the ad murum singers
how we got here
On 17th September 1987, the Rev. John Senior (vicar of St Andrew’s Church, Heddon) asked the church’s organist, Freda Phillipson, if she would consider the possibility of forming a community choir. The idea, originally discussed by the Rev. Senior and churchwarden Eddie Tingate, was warmly welcomed and village residents were invited to join.
Eighteen interested singers turned up for the inaugural practice; nine sopranos, three altos, four tenors and two basses. Practices were held in St Andrew’s Church on Thursday evenings, with members coming from Heddon, Ponteland and Walbottle. The church did not charge a fee for the use of the building and the choir continued to meet there for twelve years.
The very first concert was performed in the church at Christmas 1987, when the choir sang “The Birth of Christ”, the only music available to the choir at the time. This Christmas concert was meant to be a one-off, but the singers and congregation enjoyed it so much that, by popular demand, the choir continued. So, the Ad Murum Singers choir began.
There has been a long tradition of music in Heddon. In the early 1900s, a choir festival took place in the Knott Memorial Hall with competitions and the presentation of cups. There had been a choir in the village called the Heddon Singers so, when thinking of a name for the new choir, it seemed better to avoid a similar one. Looking into the history of the village, Freda Phillipson came upon the name Ad Murum - the Latin for ‘at the wall’. This seemed an appropriate name for the newly-formed choir.
Gradually, the supply of sheet music built up and, as well as the Easter and Christmas concerts, the choir sang on other occasions and at other venues. One memorable concert was held at Dissington Hall by kind permission of Mr & Mrs Brown. This took the form of a Victorian evening with everyone dressed in appropriate finery. It was a great success and all money raised went to charity.
Freda continued as musical director for some twelve years and, despite her stepping down from the role, it was decided that the choir should continue to practice and perform. During the summer recess, Sheila Nicholson was approached and agreed to take up the reins. With new music and a fresh impetus, weekly rehearsals moved to the schoolroom in the Methodist Chapel. An annual membership fee was introduced to cover the cost of hiring the premises and to enable the choir to extend its library of music.
The choir continued to flourish and, when Sheila and husband John left to spend time between Spain and Newcastle, Douglas Hunter became Musical Director, passing it on eventually to Chris Clark, a role she continues to hold to the present.
During the years in which the choir has become part of the village, the summer and Christmas concerts have performed to capacity audiences. So popular are the Christmas concerts, they now have two performances and have recently developed a tradition for short, home-grown pantomimes. Several thousand pounds have been raised by these concerts, benefiting at least twenty five charities, mostly local.
Whilst the Covid pandemic interrupted our practices and performances, regular online sessions helped to keep the spirit of unity and enjoyment of singing to the fore and, now that practices have resumed, we hope to be performing to our loyal audiences once more in the very near future….
With grateful thanks to Esme Tingate and Freda Phillipson for compiling this History of Ad Murum Singers on our behalf.