Singing and listening in the Albert Hall

David Towler

Unforgettable experience

My first memory is of attending performances of the Messiah given by the Royal Choral Society on Good Friday every year.  This would have been in the 1950s/1960s when I was a member of Kentish Town Parish Church in St Pancras.  Our Choirmaster and organist then was Reginald Kemish who was also a member of the Royal Choral Society. A group of us would attend the performance, all equipped with our picnic tea.  In the interval we would go over the road to Hyde Park to have our picnic, returning to the Hall for the second half.  At the end of the performance we would all rush back to Kentish Town, probably by bus, because on Good Friday evenings the choir at Kentish Town performed its own Oratorio like the Crucixion or a Cantata like The Darkest Hour. How many times I attended The Messiah I do not remember but it was for several years. My second memory is being part of the 200 strong choir for a pageant called Boy Scout.  The pageant was the creation of Ralph Reader in 1937.   I took part in it three times - in 1951, 1953 and 1959.  The Boy Scout Association presented the pageant and hired the Albert Hall for 7 days.  The pageant was performed every evening from Monday to Saturday with a matinee on Saturday afternoon.  The cast was made up of some 1200 scouts and leaders from the London and the surrounding area.  Rehearsals for the show were carried it various venues around London for a period of three months before the performances.  The pageant was performed in the Arena at the Albert Hall and the cast were accommodated in various rooms around the hall of which the choir had one.   Another part of this memory is that Reginald Kemish, being a member of the Scout Association, was recruited to be the organist for the pageant.   To sing in the Albert Hall was tremendous and the fact that we had to learn the words and music of all the songs by heart was quite different from singing in a church choir where one normally sang from a score. I believe that 1959 was the last time Boy Scout was performed and I am quite proud of having been part of the history of the show.

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