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The name Portsmouth Baroque Choir was adopted on 9th February 1981

The choir had previously been known as Drayton Choral Society, originally formed of members of Drayton Methodist Church. We now rehearse in Portsmouth and attract members from all over southern Hampshire and West Sussex.

Portsmouth Baroque Choir’s repertoire, as its name implies, centres firstly around works from the 17th and 18th centuries. In one of our most ambitious concerts of recent years, in 2019, we were joined by the Consort of 12 instrumental ensemble to perform J S Bach’s towering Mass in B minor to a large and appreciative audience in the Chichester Festival. Our performance won us the Portsmouth News Guide Award for the Best Classical Act. We joined with the Consort of 12 at the Chichester Festival again in 2022 to perform Handel’s Israel in Egypt.

Bach and Handel feature strongly in our repertoire. We have sung several other works by Bach, including the Magnificat and the St John Passion, besides cantatas and motets. In March 2018 we performed two of Handel’s Chandos Anthems to commemorate 300 years since their composition and first performance. Other Baroque composers regularly performed are Vivaldi (including the Gloria and Dixit Dominus) and Purcell (including verse and symphony anthems).

The choir’s repertoire also goes back to the Renaissance period and forward to the present day. From the later 18th and 19th centuries we have performed Masses and other works by Haydn and Mozart, including Haydn’s Creation and Seven Last Words from the Cross, and Mozart’s Requiem and Litaniae Lauretanae. From the 20th century we have sung works by Benjamin Britten, Hubert Parry, Zoltán Kodály and Gerald Finzi. We also include in our programming works by living composers like John Rutter, Morton Lauridsen, Humphrey Clucas and Jonathan Dove; besides others specially written for the choir by, for instance, our President Ian Schofield.

Occasionally we have joined with other choirs, combining in 2013 with both the Emsworth-based Renaissance Choir and Portsmouth Cathedral Choir to perform Thomas Tallis’s extraordinary 40-part motet Spem in Alium.

Anniversaries and commemorations have suggested other concerts. In 2017 we marked the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with a concert of polychoral music supported by a period instrument group of cornett and sackbut players. In the following year we celebrated the centenary of Hubert Parry’s death in a concert entirely devoted to his work, including his late masterpiece, the Songs of Farewell.

After a hiatus because of the Coronavirus pandemic the choir started performing again late in 2021, and in 2022 we celebrated our 40th anniversary a year late. The celebrations included a performance of Duruflé’s Requiem, featured at our first concert in 1981.

Highlights of the 2022 and 2023 seasons included three performances at St Paul’s Chichester: Handel’s Israel in Egypt (July 2022); Handel’s Messiah (complete) – chosen by local poet and blogger as his musical Event of the Year 2023; Vierne’s Messe Solennelle and a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the death of Thomas Weelkes (October 2022). In between were concerts devoted to Purcell and his contemporaries, the Schütz Christmas Story and Charpentier’s Le Reniement de St Pierre. 

Four concerts in 2024 will keep the choir busy. We are always pleased to have new voices join us, in all sections.