East Devon Choral Society first met at the East Devon College (now Petroc), hence the name. The first concert was given under the baton of Dr David Webster, the music tutor at the college, in December 1973. Since then, the choral society that has gained much respect and admiration throughout the South West.
In September 1974 Dr. John Byrt became conductor and took the choir on to perform a wide and ambitious range of all the major choral works. His skills as a director and his confidence in the singers was demonstrated by the music performed. Alongside many of the major choral works, we performed many of John’s own compositions. in particular Missa Brevis, his Hereford Carol and the very special Exaudi Domini, commissioned by the choir.
John Byrt conducted EDCS for 28 glorious years from 1974 until 2002 and his last year was crowned with performances of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in April and Britten’s Noyes Fludde in July. Indisposition due to ill health made it impossible for him to continue and the young musician who had been accompanying the rehearsals, stood in as guest conductor at the last moment – that young musician was Andrew Daldorph.
Since then, Andrew has inspired us with his incredible energy and fine musicianship. His rehearsals are demanding, but Andrew is able to coax the high standards that he requires with humorous encouragement.
Concerts under Andrew have varied in content from the Renaissance music of Monteverdi to that of the present day including works either arranged or written by Andrew himself. Of the latter the most memorable is his Songs of Hope & Creation, which was performed once in Tiverton and again in Exeter Cathedral with the Exeter Chamber Choir. This performance won the inaugural nationwide PRS for Music’s competition “Unforgettable Choir” title – a great honour for EDCS.
Throughout the pandemic, Andrew kept us up to scratch with weekly podcasts for a wide variety of works.
We were delighted to celebrate our 50th anniversary with a gala performance of Handel’s Messiah. The concert, in December 2023, filled St Peter’s Church to the seams: it was a great joy to mark the occasion with so many friends of East Devon Choral Society.
It was with great sadness that we heard of John Byrt’s passing in 2021. He was much loved and widely respected. The choral society was privileged to perform at his magnificent memorial concert in 2022, alongside other musicians from the many groups that he was involved with.