Lloyd's Choir has existed in various forms since 1922 and, under the guidance of a number of different conductors and musical directors, developed into an integral part of the cultural life of the City of London.
THE HISTORY OF LLOYD'S CHOIR
Lloyd's Choir was first formed as a mixed choir in 1922 by Geoffrey Toye, a member of Lloyd's and previously a professional conductor in London theatres. He conducted the choir until he re-entered the music profession in 1930.
The choir first performed on Saturday 9 December 1922, in the Underwriting Room at the Royal Exchange and concerts were then given regularly, mainly in the Public Hall of the same building. In December 1926 the choir gave a concert in the Queen's Hall (destroyed in the Second World War) with the St Michael's Singers under Harold Darke.
Little record remains of the choir from the 1920s and 1930s, and activity ceased sometime before the Second World War.
In 1950 the choir was re-established by George White and Reginald Purrier, under the conductorship of Roy Budden.
In 1958 the choir first performed a concert in the Underwriting Room. A reviewer in the Lloyd's Log wrote of the choir's characteristic clarity, the beautiful contralto of Dorothy Barr - and also mentioned a soloist who would not get his nose out of his copy.
In 1960 Stanley Westcott formed and conducted the Lloyd's Male Voice Choir. In 1962 he also became conductor of the mixed choir and continued in that role until 1971 when David de Warenne, from the City Temple Choir, was appointed conductor for the next 10 years. In 1971, mainly as a result of the Lloyd's Policy Signing Offices relocation out of London and the Heath Government's three day working week, the choir restricted itself to male voice only, as few ladies were in the City on the day of the choir practice.
Basil Moor, of Lloyd's Register, conducted the choir from 1981 to 1984, and by this time the choir had moved to new rehearsal premises, the church of St. Katharine Cree in Leadenhall Street. This unusually late Gothic church, untouched by the Great Fire, has excellent acoustics and is still home to the choir today.
Brian Bendle's appointment as Chairman in 1984 led to great change in the choir. Ladies were re-invited and Matthew Rowe, from the Guildhall School of Music, was recruited as the choir's first professional conductor. He held the position until 1991.
Under Matthew's direction the choir developed technically and musically, and undertook new projects, such as deputising for the St Edmundsbury Cathedral Choir at weekend services. The highlight of Matthew Rowe's leadership was a performance of Handel's Messiah on 28 November 1988 in the 1986 Lloyd's Underwriting Room as part of the Lloyd's Tercentenary Celebrations. Matthew Rowe has since had a successful career as a conductor.
Andrea Quinn was the next Musical Director, appointed in 1991. She expanded the choir's repertoire with secular and sacred, traditional and 20th century works. Under her leadership, the choir started its series of annual orchestral concerts, singing Mozart's Requiem in April 1993 at St. Mary-at-Hill and following it with Haydn's Nelson Mass in 1994. These concerts continued at St. Mary at Hill until 2000. The 2001 concert was held at St. Katharine Cree and in 2002, to mark the choir's 80th anniversary, a successful performance of Mozart's Requiem was given at St. John's, Smith Square. The choir returned to St. John's in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
Andrea's success in winning the Royal Ballet's Conduct for Dance award in 1993 encouraged her to develop a career in conducting ballet, and she left the choir in late 1994. Her career has since taken her across the world.
Jacques Cohen became the choir's Musical Director in January 1995, and under his direction the choir has made great progress. Jacques has further encouraged versatility, performing works as diverse as Bach's B minor Mass and Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, as well as the world premières of Oread by Michael Young (1996) and Jacques' own Three Blake Songs (2002), subsequently expanded as Songs of Innocence and Experience (2005). The choir has demonstrated equal versatility in smaller-scale works, with a repertoire ranging from Renaissance motets to the many new pieces written and arranged for the choir by Jacques and others. Jacques' annual carol arrangement is an eagerly awaited feature of the choir's Christmas concerts!
The choir has featured on television several times. In March 2001, the choir was one of sixteen choirs invited to perform in Artangel's choral portrait "Because I Sing" at the Roundhouse, which was subsequently televised by Channel 4. Other appearances include Songs of Praise (2002), the Queen Mother's 100th Birthday Pageant, when the choir represented Lloyd's (2000), and at the ceremony held at Lloyd's on 11 September 2002 to mark the first anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center.