For more than three-quarters of a century, Goldsmiths Choral Union has been giving quality performances of a wide variety of great choral works in London’s major music venues. Its repertoire has ranged from Handel’s Messiah to Tippett’s The Mask of Time.
GCU is a busy choir, promoting at least three concerts of its own each year, plus open choral workshops. It also takes part in joint promotions and in events staged by other organisations.
Today GCU is a thriving music choir always on the lookout for new members.
Occasionally Goldsmiths Choral Union organises open full day workshop sessions as well as its popular summer sings (see below). At the workshops, singers from other choirs all over London are invited to join GCU members to sing through a piece from the standard choral repertoire just for the sheer enjoyment of doing it, under the expert guidance of our Music Director Brian Wright and our accompanist Stephen Jones. Details of our workshop events appear on this page.
Each year GCU closes its season of music-making with its Summer Sings – its two flagship choral workshop evenings held at our regular rehearsal venue, Baden Powell House, Queen’s Gate, London SW7.
Admission is by ticket, which you can order in advance or buy on the door. Bring your own scores or hire them from us on the night for a small hire charge and a returnable deposit. Wine, fruit juice and tea or coffee are available, and singers have a chance to socialise too. If you have ever wondered whether you would like to join a choir like GCU, this is a great opportunity to find out!
Come and enjoy yourself at a GCU workshop event.
2012 - GCU's 80th Anniversary
2012 marked GCU’s 80th Anniversary and we have published a history of the choir’s first 80 years.
The history, large format and glossily produced, runs to over 100 pages and not only contains a wealth of information about the choir but also has details of all its performances plus photos and other memorabilia. It is a wonderful record of GCU and we hope everyone will want to have a copy.
The cost is £12 including postage and packing. Please contact us for your copy.
1989 - A LETTER FROM OUR DISTINGUISHED PATRON
On the eve of GCU’s Golden Jubilee year 1982, Bill Johnston, then choir chairman, received a congratulatory letter from the great conductor Sir Adrian Boult, who had been a patron of the choir since its formation.
1941 - RETURNING TO WORK
The first-ever concert by the choir was a performance of Parts I and II of Coleridge-Taylor’s Hiawatha,which thereafter appeared regularly in the repertoire until the early 1950s. There are no details of that concert in the records, but ten days before the choir was due to perform the work again, on 21 May 1941, at the Queen’s Hall, the building was bombed and reduced to rubble.
An alternative venue was hastily arranged (the Stoll Theatre), and the public informed by advertisements in the press, posters at railway stations, and men parading the streets with sandwich boards – at five shillings a time! – that the show would go on. In the event, the concert was a great success and appears to have been one of the first of the GCU’s concerts to be broadcast by the BBC. The Daily Telegraph commented: ‘The transition … did not affect in the least the efficiency of the Goldsmiths Choral Union on Saturday. Their performance of Hiawatha had all the required qualities of vitality, alertness and accuracy’.
In 1942, 500 voices of GCU reopened the Royal Albert Hall after the Blitz with an acclaimed performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.
Today GCU appears at venues like the Barbican – and also at the Cadogan Hall, St John’s Smith Square, Royal Albert Hall, and Royal Festival Hall.
1932 - THE EARLIEST YEARS
Frederick Haggis inaugurated the Goldsmiths Choral Union in 1932 as an Adult Evening Class when he was Lecturer in Music at Goldsmiths, University of London. In 1933, he also founded the Goldsmiths Symphony Orchestra, which, until the war, always accompanied the choir’s concerts.
The membership was then, as now, drawn from the general public: teachers, civil servants, businessmen, housewives, secretaries – but, strangely enough, students at Goldsmiths had to get special permission from their tutors to join the choir, in case singing should interfere with their studies!
In December 1940, Incendiary bombs set off a fire that gutted much of the New Cross Main Building. Goldsmiths was evacuated, but GCU went on rehearsing and performing, with Mr Haggis forming groups in North, South, East and West London, bringing them together in Central London for concerts.
1931 - THE BEGINING OF A RICH HISTORY
Frederick Haggis, a new music lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, has the idea of forming a choral group for both his students and amateur singers from the locality.