The University of Dublin Choral Society is believed to be the oldest Choral Society among the universities of Great Britain and Ireland. It is certainly the oldest one in this country as a whole, having been founded in 1837. Its membership was limited at first to eighteen and its objective was “The cultivation of Choral Music in General”. The society still maintains this objective today although membership has grown to over 130.
Ladies were not admitted as members of the society until relatively late in the Society’s history, and even then only after a protracted battle with the College Board. (Today the Society retains the title of the “Ladies Concert” for the Trinity Term concert, which dates back to a time when this was the only concert of the year ladies could attend, although, “in bonnet, not in evening dress”).
The musical direction of the Choral Society has been undertaken by nine conductors, all of whom served the Society with great enthusiasm and loyalty. Among these former conductors are Sir Robert Prescott-Stewart, Dr. George Hewson, Dr. Joseph Groocock and Mr. David Milne. The present conductor is Mr David Leigh.
Throughout its history, Choral has had the honour of presenting the first performances in Ireland of some thirty-five choral works including Bach’s Mass in B Minor (1908), Verdi’s Requiem (1876), and Mozart’s Grand Mass in C (1906).
In 1987 the University of Dublin Choral Society celebrated its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary by performing a work by Dr. Brian Boydell, specially commissioned by the Society for the event. The work, Under No Circumstances, was a nostalgic and often humorous review of the Society’s history using extracts from minutes of committee meetings and from newspapers of the day. In 1992 Choral joined with all Dublin’s choirs in the first performance in Ireland of Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand as a celebration of Trinity College’s Quatercentenary. Then in 1996 the Society made its first ever foreign trip to Paris to perform Handel’s Messiah.
The society now performs three concerts each year, one at the end of each term. The tradition that members wear the formal academic gown for performances is upheld and concerts take place in the beautiful surroundings of the Examination Hall, Trinity College Dublin.
When our Society was formed in 1837, it was known simply as “The University Choral Society”, because neither Oxford nor Cambridge, the only other “Universities” in the UK at the time, had a choral society. When Oxford formed theirs in 1869, we became the “University of Dublin Choral Society”. Societies formed in Trinity after 1900 have the title “Dublin University” attached to them.