Willie Wallace & Bill Caldwell
“Born 1933 and still going strong!”, to borrow a well-known Kilmarnock phrase!
The choir began as an evening class, under the auspices of the local education committee. Members had to pay 7/6d (37p) to the local authority to enroll in the class, and a further 7/6d to the choir for their first year’s subscription.
At a time when male voice choirs were popular throughout the UK, around 52 men signed up. The current choir number is 48. However, the ‘about right’ number would be 55 so, as you can see, there’s a space just for you!
The choir has always had a strong connection with singers from the town itself as well as men from the surrounding area – Ayr, Troon, Irvine, Fenwick, Kilmaurs, Stewarton, Irvine Valley.
Individual choirs develop their own style and sound and we are lucky in Kilmarnock to have several excellent choirs. The all-male choir singing in harmony has its own special sound and appeal which we hope will continue to attract singers and audiences.
Over the years, venues for concerts and meetings have taken place in many parts of Auld Killie.
Nowadays the choir performs at venues all around the west of Scotland and has taken part in major music festivals in Glasgow and Hamilton.
The choir has always been supported by local businesses. Most recently this includes the Galleon Centre, Morrison’s, Shona’s Hair Salon, Sinforiani’s, Hayes Garden Centre, and Kilmarnock and District Independent Funeral Service.
Today, male voice choirs can have an ageing image but we are constantly recruiting new younger members. We have a Student Scheme for students joining us for a season from school or college where, in addition to gaining experience of our choral harmony, they also receive £80. Needless to say, this is not to write off older men who have much to offer.
Male voice singing is hugely popular in pop culture with so many boy bands making it big, and at the recent Edinburgh Fringe Festival there were several excellent male voice groups coming out of colleges and universities.
At the choir’s Annual Concert, usually at the end of March, guest soloists had for some years been final year students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. However, in recent times we have enjoyed the wonderful singing of local artistes Gordon Cree and Cheryl Forbes, and the singers of the multi-talented Loudon Musical Society.
Of course, many things have changed since 1933 such as personnel, songs and the internet. The choir has had only seven Musical Directors over the years and the current leader is in his early thirties, as is the choir accompanist, so there’s lots of energy!
The choir tries to sing a mix of all genres of song. With the benefit of the internet, learning your own choral part has never been easier as it is played to you for singing along on the choir’s website learning page.
So the choir is moving on, and the enthusiasm of members can be seen in three particular characteristics:
The love of singing – there are some good solo singers but members are not, in the main, soloists. They do, however, enjoy putting their voices together to create something special.
Loyalty and commitment – Tuesday night practices show an attendance rate of around 90% through autumn and winter.
Camaraderie – evident through the music, fellowship and good-natured banter.
It’s also a well-known fact that singing is hugely stimulating to the mind and body.
The choir has recently begun its 91st session with practices every Tuesday night from 7.30pm to 9.30pm in the Howard Centre, 5 Portland Road, Kilmarnock, KA1 2BT. Full contact details can be found at www.aeolianmalevoicechoir.org.
If you’re male, living in the area, and enjoy singing, we’d love to see you!