Winchester Music Club was founded in 1925 from a group called the Nightjars Madrigal Society, with an orchestral section under Dr George Dyson, then Master of Music at Winchester College, and later Director of the Royal College of Music. From the earliest days ambitious concerts have been presented, as in 1927 with a Beethoven Centenary concert featuring the Egmont Overture and the 9th Symphony. In 1928 Leon Goossens was paid five guineas as an oboist in a Schubert Centenary commemoration. In 1946 Peter Pears featured as the Evangelist in the Bach St John Passion, and in 1948 a certain Mr Scott-Joynt sang as a soloist in the Verdi Requiem in the Cathedral where his son would one day become bishop. In 1963 a performance of The Canterbury Pilgrims, written by Dyson himself, marked (then) Sir George Dyson’s eightieth birthday, a year before his death.
Isobel Baillie and Owen Brannigan were soloists under Christopher Cowan in that birthday concert and other world renowned artists such as Kathleen Ferrier, Wilfred Brown, Dennis Brain, and Vladimir Ashkenazy have performed with the Club. More recently we are proud to have worked with Felicity Lott, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, David Wilson-Johnson, Gillian Fisher and William Kendall. In 2008 we were delighted to perform a charity concert in the Cathedral with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, and in 2009 we were proud to perform with the acclaimed bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, again in a concert supporting a local charity.
Wartime concerts included contemporary works such as Britten’s Simple Symphony and Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G minor. The Club’s most recent 25 year’s programmes have included the Beethoven Missa Solemnis, the Berlioz Grande Messe des Morts and (jointly with the Waynflete Singers) Te Deum, Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony, Bach’s Mass in B minor, Tippett’s A Child of our Time, Britten’s War Requiem, and Belshazzar’s Feast by Walton. Winchester Music Club has also introduced audiences to many other less well-known works including Purcell’s King Arthur and Dohnanyi’s Missa in Dedicatione Ecclesiae Opus 35.
There has been a steady growth in musical programming in Winchester over these years, with great demand for performers and competition for audiences. The Music Club owes its existence to its members and Friends, who are ready to support both adventurous and popular programmes. The Club has always had the support and hospitality of Winchester College, from whose talented staff the Club has found its musical directors, and, in its Glee Club, fellow performers. WMC exists to perform attractive and worthwhile choral and orchestral works with the best performers it can employ. It also seeks to encourage young soloists in their future careers, as well as featuring world-class performers at its concerts. It is a tribute to the original founder, and the many dedicated members, officers and musical directors, that the club has so far achieved this ambition for the last 85 years. With its growing membership and the drive and enthusiasm of both its previous Musical Director, Nicholas Wilks, and its current Musical Director, David Thomas,the Club is delighted to continue this ambition.