In 1906 two small choirs “The West End Musical Union” and the “City Choir” combined to form the “Townsville Musical Union”. On Friday 27th Feb 1908 the Townsville Daily Bulletin reported an extract from the “Townsville Musical Union” Annual General Meeting which, in part, said “The Secretary’s Report referred with satisfaction to the success the society had with its performances at the Eisteddfod in which the choir carried off both choruses……”.
Office-Bearers were elected as follows:- Life-Governor Mr T.A.Maguire; Patron Mr J.N.Parkes;
President Mr R.W.McClelland; Vice-Presidents P.F.Rowland, J.Gill, Melrose, Lonsdale, Davis, Mr P.F.Hanran; Hon. Secretary Mr J.H.Foley; Hon. Treasurer Mr W.H.Donald; Committee Misses Davis, Lalor, Messrs G.G.Suthers, Parsons, Nottingham; Conductor Signor Lardelli; Auditor J.D.Walker; Hon. Pianiste Miss Palmerston; Librarian Mr Whitson.
Soon after 1920 the Society started using the AWU Hall. When the first floor was constructed in 1935, the Society moved upstairs where it had practiced its choral art and rehearsed and stored music and trophies and also props for plays and concerts. It was necessary to find a new venue for practices as the Society was advised in October 1979 that the AWU Hall in Sturt Street (rented for 1 pound a week) was scheduled for demolition.
The Choir usually performed three concerts a year and to this present day there are still concerts performed by the choir and the “Choral Aires” each year as well as still competing in the North Queensland Eisteddfod.
This Eisteddfod is held in a different North Queensland centre at Easter time each year.
In 1927 the choir was renamed the “Townsville Choral and Orchestral Society” with President Richard McLelland; Conductot W.Sholto Jones; and Pianist Ray Penprase. During World War 2 the choir went into recess but reformed in 1946 under the baton of Ray Penprase with pianist Miss Redman. Shortly after, Ella Dawson was appointed pianist and held this position until 1975. She was succeeded by Berneice O’Connor. Ray Penprase retired in 1973 and Percy Well conducted the choir until his retirement in 1979 when Brian Young took charge.
In 1953 the Townsville Choral & Orchestral Society commenced with their now much- looked -forward -to musical productions. The Desert Song was performed at the Theatre Royal. from 11th -14th November. Musical Productions were produced once a year until 1971 when two shows were produced most years to this present day.
From 1961 the Choir added Christmas Carols to the list of yearly achievements, performing at various venues and shopping centres around the city.
In 1973, Messrs Murray, Gilchrist, Wells and Nott did a lot of work on the Arts Centre in Walker Street to enable the Society to stage a musical “The Vagabond King”. Previously, the Theatre Royal in Flinders Street had been used for Eisteddfodau, Concerts and Musicals. They used the Arts Centre until the Civic Theatre was completed in 1978.
The Society was raising funds to build in Dean Street in 1968 but was unable to get enough support to continue with the plans. In 1975 the Society purchased a house in Queen Street and sold it in 1979 and then purchased the present Hall at 485 Sturt Street on 11 April, 1980. The Hall’s foundation stone was laid in May 1889 and was formally the Masonic Temple. The Assembly of God purchased the hall from the Masons for their Calvary Temple in 1934 and in the 1970’s it was re-opened after some buildings, including a house, were constructed behind the hall. The font was covered to make a stage in 1980 and the front of the stage was covered in 1986 by Michael Murray and helpers.
Theatre Restaurants which were introduced in 1987 and are still being produced each year
A warehouse and house were purchased in South Townsville in February, 1997. The house was
sold in 2004.
Ladies who were not involved in the Musical Comedy decided to form a group at private houses and in 1993 they then met in the Hall on Monday mornings and called themselves the ‘Choral Aires’. They sing for different charities and at concerts under Berneice O’Connor’s conductorship. Joan Kippen was their pianist until her death on 12 April, 1995. Margaret Bolster became Pianist in 2000. Men joined the group in 2002
The Performing Arts Historical Society Townsville would like to congratulate the Townsville Choral & Orchestral Society on their Centenary (1906 – 2006) and thank them for allowing us to put this brief
overview of their history on this website. The Choral Society are hoping to publish a book detailing their full history so look out for that and please support the Choral Society by buying the book.