A Brief History
Instituted in 1866 by lovers of choral music in the Kirkcaldy area, "The Choral" started life as the Kirkcaldy Musical Society with a membership of both singers and instrumentalists. The orchestral accompaniment was provided by the instrumentalists for the first three years before forming their own society - Kirkcaldy Amateur Orchestral Society - both societies are still thriving today. During the 1926-27 session, the singers changed their society's name to Kirkcaldy Choral Union to avoid ambiguity with the Orchestral Society and Operatic Society (both of which were formed from members who wished to diversify).
Except for during the war years (both wars), Kirkcaldy Choral Union has performed at least one concert per year. From 1901, the 'Annual Concert' was in March/April, with a performance of "Messiah" each December. During the early 1960's, policy was changed to enable the society to expand its repertoire. Concerts now generally show a contrast in style between the December and March concerts, and there has been an introduction of more modern composers, for instance, John Rutter.
Over the society's 145 years, "The Choral" has only seen fourteen conductors, including latterly John Morrison, Jim Broadley, Stuart Rathie, Bob Barclay and most recently, Kenneth Clarke. One conductor, Charles M Cowe, actually remained Musical Director for 37 years (although 5 years of WW1 came during this period). Jim Broadley is now conducting another local choir while Stuart Rathie is pursuing a solo career in the South of England. We were sorry to lose Bob at the end of the 2013/14 season when he decided to retire after many years with the Choral. We welcome Kenneth Clarke who has stepped into the fold as our latest Musical Director.
Members also have remained very loyal, with many singing for 40 to 50 years. One gentleman earlier this century served as President for 58 years! It is to be hoped that the younger members will also give this loyalty.
During the first 22 years, soloists were taken from amongst the membership - several members from each section taking turns with the solo voice part during the performance. Since 1888, the solo parts have been sung by professionals. From then until now, these soloists have either already had international recognition or have been young soloists who have gone on to have very successful careers. In days gone by, Isobel Baillie, Heddle Nash, and Owen Brannigan have been notables, with, more recently, Neil Mackie, Kathleen Livingston, Margaret Marshall, and regularly, Francis McCafferty (who helped to make our 200th concert in December 2000 such a success). We have also had the pleasure of using local talent such as Alison Gormley.
A fully cross-referenced list of all concerts can be viewed by clicking the link.