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Curtain comes down on Weardale 50-year-old choir
12:28pm Monday 19th August 2013 in News
THE final curtain has come down for a choral group that has helped keep a North-East dale on the musical map for nearly half-a-century.
"It has to be the saddest moment in my musical career," said Isabel Rossall, the group's musical director for the last 26 years.
"But because of health issues with my hands I have been unable to carry on as accompanist, and we haven't been able to find another one."
Mrs Rossall paid a warm tribute to all those who had sung in the choir over the years.
One of them, pensioner Sheila Foster, was a founder member.
She recalls how Merrick Jones, a music teacher at the then Wolsingham Grammar School, took up the post of musical director in September, 1964.
"He recruited just 16 people into the ranks and we paid six old pence a week to help buy music.
"In the beginning we sang to small groups in churches and chapels, at Women's Institutes and Over-60s clubs."
But in later years, under Mrs Rossall, Stanhope Choral performed at such prestigious venues as the City Hall, Newcastle, Sage, Gateshead, and Durham Cathedral. They were invited to sing at the cathedral's 900th anniversary service in 1993.
A "very special moment" were the annual Christmas concerts at which they sang with local schoolchildren.
Mrs Foster admitted that the end of the Choral had left "a big hole in her life."
"It was more than just about singing," she said. "It was about friendship and the good things that can happen in life. We all enjoyed the social life that came after our weekly rehearsals."
Stanhope Choral was a member of the National Association of Choirs. Its North-East group chairman, Doris Williams, said it was "a great shame" to lose Stanhope.
"Under Isabel Rossall's dedicated direction, they have brought so much joy to so many over the years and they have done a lot of good work in the community. They will be sadly missed."
Stanhope's exit leaves the North-East group with 48 members.
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