Clay Country's Imerys Eastern Area Male Voice Choir sings its swansong
WHAT is believed to have been the oldest works choir in the country has disbanded after 66 years.
On Sunday the Imerys Eastern Area Male Voice Choir staged its final performance, in memory of a past member, saying numbers were dwindling due to age and poor health and it took the decision with great sadness.
The choir was one of four formed in Bugle by china clay workers, and in its heyday had a membership of more than 40, but today core members number half that figure.
Baritone Paul Liddicoat, the choir's secretary and treasurer, said: "We tried all sorts of things to encourage people to come along – we held open meetings – but we didn't have any interest at all."
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Over the years the choir has won competitions at home and abroad, was invited to perform an impromptu concert in caves in the Netherlands, and sang to raise money for countless local charities and good causes.
"I'm 66 and I'm probably the youngest member; there are men in the choir who've hit 75 to 80 years old," said Mr Liddicoat.
"Our choir is more than 60 years old and it's believed to be one of the oldest works choirs in the country.
"Members are passing away and aren't being replaced; it's such a shame. Our choirs are something we're very proud of down here, but unfortunately there's not a lot of young blood coming into the choir and that's what's killing it.
"A few weeks ago we had an instance where we had just 12 members and you can't have a choir like that. We wanted to end with people saying 'that was a great choir'."
Mr Liddicoat, from Gover Valley, has sung with the choir for 15 years and paid tribute to the group, the friendships made and its musical director Alan 'Tacker' Mugford.
He said the singers performed with tears in their eyes at their final concert – at St Paul's Church, Charlestown, when they were joined by Nankersey Male Choir and guests.
The concert was staged in memory of John Caddy and raised £1,358 for charity Core, which is fighting gut and liver disease.
Mr Caddy, a member of the choir, died following an attack of severe acute pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, earlier this year.
A small contingent from the choir plans to carry on with scheduled community performances until the end of the year, and a farewell evening for invited members and people associated with the choir will take place in January, when the group will donate the remaining money in its funds to local good causes.