A brief history...
An early form of East Malling Singers existed in the village between 1958 and 1962, however, the choir in its present form was founded by Belinda Hunter and some of her friends in the autumn of 1971. At the outset the choir numbered about twenty ladies and nine gentlemen, and Belinda recruited the then church organist, Michael Llewelyn, as the choir's accompanist. Belinda steadily developed the skill and repertoire of the Singers, going on to encompass ever grander choral works while not forsaking a staple diet of songs and motets.
In mid 1991, after twenty praiseworthy years at the helm, Belinda stepped down and handed the baton to David Leeke. David quickly raised the game by bringing in amateur vocal soloists from 'outside', and introducing the frequent use of orchestras, on one occasion comprising almost fifty amateur Kent-based players. Full length choral works were increasingly presented, these to a steadily growing audience. The size of the choir grew gradually during David's eight years with us: from about thirty to fifty members.
In addition to developing the choir's appetite for performing major choral works, David's legacy was to induce EMS to set up its patrons scheme by offering to be its first lifetime patron. Prior to his resignation in 1999, David recommended that Ben Rous be handed the baton, at least while the choir sought a permanent replacement for David. Ben had sung in the choir in earlier years and was known to many of the members, and so David's advice was acted upon.
Nevertheless, a competitive recruitment campaign ensued and Ben was subsequently appointed music director. Ben broadened the choir's repertoire, introducing lesser known works, and one of his own, and music from farther afield, including Russia, the Czech Republic, Africa and Indonesia. Throughout all this, the size of the choir grew to an unprecedented ninety singers yet happily maintained its friendly, village choir character and reputation.
2012 was an eventful year for the choir as Ben announced his resignation in spring and we bade him a fond farewell at our 40th Anniversary Party in July. We all wish him the best of luck in his new role as Director of Music at the Conservatoire, Blackheath. During the autumn term we enjoyed singing under temporary conductor Peter Ashley, Music Director of Bearsted Choral Society, with whom we held an entertaining and successful Christmas concert.
2013 brought more change as we welcomed our new Music Director, Ciara Considine who is well known locally for her work with Vigo Singers, Kent Youth Choirs, Benenden School and Kent Academy of Music. Ciara also worked with Gareth Malone on the BBC2 series Sing While You Work, conducting the winning P&O Ferries choir.