Abingdon and District Musical Society gave its first performance on 23 May 1946,
in the Corn Exchange, Abingdon. The orchestra comprised nine violins, two violas,
three cellos, one double bass, two flutes and a clarinet. In the chorus were 24
sopranos, 14 contraltos, five tenors and six basses. The programme was a mixture
of choral and orchestral pieces including Stanford's The Revenge and Quilter's Non
Nobis Pacem. Mary Schott conducted this first concert and stayed with ADMS until
Under the guidance of a number of different conductors (principally Anthony Caesar,
Hugo Langrish, David Pettit, Edward Olleson and Antony le Fleming) ADMS grew stronger
and larger. It performed in St Helens Church and in the newly opened (1966) Amey
Hall at Abingdon School. 1n 1972 Donald Burrows took up the baton with ADMS – a partnership
that was to last 11 years and include two consecutive performances of Berlioz’s Grande
Messe des Morts in Dorchester Abbey. (Donald used a "stage name" of Donwald in concert
programmes to distinguish himself from another local celebrity with the same name.)
He was followed by David Andrew who stayed until 1990.
After just a year under Mark Goddard, Mary Moore took ADMS through to its Golden
Jubilee "Last Night of the Proms" Concert in 1996. Neil Farrow took over from Mary
in 1997 and led us through to our Diamond Jubilee year with a magnificent performance
of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast. Alexander Walker joined us as Musical Director in
2006 and we look forward to many years of music making under his baton.
A full list of conductors, guest conductors, leaders, guest leaders and well-known
soloists appears here.
The musical fashion in the early days was for a larger number of shorter pieces –
the first concert still holds the record for its twenty pieces. The most common composers
initially were from the Classical, Early Romantic and Modern periods, and it was
not until the 1960s that Late Romantic composers began to be programmed routinely.
Tchaikovsky was not performed until 1962, 1966 for Rachmaninov, with Gershwin not
until 1992. Concerts in the early days period were more often than not on Tuesdays
and Thursdays, but perhaps with the rise in numbers of other orchestras and choirs
competing for rehearsal nights, the norm lately has been for Saturday concerts.
Roughly coinciding with the arrival in 1960 of conductor Hugo Langrish, who was also
an orchestral horn player, ADMS's concert format began to take on the style we are
accustomed to these days – orchestral overtures, concertos, symphonies and larger
works for choir and orchestra.
These days, repertoire suggestions are sought from members annually, with a programme
committee meeting to identify the most popular works and form practical programmes
likely to appeal to audiences.
Previous ADMS Secretaries have kept and passed down a record of all the society's
concert programs from 1946 to 1976 (including most if not all of the Christmas charity
concerts). This has been compiled by choir members Mark Peters, Gordon Skidmore and
Phil Stopford, and recently updated from his own collection of concert programmes
from 1981 by orchestra horn player Geoffrey Bushell. Two versions are available here: