Graham Williams, The Callington Singers Musical Director, arranged the choir’s first meeting on 14th April 1983 and our first public performance was on 26th May 1983 during a music workshop at the then Callington Comprehensive School. In September 1983 Jenny Coombe joined the choir as our accompanist just before our first public concert on 17th November in St Mary’s Church, Callington. Jenny, who retired from this post in August 2008 made a memorable contribution to the Callington Singer’s subsequent success during her 25 years as our accompanist.
In 1984 a Gilbert & Sullivan evening provided a little light relief for the growing membership and later in the same year a Gorseth Concert was held at Callington Methodist Church celebrating “The Cornish Celtic Spirit”. We continue to sing the occasional work in Cornish. 1985 was an important milestone; for the first time the Callington Singers travelled abroad to sing with Chorale Chanterelle in Callington’s twin town, Guipavas in Brittany. In 1988 and 1989 we travelled to Germany and Denmark for the first time to sing with Kantorei Barsbuttel and Bindslev-Koret respectively – we have maintained close connections with all three choirs and all three were represented at our twenty fifth anniversary concert in March 2008.
1987 was a particularly busy year during which we featured in both BBC television and radio programmes for the first time as the Callington Singers numbers, repertoire and reputation continued to grow. A busy Christmas programme included concerts and carols at five local churches and on 17th December carols at the Coachmakers Arms in Callington! Since then we have also travelled abroad to sing in Ireland, Italy and Spain and have hosted visiting choirs from as far afield as Japan and the United States. In addition to exchange visits a spring trip of eight to ten days to sing choral music in mainland Europe has become a regular feature in the choir’s calendar and a very enjoyable musical and social bonus for choir members.
At home during the 1980s we sang mainly for concerts, carol services and some broadcasts in a number of churches and other local venues in East Cornwall. It was on 11th April 1991 that the Callington Singers first sang the offices during a cathedral service, in the beautiful Cathedral at Lichfield, starting another interesting chapter in the choir’s history. In July 1991 we sang at Exeter Cathedral and from then on we have been lucky enough to be invited to sing offices and give concerts in some of the most beautiful and inspiring church venues in the UK; from Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral in London to Wells and Gloucester Cathedrals and Bath Abbey nearer home. While such visits have become a regular feature of our programme so are concerts and services in some of the local churches in the parishes around Callington from which many of our members are drawn.
Following Jenny Coombe’s retirement in August 2008 we were pleased to be able to recruit Simon Brett as our new accompanist. Simon is a very busy and successful freelance musician in demand for concerts, services and broadcasts as a solo organist and an accompanist. Born and still based in the North East, Simon plays in churches and cathedrals from Dunblane to Newcastle and also elsewhere on tour in the UK and abroad. He travels from the North East to accompany us.
In July 2011 Deputy Conductor Jill Quilliam retired from the Callington Singers. Jill had originally joined the choir as a singer over twentyfive years earlier. In September 2011 the choir were honoured to receive a Cornwhylen Cross Award at the Cornish Gorsedh for “Enhancing Cornwall’s status as a Celtic nation with music in its heart”.
In 2019 Graham Williams retired and moved to Brittany. The Callington Singers performed the last time under his direction in Palermo Cathedral, Sicily in October 2019. Following Graham’s retirement, Andrew Wilson, a long time friend and guest conductor, was appointed as Musical Director.