Billingshurst conductor passes on baton after 29 years

Billingshurst Choral Society musical director and founding member George Jones is retiring after 29 years. Pictured with other founding members and committee members - photo copyright Sarah Elizabeth Brown 2015, used courtesy of Billingshurst Choral Society

Billingshurst Choral Society musical director and founding member George Jones is retiring after 29 years. Pictured with other founding members and committee members - photo copyright Sarah Elizabeth Brown 2015, used courtesy of Billingshurst Choral Society

  • Choir was borne out of church music group
  • George Jones has taken the group to perform in concerts around the world
  • It has a steady membership of about 100 people
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One of the founding members of Billingshurst Choral Society will conduct his final concert with them this week (Thursday March 28).

George Jones has led the choir for 29 years taking members to performances across the South East, London and abroad.

Conductor George Jones, who is stepping down from leading Billingshurst Choral Society for 29 years - photo copyright Keith Tellick 2014, reproduced courtesy of the choral society

Conductor George Jones, who is stepping down from leading Billingshurst Choral Society for 29 years - photo copyright Keith Tellick 2014, reproduced courtesy of the choral society

But after reaching almost three decades as its musical director, he decided now was the right time to step down, although he will be back briefly to take the singers to perform in concert in Vienna.

He will stay involved with other choirs in the region, including teaching around 4,000 children in the Surrey and Sussex area.

Former headteacher George said: “I’m going to miss it hugely, but I felt it was time for someone to look at it and take it in a different direction.

“Like a sportsperson you wonder if you should retire while you are at the top of your game or when you start to go back down the rankings. I was determined not to do (the latter).”

I felt it was time for someone to look at it and take it in a different direction.

George Jones, retiring choral conductor

The choral society started life attached to St Mary’s Church, Billingshurst.

The father of two said: “It was an extension of the church choir and some people said ‘why don’t we start a choral society; because there wasn’t one in Billingshurst and then it started to expand to the villages around Billingshurst.

“Our membership is taken from a very wide area - from Petworth, Horsham Slinfold, Storrington. The whole central Sussex area.

“It started small scale and I’ve seen membership grow and it remains steady at 100 plus.”

George has been involved in music from an early age becoming the church organist when he was just 15.

With his help the choral society has built up a strong reputation performing with high profile orchestras including the BBC Symphonia.

He said: “We bring in professional soloists. I’ve always thought it’s important to have the best we can afford.

“We have been working with the Sinfonia of Arun. That partnership has been very successful. I’ve always been fortunate in having a committee with a vast array of talent and creativity.

“We have done various concerts in London including the reopening of the Festival Hall in the presence of the Queen.

“They have afternoons that choirs come and sing at on the South Bank and as a result of that we were asked to be one of the choirs for the opening.

“We went to America to perform twice at New York’s Carnegie theatre for the first performances in America of Karl Jenkins’ Stabat Mater and a number of tours to Europe, including Belgium and France.

“We have been part of the Brandenburg Choral Festival. That’s a huge privilege because it’s by invitation and reputation.

“Members are always very supportive of (our trips). It’s increased their musical experience and had the enjoyment of singing in different venues.”

After the choir’s performance of Messiah, its newly appointed musical director Cathal Garvey, will take over leadership up to the summer concert in June.

To buy tickets for next week’s concert call 01403 785648 and for more information about the choir go to www.billingshurstchoralsociety.org