carterton
April 23rd Carterton St George’s Day. Carterton Social Centre
Feb 29th Corn Exchange RNLI
March 14th Long Hanborough
May 16th North Leigh school -with their musicians
June 13th Cirencester
June 27th Maesteg
Oct 8, 9, 10th Annual Show ‘World of Song’
Oct 24th Swindon Salvation Army
Nov 6th St Bartholomew’s School, Eynsham
Dec 10th Witney Methodist – Carols
Dec 19th St. John’s Carterton
Dec 21st Age Concern (invited to rehearsal evening)
Dec 22nd Rowing Machine Witney
1993 AGM 8th Feb. O i/c: F.O. Chris Lay, Deputy: W.O. Steve Tolhurst, MD: Chris Ward. Accompanist: June Neilson (who was awarded an AOC’s commendation in the New Years’ Honours List.) Treasurer: Tom Williams, Sec: Maurice Spalding. Publicity: Pat Clements. Librarian: Margaret Lawley. Entertainment: Gail Cole
March 6th Maesteg Town Hall with The Maesteg Children’s Choir
April 2nd Oxford Town Hall
April 16th Abingdon Lions Club
May 8th Grove
June 12th JR Hospital (with Maesteg choir and Oxford WMVC)
Oct 28, 29 & 30th Annual Show ‘Serenade of Song In aid of Witney MS Society.
Nov 12th Corn Exchange, Witney. Royal British legion. (cancelled by organisers)
Dec 4th Swindon Salvation Army
Dec 11th Cabaret Night
March saw the Singers back in Maesteg for their third joint concert and in June the Maesteg children joined the Singers and the Oxford Welsh MVC in a three choir event at the John Radcliffe Hospital. For this event the Singers hosted the children’s choir which toured RAF Brize Norton in the afternoon, followed by tea in the Elder Bank Hall, Brize Norton Village -attended by the Mayor of Carterton -Councillor G Fox. The three choirs had been introduced, and brought together, by Dick Austin, an indefatigueable fund raiser for the JR. Following the annual show ‘Serenade of Song’, Chris Ward retires as full time Musical Director -after 3 years- but continues to support the Singers by conducting a number of local shows whilst the search for a Musical Director continued.
1994 MD: Richard Sharpe. Accompanist: June Neilson. Oi/c Flt Lt Chris Lay. Dep Oi/c WO Steve Tolhurst. Treas: Tom Williams. Sec: Maurice Spalding.
The Singers are successful, somewhat later in the year than they had hoped, in recruiting Richard Sharpe as their new Musical Director. Having done much of the preparation for this year’s ‘25th Anniversary Concert’ Richard had prior commitments over the dates of the show and the Singers were fortunate to once again be able to call on the services of Chris Ward to see through the final weeks of rehearsal and the actual show, held in the Corn Exchange on the 26th –29th Oct. The final night, Saturday, was reserved for invited guests with a post concert reception/party in the Masonic hall..
March 18th Venue: Gateway School
May 27th Venue: Northleigh School
June 10th St. John’s Carterton (Aid to Romania)
June 17th Kidlington. Exeter Hall. (RNIB) With OWMVC
June 24th St.Bartholomew’s, Ducklington (Fabric Fund)
Oct 27,28 & 29th Annual Show ’25th Anniversary Concert’ Corn Exchange
The final Saturday night of the annual concert was for previous MDs, Officers I/c, invited guests and ex-members with previous MDs conducting a couple of songs of their choice.
Nov 12th Swindon Salvation Army (Citadel) A lovely lady called Flo Harris was always our contact /liason for this event.
Nov 26th Grove. Dec 16th Milton-u-Wychwood (Evergreen Club).
Dec 17th Cabaret Night.
Dec 19th –Mon. Rowing Machine PH–Witney.
Dec 20th –Tues Horton Hospital (Fiennes Centre).
Dec 22nd –Thurs Oaken Holt
1995 MD: Richard Sharpe. Accompanist: June Neilson. O I/c Flt Lt Chris Lay. Deputy i/c WO DG Roberts. Treas: Tom Williams.Sec: Maurice Spalding. Note: April WO Bob Roberts became O I/c
Fri May 5th Abingdon -Abbey Hall (Lions Club VE Day evening.)
Sat May 6th Maesteg
June 3rd Bicester (RNIB with OWMVC)
June 24th Appleton
July 7th ‘Two Choir Concert’ Oxford Town Hall (with OWMVC)
Annual Show, due in October, was cancelled due to business commitments of MD.
Sat Dec 9th Cabaret Night
Dec 17th Radio Charwell (3pm)
Dec 17th St. Britius (Brize Norton –carols 6pm)
Dec 18th Rowing Machine PH Witney
Dec 20th Witney Golf Club (Carols 1/2 hour)
Dec 21st Oaken Holt
1996 Oi/c Feb- WO Bob Roberts handed over to Flt Lt Simon Hamilton.
MD Richard Sharpe. Accompanist June Neilson. Treasurer: Tom Williams. Sec: Maurice Spalding.
March 20,21 & 22 Annual Show ‘Rhythms of Life’
March 29th Gateway School
May 3rd Woodgreen School
May 18th Wedding at RAF Brize Norton
June 23rd Buckland Church
June 29th Sunday Evening concert at Betterton House, Ardington (Wantage)
July 19th Grove. Old Mill Hall
Aug 18th, for 81 SU Bampton (Bampton Old Folks)
Sept 17th Charlbury Cancelled by them)
Nov 2nd St. Bartholomew’s Ducklington.
Nov 9th Milton Keynes with OWMVC
Nov 30th Eynsham Hall. North Leigh.
Dec 7th Cabaret Night.
Dec 15th St. Mary’s Church, Witney—Carol Concert.
Dec 19th Oaken Holt.
1997 MD Richard Sharpe. O i/c Simon Hamilton. Accompanist June Neilson. Sec Maurice Spalding. Treasurer Tom Williams. Librarian Margaret Lawley. Publicity John Jowett. Entertainments Linda Stone.
Annual show ‘Something to Sing About’ September 26th, 27th and 28th. Corn Exchange Witney.
March 21st Didcot Civil Hall (Red Cross)
April 18th Weston on the Green
May 9th Wantage (RAFA)
June 14th Ardington
June 28th Stonesfield (Cancelled by them)
July 5th Kingston Bagpuize
Aug 10th Bampton
Sept 13th Salvation Army Citadel (Swindon)
Sept. 26/27/28 Annual Show
Dec 6th Cabaret Night
Dec 14th Carol Service. St Britius Brize Norton
Dec 16th Horton Hospital (Fiennes Centre)
Dec 18th Oaken Holt.
Dec 19th Families’ Carol Evening (in Community Centre)
1998 MD Richard Sharpe. Oi/c Flt Lt Simon Hamilton. Accompanist June Neilson. Treasurer: Tom Williams. Sec Maurice Spalding.
Annual Concert ‘Celebration’ Corn Exchange Oct 1-3rd
Jan 6th Cabaret Evening
May 1st Milton-U-Wychwood.
June 5th Weston-on-the-Green
June 19th Wantage (RAFA)
Oct 23rd Grove
Dec 5th Cabaret Evening
Dec 11th St. Bartholomew’s Ducklington. (Night of Miracles)
Dec 14th RAF Community Centre (Night of Miracles)
Dec 16th Oaken Holt Carol Evening
Dec 18th Weston-on-the-Green (Night of Miracles)
A committee meeting on 27th April MD suggested that the Christmas Concerts be based around the Cantata ‘Night of Miracles’. Two venues –possibly St. Bartholomew’s, Ducklington and one other needed. This Cantata, and others in all later years became the basis of Christmas concerts.
1999 MD: Richard Sharpe. Oi/c Flt Lt Simon Hamilton. Deputy Oi/c F.Sgt G Nicholl. Accompanist: June Neilson. Treasurer: Tom Williams. Sec: Maurice Spalding. Publicity: Harry Bean. Members: Anona Harris, Judy Shinn. Publicity: John Jowett. Librarian: Margaret Lawley
A joint concert on 10th July with the Maesteg Children’s Choir and the Oxford Welsh MVC in the Witney Methodist Church. The concert – titled -’30th Anniversary Concert’ was a fitting celebration of this anniversary.
Annual Concert ‘The Autumn Concert’ 30th Year since founding. Proceeds to two charities- DEBRA and Sobell House Hospice.
Oct 30th Faringdon Town Hall
Nov 12th Weston –on-Green
Dec 10th St. Mary’s. Chesterton
Dec 11th Cabaret Night
Dec 15th RAF Fairford.
Dec 17th Milton-u-Wychwood.
Dec 20th St. Bartholomew’s Ducklington.
June Neilson, who joined the Singers soon after they were formed and became accompanist in 1971, retires through ill-health and, in the summer, Peter Hunt replaced her as accompanist. June Neilson became the first person to be presented with ‘An Honory Life Membership Certificate’ of the RAF Brize Norton Singers.
2000 MD Richard Sharpe. Oi/c Flt Lt Simon Hamilton. Accompanist Peter Hunt. Treas: Tom Williams. Sec: Maurice Spalding
Jan 10th Cabaret Night
March 10th Lechlade (in aid of RNLI)
April 29th Marston (in aid of Church funds)
June 25th Singers take part in Carterton’s 100th Birthday and Milleniium celebrations on the Recreation Ground.
July 8th Chesterton.
Sept 2nd Corn Exchange , Witney.
Sept 22nd Wantage (RAFA)
Nov 3rd Weston-on-the-Green
Due to illness of the MD, Richard Sharpe, in August, the annual show (due to be held in October) had to be cancelled.
Dec 16th High St Methodist Church, Witney. Christmas Concert in aid of Bridewell Organic Gardens.
2001 MD Richard Sharpe O/ic F Sgt Nicoll. Treas, Tom Williams, Sec Maurice Spalding
Friday 12th Oct. Annual show ‘As Long as I Have Music’ in aid of St. John’s Ambulance and the Charlton Centre (Wantage)
Engagements during year:
April 6th Corn Exchange- Moreland Action Group.
April 29th Marston
June 16th Grove Parish Church- Church extension.
June 22nd Faringdon Corn Exchange- McMillan Nurses.
12th Oct. Annual Show. Methodist Church, Witney???
3rd Nov. Stanton Harcourt- (RBLegion.)
8th Dec. Cabaret Night, Community Centre RAF
9th Dec. Windrush Social Club, Witney
Dec. 13th St. Bartholomew’s. D’ton (Christmas concert)
16th Dec. St. Birinius. Brize Norton (Carol Service)
17th Dec. Carterton Methodist Church. (Christmas Concert)
2002 MD Richard Sharpe A wonderful occasion, a visit by the founders of the RAF Brize Norton Singers – Bert and Barbara Walker- with their Isle of Man choir ‘Harmony’ resulted in a joint concert ‘Singers ‘n Harmony’, held on 17th May in High Street Methodist Churh, . Bert and Barbara were presented with certificates honouring them as Honory Life Members of the RAF Brize Norton Singers.
Following this concert the MD, Richard Sharpe, resigned for personal and health reasons and Peter Hunt, who had been accompanist since June Neilson’s retirement, took over as MD and accompanist. Richard had been the RAF Brize Norton Singers’ MD since 1994 and had taken them through some exciting and interesting years.
Engagements: 22nd Feb. Tackley V Hall
12th April. Lechlade V Hall (RNLI)
10th May. Grove
17th May See above.
21st July Windrush Social Club
20th Sept. Carterton Methodist (RAFA)
16th Nov. Stanton Harcourt (RBL)
13th Dec. Carterton Methodist (Christmas)
15th Dec. Windrush Social Club.
17th Dec St. Bartholomew’s D’ton
2003 The Singers had been rehearsing in the RAF Brize Norton Community Centre since it opened in 1974. However during 2003 it had undergone a major refurbishment and, despite earlier promises, the Singers were not permitted use of the building upon completion. Whilst the Centre had been out of use the Singers had been meeting in the Witney High Street Methodist Church and decided to continue with this arrangement which was eminently suitable regarding location and facilities. Appreciating that the Singers could not continue as ‘The RAF Brize Norton Singers’ their Autumn concert was aptly called ‘Lets Begin Again’ after a song they were performing.
In December an Extraordinary General Meeting was held at which it was decided to rename the RAF Brize Norton Singers and they formally became the ‘Brize Singers’ thus maintaining a link with their previous existence. Rod Thomas was elected Chairman.
March 8th Chesterton
April 26th Wedding at Clanfield
May 9th Lechlade VH (Silver Threads)
May 23rd Weston –on-the-Green
Sept 19th RAFA Carterton??
11th Oct Toddenham
24th Oct Annual Concert –Witney Methodist
8th Nov Stanton Harcourt RBL
15th Nov Faringdon (McMillan Nurses)
21st Nov North Leigh
12th Dec Witney Methodist (Rotary)
16th Dec St. Bartholomew’s D’ton
28th Feb Kirtlington
24th April Toddenham
20th June St. Bartholomew’s Ducklington Church Flower Show
Oct 1st Annual concert ‘Voices in Harmony’ with The Wantage MVC the first visit by this choir to the Singers
Oct 8th Carterton Methodist (RAFA)
16th October Toddenham
6th November RBL (Stanton Harcourt)
26th November Witney Lights
10th December High St. Methodist Rotary Concert
14th December St. Bartholomew’s Ducklington. Carols by candlelight.
17th December Christmas Concert High St. Methodist
19th March – guests at Wantage Male Voice Choir’s Annual Concert
30th September Annual Concert ‘Voices and Brass’ with the Yarnton Band
Christmas Concerts High Street Methodist Church and Ducklington
3rd February High Street Methodist Church with Yarnton Band
19th May Shipton under Wychwood for Hearing Dogs for deaf people
29th September Annual Concert ‘An Autumn Serenade’ with the Oxford Welsh MVC.
‘Sing Gloria’, Christmas Concerts High Street Methodist Church and Ducklington
MD Peter Hunt Committee: Chairman Maurice Spalding. Sec; Tony Southern. Treas: Geoff Jenkins. Librarian Margaret Lawley. Wardrobe. Betty Sowerby. Mary Jordan, Peter Franklin, Suzanne Aikman and Richard Leader.
September Annual Concert
‘Sing Christmas’, Christmas Concerts High Street Methodist Church and Ducklington
25th April Charlbury
26th September Annual Concert ‘Swing & Sing’ with 57 Swing Band
1st November British Legion Poppy Appeal Concert, Stanton Harcourt
‘Night of Miracles’, Christmas Concerts High Street Methodist Church and Ducklington
2009 MD Peter Hunt Committee: Chairman Maurice Spalding. Sec Tony Southern. Treas. Geoff Jenkins. Wardrobe Betty Sowerby. Librarian Margaret Lawley. Mary Jordan, Peter Franklin, Suzanne Aikman and Richard Leader.
24th April Charlbury
6th June St John’s Church, Carterton
Friday September 25th ’40th Anniversary Concert’ Guests this year were the Yarnton Band with Guy Browning compere
14th November Farmor’s School, Fairford
‘The Wonder of Christmas’ Christmas Concerts High Street Methodist Church and Ducklington
1st October Annual Concert ‘Music and Magic’ with Geoff Roffe. MD Peter Hunt .Compere Noel Parkinson.
30th October Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal Concert at Stanton Harcourt
‘Sing Gloria’ Christmas Concerts High Street Methodist Church and Ducklington
MD Peter Hunt. Chairman: Maurice Spalding. Sec: Sally Craig Treas: Geoff Jenkins.
7th May St Mary’s, Cogges
30th September Annual Concert High St Methodist Church ‘Voices and Brass’ with the Yarnton Band
15th October ‘Music and Magic’ at Lechlade
‘Winter’s Grace ‘Christmas Concerts High Street Methodist Church and Ducklington
24th March guests at Wantage Male Voice Choir’s Annual Concert
28th September Annual Concert ‘Magical Moments’ with young magician Ed Quigley.
Christmas Concerts High Street Methodist Church and Ducklington
On November 12th Peter Hunt informed the Singers that he would be retiring as MD/accompanist wef Appleton Concert in late January 2013.
During January negotiations took place to find a new MD and Rebecca (Beccy) Mosely-Morgan became Musical Director and Ruth Almgill temporary accompanist. Unfortunately this did not work out and in July Bernard West started as MD and Harriet Warner accompanist for final rehearsals prior to, and for, concerts.
Due to the change over of musical directors, only three engagements were held during 2013 – these were at Farmor’s School, Fairford in aid of ‘Friends of the hospital’ and Christmas concerts at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Ducklington on 10th Dec and High St Methodist Church on 13th Dec. The Ducklington Handbell Ringers played on both occasions. No annual concert this year.
Bernard West’ s first full year as Musical Director. Two summer concerts in June at Grove and the Batt School Summer Fair. Annual concert with the Yarnton Band and two ‘Winter’s Grace’ Christmas concerts at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Ducklington and the Witney High Street, Methodist Church.
Charlbury in May, Annual Concert with the Yarnton Band in September and two– almost traditional- concerts in December at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Ducklington, and Witney High Street Methodist Church.
Appleton WI in January. ‘Songs on a Summer evening’ at St Bartholomew’s, Ducklington in June and at St Kenelm’s, Old Minster Lovell in July.
23rd September Annual Concert ‘Voices & Brass’ with Yarnton Band
Christmas Concerts at High Street Methodist Church and Ducklington. Carol Singing at Otters Court.
In January Bernard West notified the committee that he would be resigning as MD at Easter, due to family commitments. He had been with us for three and a half fruitful years.
Elliott Rooney started as MD in May. We gave a concert in June and another in November at Richmond Village, Witney.
Our Annual Concert on 22nd September, with Yarnton Band, was abandoned due to the smoke alarms being set off in the Methodist Church. A re-run was held on Monday 9th October. Musical Director Elliott Rooney, Accompanist Bernard West.
Christmas Concerts at Otters Court, High Street Methodist Church, Witney and by candlelight at St Bartholomew’s Church Ducklington, with Ducklington Handbell Ringers ringing from the West End gallery. MD Elliott Rooney, Accompanist Bernard West.
We were invited back to sing at Charlbury Memorial Hall on 18th May.
‘Music on a Summer Evening’ at St Bartholomew’s Ducklington on 20th July.
The Yarnton Band joined us again for our annual concert in September. Our two Christmas concerts were held at Witney Methodist Church and St Bartholomew’s, Ducklington, as in previous years. We are delighted to have had Elliott Rooney conducting us and Bernard West as our accompanist.
At the AGM, in February, Maurice Spalding stood down as Chairman after 13 years in the role. David How elected as Chairman, Jude Richards Vice-Chair. The 50th Anniversary of the founding of the choir, as RAF Brize Norton Singers, was celebrated with a special concert at The Corn Exchange, Witney, on Friday 17th May. The venue was full to capacity! We were pleased to welcome several of our previous Musical Directors to the audience along with the recently elected Mayor of Witney. The programme was repeated, three weeks later, at St Bartholomew’s, Ducklington.
The Yarnton Band joined us, for the sixth year running, for our Annual Concert at Witney Methodist Church in September.
Our Witney Christmas concert was held in The Corn Exchange, with guests Oxford Harmony and we ended the year with a very enjoyable Candlelight concert at St Bartholomew’s Ducklington.
We held a successful “Come and Sing” evening in January, which resulted in seven new members joining the choir.
At the AGM in February, Diane Forster stood down as Treasurer; Marie-Sophie Fagaragan was appointed to the position.
Due to the Coronavirus lockdown we have been unable to hold rehearsals since mid March. However, we have continued to meet each week by Zoom.
List of MD’s in order since the founding of The RAF Brize Norton Singers and Brize Singers:
Bert Walker – Flt Lt RAF March 1969-1970
Frank Davies – Flt Lt RAF 1970-1973
Wilf Burns – Flt Lt RAF 1973-1975
Chris Nicholls – Customs Officer 1975-1979
Reg Beale 1979
Colin Ridgers 1980-1984
John Garrick 1985-1987
Colin Ridgers 1988-1990
Chris Ward 1990-1993
Richard Sharpe 1994-2002
Peter Hunt – accompanist 2000-2002
Peter Hunt – MD/accompanist 2002-Jan 2013
Rebecca Mosely-Morgan 2013 – (Feb-June)
Bernard West July 2013 – Apr 2017
Elliott Rooney May 2017 –
Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall. 10th November 1990
(Written by Betty Sowerby (contralto) for the Inner Wheel Club of Witney.)
Almost twelve months ago the RAF Brize Norton Singers received a phone call saying that Ralph Reader OBE would like to audition the Singers and that’s when the excitement started. We waited about two months before we heard we had been accepted. It seemed a long time to wait until the 10th November, but there were dresses to make and shirts and ties to order for the men.
Friday 9th November arrived and we set off at 11.30am for London for our first rehearsal at the Albert Hall.
On arrival we all had to sign in and received our security passes -which had to be worn at all times. We were then instructed to sit in the stalls until called.
Whilst sitting and watching everyone else go through their rehearsals, we realised just how much hard work goes in to the planning of this event which starts twelve months ahead. Timing is essential and, at times, it looked as if things would never go right.
At 2.45 pm we were called and, after seeing what the other performers had gone through we were all getting a little nervous. We went down to the area to be positioned in front of the massed bands of the Guards Division. I always know where to stand – being the tallest of the ladies I am always the ‘book-end’ on the back row!
Our MD and the colonel- the conductor of the band- had a chat. We were then ready for our piece ‘The Way We Were’ – IT WAS TERRIBLE – the colonel shouted at our MD, then at the singers. We couldn’t hear ourselves singing -the Colonel couldn’t hear us! If at first you don’t succeed try, try, try again and that is what we did – still without much success. The colonel wanted to do it ‘his way’ in quick time. In the end Robert Reader came to our rescue and told him it would have to be done ‘our way’.
At 6 pm we had a full rehearsal with everyone doing their part. We were all getting very nervous at meeting the colonel again. It went better than the first time but no one was really satisfied, so it was arranged for our accompanist, June Neilson, to play the piano alone for our item – everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
After a tiring day it was time to return home, arriving back at RAF Brize Norton at about 10.45 pm.
Saturday 10th November had arrived! Leaving at 7.30 am we arrived at the Albert Hall at 9.15 am and were directed to our changing room which was a bar ‘up in the gods’ 100 steps up and 100 steps down -7 times. A good slimming exercise!
We changed into our dresses, then sat and watched the dress rehearsal until we had our call to go down. Butterflies were flying around my stomach – and my heart was thumping. The gymnastic displpay team were about to finish-we were all in line back stage, ready to make a dash for it. The arena lights went out and then it was one mad dash to be in position before the lights went on again. Trying to dodge all the gymnastic equipment coming off and the TV cameras and cables going on was like an obstacle race. Thank goodness there were no mishaps.
It was lunch time and all performers were provided with a salad or steak and kidney pie at the nearby College of Music.
Time to get ready for our first big moment at 2.30 pm. What a thrill when the lights went on and we were standing in front of 7,000 people. At tea time we went over to the College again for high tea.
Nearly time for our big moment: to perform in front of Her Majesty the Queen. The moment had come, the time we had been waiting for – to stand in front of the Queen and 7,000 spectators, plus the TV audience -and sing our hearts out.
When the poppy petals fluttered down-they are made of crepe paper-I felt a chill up and down my spine. Did you know a man sits in a cage above the arena to release the petals?