story of the choir begins in the early 1950s, when David Aylett
organised an ad hoc group of singers, mainly from local churches, to
go carol-singing to raise money for the ‘Save the Children
Fund’. The next year being World Refugee Year, the group
organised a formal concert with full orchestra and the international
soprano Isobel Baillie as soloist, raising the equivalent of £1,000
for the fund. Following the success of this, the choir was
permanently founded in 1958 as the December Festival Choir, and began
to give formal performances of the standard choral repertoire of
oratorios and masses, as well as concert versions of operas and other
lighter works. The Choir was renamed the Aylesbury Festival Choir in
January 2001 to reflect our close association with the town.
conducted the choir for 26 years. He was succeeded by Helen Blakeman
and, in 1995, by Piers Maxim, our first professional conductor and
now our President. Under Piers’ expert direction the Choir
continued to develop and flourish, expanding the repertoire to
include 20th Century works. Justin Doyle succeeded Piers in May 2001,
and was in turn succeeded by Madeleine Venner (Lovell) in March 2006.
James Davey joined us in January 2009, at the time also being
conductor of Chantage, the BBC Choir of the Year 2006. Piers, Justin,
Madeleine and James have all gone on to illustrious roles in the
For our November 2008 concert, which
showcased the première of With
a major new work written by David Aylett specially for the Choir’s
Golden Anniversary, we were very pleased to welcome back guest
conductor William Carlsake, who has led us less formally on many
In January 2017, we were delighted to
welcome Nick Austin as our new Music Director. Nick, who is also
conductor of Stanmore Choral Society and Thames Voyces, has been an
immediate hit with the choir members, keeping us up to scratch with
our singing whilst making us laugh with a fund of anecdotes.
Choir continues to be supported by high calibre soloists and
musicians. That our concerts are known for their high standards of
performance and presentation is testament to the vision, commitment
and enthusiasm of many people whose varied talents, expertise and
hard work behind the scenes have enabled the Choir to flourish
throughout its long history.
And now...we look forward to
our 60th Anniversary Year, 2018-2019!