‘Exciting time’ in boys’ choir recalled

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WORTHING reader Peter Duke read with interest Edwin Wells’ memories of Worthing Boys’ Choir.

Mr Duke, of Marine Parade, said: “I think that we may well have shared some of those experiences, being of the same age.

“I certainly remember the enthusiastic organiser and conductor of the choir, Francis Crute.

“He was also the organist and choir master at St Andrew’s Church, Clifton Road, and lived in the corner house on Elizabeth Road. He was a part-time music teacher at the Purley Grammar School in Surrey and a very talented pianist and teacher.”

He remembered Norman Stewart, a lad called Costello from a musical family, and Bernard and John Groom, whose mother produced some delicious food for Mr Crute’s Christmas party.

The choir often sang at the Pier Pavilion, Mr Duke recalled, especially at the Christmas Carol Concert.

“On one occasion, we choir boys were allowed to sit with members of the orchestra and the lucky ones got a place near to the drummer, Verdi Shaw, who was responsible for the special sound effects at the end of the 1812 Overture, cannons and all!”

Rehearsals were on Mondays at 6pm for an hour, at the literary institute in Montague Street, and occasionally in the pavilion at the southern end of the pier and upstairs in the County Rooms on Marine Parade.

“For a number of weeks, we rehearsed in the Assembly Hall before the adult Philharmonic Choir, which included some of our teachers past and present, Miss Wilson the two Miss Belchambers and Miss Buckley.”

The repertoire of the boys’ choir was quite extensive, Mr Duke recalled, and included all the songs from Walt Disney’s Snow White, as well as Sussex by the Sea.

“But the favourites often requested by the audience were The Holy City, The Lost Chord, Danny Boy and, most of all, O for the Wings of a Dove.”

The choir had regular link-ups with a children’s home in North Lancing, Sunhill Court Home for Boys in High Salvington and Gifford House, the home for war veterans.

“For several years, a small section of the choir was invited to participate in the Pickardo School of Dancing pantomimes at the Pier Pavilion,” said Mr Duke. “A really exciting time both on and back stage in very colourful performances of Dick Whittington and Robinson Crusoe. A really early taste of the glamour of the spotlights and greasepaint and playing sardines in the costume baskets.”