HEREFORD Choral Society has published a new book telling the story of the first 175 years of its existence. Hereford Choral Society: An Unfinished History, was launched to coinicide with the choir’s performance of Handel’s Messiah in Hereford Cathedral earlier this month.

Drawing on the choir’s own records and on local archives including back issues of the Hereford Times, the book is lavishly illustrated, and describes how the choral society was set up in response to the early 19th-century enthusiasm for offering ‘rational recreation’ for young working men. The necessity of involving women to sing the soprano and alto parts meant that men and women from different backgrounds mixed on equal terms.

Hereford Choral Society has always been conducted by organists of the cathedral and the book includes vivid portraits of these gifted and sometimes eccentric musicians. There was John Hunt, who died from an infected wound aged just 35 after tripping over a tray in the darkened cloisters and cutting his hand on a broken tureen and George Robertson Sinclair, whose bulldog Dan attended every choral society rehearsal.

The book is written by Timothy Day, a cultural historian who is an expert on the world-famous sound of English choirs, and who lives in a house once lived in by Sir Edward Elgar.

Hereford Choral Society: An Unfinished History is available from Hereford Cathedral Shop, 01432 374208

and Outback Records, 19a Church Street, 01432 275 063