The Buxton Musical Society
Founded in 1944, the Buxton Musical Society has been conducted for 50 of its 73 years by one man, our Musical Director Michael Williams, whose remarkable, and possibly unique, Golden anniversary we have been celebrating this year.
From small beginnings as an amalgamation of several other musical groups in the town, our musical repertoire has expanded to include much of the standard repertoire of great works for chorus and orchestra, the Masses, Passions, Requiems, Oratorios, with other less obvious choices for further variety. Messiah was produced annually at first, but by now only every three years. Christmas carol concerts with a local school choir are a well-established tradition, as are the Festival Masses – classical Masses (for instance Mozart, Schubert, Haydn) used liturgically at St John’s Church on the Sundays of the Buxton Festival. We look forward to our first Singing Day, Come & Sing Mozart’s Requiem, on 14 October. The list of works we have performed is long and varied. There have been repetitions, of course, not surprisingly over such a length of time, but always striving for improvement, and introducing more singers to the pleasures of being inside such great music.
Over time the competence of the choir has improved immeasurably, to enable a level of performance which is unusual for unauditioned singers. The choir rehearses weekly through the season. Our orchestra is made up of friends and contacts, who meet only on the day of the performance, but are of sufficient ability to produce results of a semi-professional standard on that one rehearsal, which speaks volumes for both their competence and Michael’s. Having an orchestra enables us to programme instrumental works, with a concerto appearance by a student from Chetham’s School of Music – an annual feature and treat. Our soloists have included many fine and well known singers and instrumentalists, who take up return engagements with the Society with alacrity, appreciating our high standards of performance.
On occasions when the work to be performed calls for stronger forces, we have joined with other choirs, as with Bakewell Choral Society for a recent performance of Verdi’s Requiem. The Requiem was once heavily criticised for its operatic nature, and is now loved for just that quality. St John’s Church was filled with magnificently tuneful drama, which we hope was as satisfying to the audience as to the performers.
Michael Williams MBE
Michael Williams MBE - Musical Director
Michael Williams was born in Buxton. He read Law at Worcester College, Oxford and then returned home to qualify as a solicitor and he has practised in the area ever since. He first conducted the Buxton Musical Society in 1967 and has since conducted a wide repertoire of choral and orchestral music including all Elgar’s major choral works, Verdi Requiem, the Bach Passions, Handel oratorios and many works from the classical period, Mozart and Haydn in particular.
He has played organ in church regularly since his school days and has been organist and choirmaster at St John’s Church, Buxton since 1985. He has directed festival masses with orchestra from the church during the Buxton Festival which have been broadcast by the BBC since 1996.
In recognition of his role in helping the restoration of the Opera House and in supporting the Opera Festival he was appointed MBE in 1997 for services to the arts in Buxton.
In 2016 he was awarded the Cranmer Medal for Worship from the Archbishop of Canterbury for his services to music in churches in Buxton.
April 2017 saw the fifthtieth anniversary of his first appearance as conductor of the Society. He led a performance of Elgar's The Kingdom which was followed by a celebratory party. A short video of the occasion can be seen here: