Male Voice Choirs have a long tradition throughout Cornwall, owing a great debt to the nonconformist Christian tradition and the innate musicality of the people, and the comradeship within the industries of mining and quarrying. Our choir is proud to sustain the precious heritage of past decades when male voice choirs and brass bands were at the heart of the tradition of musical life in the villages and communities of the China Clay Area in mid-Cornwall.
The present Imerys Mid Cornwall Male Choir was formed in 2008 when the Imerys Engineers’ Male Voice Choir amalgamated with St Austell Male Voice Choir, bringing together two choirs which sprang from the local industry, China Clay production. The Imerys Engineers’ Choir was one of the last survivors of the more than a dozen works choirs in the China Clay industry which competed annually at the St Austell Music Festival for the prized ‘China Clay Cup’, in which it had triumphed in 12 of the previous 14 years. St Austell Male Voice Choir for its part was formed by members of the most famous Clay Country choir of all, Treviscoe, winner of the 1956 Llangollen Eisteddfod, which disbanded in the 1990s. Taking up the baton St Austell MVC had a proud record, winning competitions at music festivals in Wadebridge, Truro and Camborne.
St Austell’s economy relied heavily on China Clay in those days. It once directly employed some 10,000 people, and indirectly supported many more, so both of the parent choirs were closely linked to the industry. Nowadays mechanisation has greatly reduced employment in the area, and the Choir welcomes new members who have not been part of the industry but who revel in the richness of the tradition and the joy of choral singing. It looks to expand its performances and engagement with the Clay Country and beyond. Currently choir members come to our weekly practices and performances from St Ives in the West to St Eval in the North and Fowey in the East.
The Choir has enjoyed much success for its high quality singing and the variety of its concert performances. Exciting projects in recent years have included taking part in the Hall for Cornwall event, and recording a song for the BBC1 programme The Great British Countryside. The Choir also provided the musical setting for the film premiere of Days of Clay shown at the Bell Theatre, Brannel School. Another key memorable event was performing in Kernowyon A Gan (Men of Cornwall Sing) at The Royal Albert Hall, with 1,000 Cornish voices.
We sing pieces from a varied repertoire, carrying on the tradition of male voice choirs which ranges from Moody and Sankey revivalist hymns through to patriotic modern Cornish anthems. There are songs from the shows and many which have been popular in the lifetimes of our members, plus shanties and sea songs appropriate to our home here in the West.
We are always on the look-out for new numbers, but we also observe the noble Cornish tradition of ending many of our concerts by singing ‘Morte Criste’ and inviting any choir singers in the audience to join us on stage.
President: Mr Mark Hewson, Imerys UK Hub Director
Succeeding Ashley Shopland in February 2022 from a career background in engineering, operations and business management, Mark relocated to Cornwall from Stamford in Rutland with his wife, Joanna. They now live in Fowey enjoying the breathtaking scenery and cliff walks with their dogs. A keen surfer, runner, and gig rower in his spare time, Mark is very keen to continue to support and sustain the Choir in maintaining the proud tradition it has, protecting the link between the Choir and the long standing industry it represents.
Musical Director: Mr Barry Hawken
Barry was brought up in the small village of Whitemoor, which is in the heart of the China Clay area. He has had a long involvement with music, both in the brass band world as well as with choirs. Most of his time is now given to choral training, and as a freelance music practitioner working predominantly in primary schools across Cornwall. Barry has been heavily involved in projects for English Touring Opera, the Foundation for Youth Music, the national programme Sing Up, the prestigious event at the Hall for Cornwall, and is the choir researcher for the Cornish National Music Archive.
Accompanist: Dr Marlene Bowden
Marlene, educated in Leicestershire, studied at the Royal Academy of Music on an Associated Board Scholarship. After leaving the Royal Academy she became Musical Director of a music school and a musical department in the south east. She also continued concert work, giving piano recitals and accompanying instrumentalists. In the year 2000, she moved to Cornwall and completed a research degree at Exeter University in 2006. For her work she was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Music. She has been the accompanist for Imerys Mid-Cornwall Male Choir since 2008, and looks upon us (and each concert) as a special part of her work.
Vice President: Mrs Kay Grime
Hon. Vice President: Mrs Peggy Williams
Chairman: Mr Brian Skews
Treasurer: Mr Richard Holman
Secretary: Mr Colin Grigg
''Tregavellis'', 55 Trenovissick Road, St. Blazey Gate, Par, PL24 2DY