... serving the City of Dundee since 1858

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About Dundee Choral Union



On 28 January 1858, eighteen ladies and nine gentlemen convened at a house in South Tay Street. Dundee and formed themselves into Dundee Amateur Choral Union, the designated purpose of which was 'to practise and execute chiefly sacred music'.

The Choral has had 16 conductors from Henry Nagel, a music teacher who came originally from Danzig (Gdansk) to Derek Clark, our current one.

The first concert, on 4 June 1860, in front of an invited audience with the choir numbering 48 singers, consisted principally of choruses from Haydn's 'Creation' and Mendelssohn's Elijah'. The first large scale single work to be given complete was Handel's 'Messiah' in November 1865. In May 1869, DACU gave the first performance in Scotland of Mozart's 'Requiem'. Over the years the repertoire has covered many works, some famous and some less so. In 1875 under Arthur Sullivan, as guest conductor, DACU performed possibly the first Scottish performance of his oratorio Light of the World (1873) while this year George Oldroyds work is getting another Scottish premiere. However in contrast to the 50 or so performances of Handels Messiah, some works have only had a single performance, including all three being performed at the 2018 Spring concert.

Public concerts began on 28th January 1861 in the Corn Exchange (later the Kinnaird Hall) in Bank Street, but it was with 'The Dream of Gerontius' that the Choral gave the opening concert in the new Caird Hall in November 1921. Since then the Caird Hall has been the most used, now almost entirely on Sunday evenings. However other venues in Dundee have been used as well as in Pitlochry, Stirling and Edinburgh, and in 1996 in Dundees twin city, Orleans.

Various orchestras have played over the years, some local and amateur while more recently professional orchestras have been the mainstay, notably Scottish Opera most recently. In the early days, a season of concerts over several nights could include a wholly orchestral concert, with Charles Halle conducting his own orchestra at one in 1879. Other special concerts were put on for charitable purposes eg Judas Maccabeus in 1892 for the Sick Poor Nursing Society, one in 1915 for the Belgian Relief Fund and one in each of 1916, 1917, 1918 and 1919 for War Relief Funds. At the 1917 one, a certain Myra Hess was the pianist!

There have also been performances with other choirs, most notably, for the centenary of its composition in 2000, the Dream of Gerontius was given jointly in both Edinburgh and Dundee on consecutive nights along with the Edinburgh Bach Choir and Spectrum, Perth, in the presence of Elgars own godson, 95-yr-old Wulstan Atkins, who addressed the Choral in the Marryat Hall with his memories.

Dundee Choral Union (Amateur was dropped at the centenary in 1958) has over 160 years provided a very clear cultural light to Dundees citizens  long may it continue!

Dundee Choral Union   |   General Secretary : Mrs Kay Simpson, 12 Smithy Road, Balmullo, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 0BG   |   Telephone : 01334 870277
© Dundee Choral Union 2009-2018   |   Scottish Charity No SCO-17048
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