150 Years of singing in Torbay and South Devon

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Could this have been the formation of the Choir?

We are so excited to tell you all about our plans for the new season 2021–2022, in which we celebrate an impressive 150 years of our Choir singing in Torbay. In this we are sharing glory with the Royal Albert Hall, which is also celebrating the same wonderful milestone!

We begin the year rehearsing for our first concert, ‘Messiah’ by George Frederick Handel. This will be performed on Saturday December 11th in St Matthias’ Church, Torquay, which has recently undergone a remarkable internal transformation that has introduced excellently flexible new seating as well as underfloor heating. The Festival Orchestra will be accompanying us, and we have wonderful soloists including soprano Catherine Hamilton and our very own former conductor and glorious bass, John Hobbs.

Soprano Soloist - Catherine Hamilto

Catherine is also booked to come along to our rehearsal on Thursday October 14th to give us guidance on vocal technique – an event not to be missed!

We plan to bring our Choir to the attention of all singers in the bay through several come-and-sing workshops throughout our celebratory year. Our Director of Music, Simon Dunbavand, will lead the first, a birthday open-to-all sing-along of favourite choruses from ‘Messiah’ in St Matthias’ Church on Saturday November 6th, 1.30–5.30pm (with birthday cake!). More details will come nearer the time.

For our late spring concert, in St Matthias’ Church on Saturday May 21st, we move our focus to the 21st century, performing John Rutter’s powerful and exciting ‘Gloria’, as well as Paul Drayton’sA Ceremony of Psalms’. Apart from his role as composer, Paul’s career has included conducting St Austell Choral Society and 14 years as Music Director of Duchy Opera.

In addition, I’m delighted to announce that Simon Dunbavand is marking this special year by writing a work for our Choir, to be performed at this concert, called ‘Gitanjali’ – a work based on poems by the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, who was closely associated with Dartington Hall School. The concert will be accompanied by the prestigious brass ensemble Abbey Brass, who have made an excellent recording of the Rutter and Drayton works that Choir members will be able to acquire.

In preparation for this spring concert, the Committee has planned two workshops, both to be held at St Matthias’ Church, 10.30–4.30. Simon will lead a workshop on Rutter’s Gloria’ on Saturday February 12th, while composer Paul Drayton will head a workshop on his ‘Ceremony of Psalms’ on Saturday March 12th . I hope you are writing these dates in your diary right now! The workshops will be open to all singers and we hope to attract many new visitors to the Choir to enjoy working with us.

In the summer term, after the Rutter–Drayton–Dunbavand concert in May, you will have a chance to sing again some of the lovely choruses from our ‘Choral Classics’ book that we rehearsed last term online.

Our 150th Anniversary Season will finish with some Choir social activities, which we hope will include attending a concert in Exeter Cathedral, and a social outing together which we plan to conclude with a celebratory meal!

Timmys Tales Ch 6

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Timmy Goes to Mevagissey

Timmy at Mevagissey

Timmy’s final adventure in this series takes him and his humans to the Cornish fishing village of Mevagissey.

With a fascinating insight into the history of the Snowflake, a trip to the pub naturally, an early morning dip in the harbour and a family all at sea, enjoy the last chapter in Timmy’s Tales for now.

Download Timmy’s Tales here Timmy’s Tales Ch 6

Timmys Tales Ch 5

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Timmy goes to Lustleigh

Timmy and his human
Timmy and Simon

Timmy and his humans have a trip to Lustleigh.  As any self-respecting dog will tell you, a river with a beach is a delight and Timmy has a favourite spot to share.  With a trip along an old train track and ghostly goings-on at an ancient site poised high above The Cleave, Timmy has plenty to interest him in this week’s instalment of Timmy’s Tales.


Timmy’s Tales Ch5

Timmys Tales Ch 4

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Timmy goes to Bodmin Moor

Timmy on Bodmin Moor

This week Timmy sets off across the border from Devon to Cornwall to explore Bodmin Moor. Using his super sleuth nose he finds plenty of ghostly goings on and possibly the odd dropped chip or two as he ascends to the heights of the moor and gazes at the panoramic views.

You can join Timmy on this week’s adventure, download Chapter 4 here.

Timmy’s Tales Ch 4

Timmys Tales Ch 3

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Timmy goes to Dartmoor

Timmy on Dartmoor
Timmy on Dartmoor

Timmy is off on his adventures again, complete with visits to a hostelry or two, chasing phantom hounds across the moor, and finding the best seat in the village.

Download Timmy’s Tales here

Timmy’s Tales Ch 3

Timmys Tales Ch 2

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Timmy goes to Exmoor

Where is Timmy?

Where do you think Timmy is in the picture? Let us know – it’s a race to see who guesses correctly first (without having read Chapter 2 of Timmy’s Tales first of course).

To help you guess, today we are going with Timmy on another eleven-mile walk: from the beautiful hamlet of Countisbury on the sea cliffs of Exmoor with its wild ponies, along the South West Coast Path to find the elusive deer in rutting season.

You can download Chapter 2 here Timmy’s Tales Ch 2.

Timmys Tales Ch 1

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Timmy the Super Sleuth

Jurassic Timmy
Timmy goes to the Jurassic Coast

Timmy has taken to the Jurassic Coast this time.  He has visited some exciting places like Durdle Door and met some interesting and ghostly characters, some human and some canine.

His owner, Director of Music for South Devon Choir, Simon, has evidently enjoyed taking him for some long walks and visiting the hostelries in the area.  Once we are all allowed out and about again you might be itching to follow in his footsteps.

To read the latest episode of Timmy’s adventures download a copy below.

Timmy’s Tales Ch 1

A shaggy dog story starts with an introduction

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Timmy’s Tale


As all Choir members know, we have a canine friend who comes along each week; he belongs to our Director of Music, Simon Dunbavand.

Initially Timmy found it very hard to keep quiet when we were singing.  He had to go outside for a while as his impersonation of our choral efforts were not very complementary.  Howling is not what we do! But Timmy has grown and matured and can now be quiet for a whole practice unless he thinks someone or something untoward is happening, when he will let us know with his loud bark.  He found the night of the General Election particularly challenging and, let’s face it, he probably wasn’t alone. Read the rest of this entry »

Thank you John Hobbs

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Thank you to John Hobbs from South Devon Choir

Following the concert on 7th December 2019, a retirement celebration was held for John Hobbs.  Although he steps down as Musical Director of South Devon Choir he will, instead, become an occasional soloist and our President so contact will be maintained.




Message from John Hobbs

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Dear Sally, Committee Members and All SDC Members,

There is so much for me to thank you all for! I would love to write to you all individually, but so many of you have been involved in the wonderful presentations you have made for me that I apologise for resorting to this method of conveying my gratitude to the greatest number in the shortest space of time.

First of all, thank you for a splendid concert on Saturday 7 December. You were always comfortably on top of this work and I sensed you shared my enjoyment of what I consider to be one of Handel’s finest masterpieces! The final collaboration with our exceptional soloists and orchestra drew the very best from you and you entered into the drama of the work with great enthusiasm and musicianship. It is always very rewarding for a conductor to hear his interpretations of a composer’s brainchild performed faithfully on the day and to such good effect, as reflected in the many appreciative comments received afterwards from members of the audience. Well done and thank you for making the rehearsal period such an enjoyable time.

Now I offer you my heartfelt thanks for the post-concert reception, held in my honour, and the many warm tributes received:-

…for the amazingly generous collection you have raised on my behalf, which will probably be spent on replacing a substantial, but dead hedge on our entrance drive. This is currently of a type of evergreen which does not tolerate the severe trimming it has experienced in the past, and which Margaret and I would like to replace with a much more robust and attractive beech hedge. It is quite a major job, but, when completed, we will be able to look at it every day and reflect on the pleasures of our association with the South Devon Choir. I have often wondered what a Hedge Fund was; now I have my very own. Thank you!

…for the wonderful “Book of Memories” which you have so lovingly compiled. I have only managed to skim through it so far, but have already spotted some very clever poems, some most moving tributes, some amazing sketches, a crossword puzzle and many lovely photographs, including one of me, aged 38, with hair and dark as well! When the Christmas rush is over, Margaret and I will enjoy studying this volume at our leisure and recalling past events and old friends, for that is what you have become over the past twelve years. Thank you!

…for the welcome refreshments after a busy day of music-making together, and especially that magnificent cake. I have never experienced

Johns Retirement Cake
Johns Retirement Cake

a cake that one can sing first, and to my favourite chorus – “Tune your harps!” We are still marvelling at how this was achieved and are loth to cut into it, but, if we don’t, I shall go hungry and that will never do, so another huge slice of Thanks!

Finally, I want to tell you that it has never felt a chore to drive down to Torquay on a Thursday evening. I have thoroughly enjoyed the main object of our liaison, the musical performances, but, even greater than this has been the friendship which you have all so generously afforded me. When the musical memories have faded, the personal memories will be everlasting, ably assisted by your lovely Book. I am delighted that, in the roles of President and sometime soloist, our contact will be maintained and I look forward to catching up with all your news on those occasions when I make the trip south. That said, Margaret and I would love to welcome you to our new home,  which is midway between Torrington and Barnstaple (ask a committee member for the actual address, please),. RHS Rosemoor is only about 20 mins away, should you feel like making a day of it.

Thank you all once again for twelve glorious years and every good wish for the future of the South Devon Choir under Simon, who I know you will take to your hearts.

With love from Margaret and myself,