The Society was founded in 1903 as the Battle Choral Society. Its first public performance
was of Charles Stanford’s Revenge in 1904. The Society was out of action during the First
World War but was re-founded by J R Sheehan-Dare, whose daughter was the headmistress
of Battle Abbey Girls School. His forceful personality and musical know-how led to the
first ever BBC outside broadcast of Mozart’s Requiem from St Mary’s Church, Battle, on
29 th April 1930, performed by Battle Choral Society and others, accompanied by ‘Hastings
Municipal Orchestra’.
Throughout the 1930s a steady succession of well-known oratorios were performed, but
the outbreak of the Second World War again forced closure for a time. In 1948 the Society
re-formed, with its first performance being Edward German’s Merrie England. The
performance was delayed for thirty minutes whilst extra chairs were found for the five
hundred people who had turned up. The famous BBC radio personality Richard Dimbleby
presented gifts to the lady soloists.
The Society flourished and continues to this day with spring and autumn concerts. In 2003
the Society celebrated its Centenary with a performance of Handel’s Messiah in Battle
Church. Soloists from the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne included the renowned
mezzo-soprano Louise Winter and one of the leading baritones, Gerald Finley, who had
sung with the choir as a student.
Under the guidance of our Director of Music, John Langridge, the choir has performed
many of the great choral works more usually undertaken by the major choral societies. In
June 2007 we joined forces with the Phoenix Choir, Eastbourne, to celebrate the 150 th
anniversary of the birth of Sir Edward Elgar. Together with a choir from Battle Abbey
School we performed Elgar’s magnificent Dream of Gerontius to a sold-out De La Warr
Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea. The following year we performed Ralph Vaughan Williams’
Serenade to Music and his immense Sea Symphony to a packed Christ Church, St Leonards.
There were few empty seats in May 2009 for our ‘Evening of Italian Music’, which included
Rossini’s Stabat Mater and since then most performances have been to a full house.
Performances of such works as Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Fauré’s
Requiem have been to full houses.
In October 2018 we were privileged to take part in the Battle Arts Festival and performed
requiems by Fauré and Duruflé in St Mary’s Church. This was followed on 11 th November
2018 by taking part in a moving Remembrance Commemoration in the Abbot’s Hall of
Battle Abbey School for the Centenary of the Armistice, when we performed Elgar’s For
the Fallen, music set to a poem by the World War I poet, Laurence Binyon. Our final
concert of the year was a Christmas Concert at St Mary’s Church on 15 th December, with
Christmas carols old and new, readings of Christmas poems, and two virtuoso piano solos
by our very own Cameron Milne.
Lastly, as a reminder of our links with the BBC, we were filmed singing O Little Town of
Bethlehem in St Mary’s Church for BBC South-East Today, which was broadcast on 21 st
December 2018 – a fitting end to a very busy year for the choir.