The Mid-Norfolk Singers began life as the Elmham Choral Society, founded In 1946 as an adult evening class by Edwin Kennedy. It soon became Elmham and District Choral Society and in 1956 moved to Dereham, where it had been giving concerts, hoping to increase its membership. In 1963 it was renamed Mid-Norfolk Choral Society and in 1974, when evening class fees went up, it became independent and changed its name to Mid-Norfolk Singers. Edwin Kennedy stayed with the choir for over 20 years. There have been eight further musical directors and six accompanists during the choir’s history.
For the first ten years mostly light music was chosen. Gradually longer religious works such as Handel’s Messiah and Haydn’s Creation were introduced. Gilbert and Sullivan was finally abandoned in 1977. The first significant “orchestral” concert was in 1978 when the choir was accompanied by the Norfolk Symphony Orchestra.
Preparing for Music Festivals was a feature of the choir’s programme from 1948 to 1970 and records exist of many First Class awards in competitive festivals in Norwich, Cromer and Peterborough. Additional concerts were given in schools, village halls and churches around the county to raise money often for a particular charity.
The local press took a considerable (if sometimes critical) interest in the choir in its early years. In 1948 they were “”by no means a polished choir”; in 1957 they were “a gallant choral society” carrying on when others were being forced to disband for lack of support. By 1969 they were “a force to be reckoned with in the Norfolk choral world”. The early lack of polish prompted the chairman to provide a tin of furniture polish as a mascot. This story reached the London Evening News and Ronuk Ltd (Polish Manufacturers) sent a sample of shoe polish to each member of the choir.
Membership numbers have varied from an all-time low of 30 in 1954 to over 80 in 1984 when extra singers were found for a full-scale performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass. From the first there has been a need for younger members and for a few more male voices.
Social activities have always been part of the choir’s programme. In the early days members enjoyed social evenings, dances, garden parties and annual dinners. More recently, the twinning of Dereham with the German town of Rüthen has led to exchange visits with their Kammerchor. The German choir were present at the Singers’ Jubilee celebrations in 1996.
The choir became a charity in 1985. Its objectives: “promoting, improving, developing and maintaining public education in and appreciation of the art and science of choral music in all its aspects by presentations of public choral concerts” are much the same as Edwin Kennedy’s intentions when he founded the Society in 1946.