On the 18th November 1948 an informal meeting was held to discuss the formation of a choral society to present major choral works in Sunderland. The prime movers were the Rector of Bishopwearmouth Church, Rev.J.F.Richardson, and Clifford Hartley, the choirmaster and organist of the church.

Clifford Hartley - Chairman & Conductor until 1974

The nucleus of the choir were to be the men of the Parish Church Choir and the Senior Girls Choir of the Bede Girls Grammar School, Sunderland, where Mr Hartley was Music Master. These were to be augmented by other singers subject to approval. On the 23rd December 1948 these proposals were formally agreed by a temporary committee and it was proposed that a performance of ‘The Creation’ by Haydn be held in March 1949.

The formal name for the choir was agreed as Bishopwearmouth Choral Society (there was already a Sunderland Choral Society in being) though it would have no direct connection with Bishopwearmouth Church.

The concert took place as scheduled, the choir numbered over 80 singers and the soloists included Isobel Baillie. The accompaniment was by organ, played by Dr.Conrad Eden, the organist of Durham Cathedral.The Society began slowly and after five years had become established. Although the Sunderland Choral Society had now become defunct, the Society did not change its name. By 1956 it was performing two concerts per year and using regular orchestral accompaniment. By 1960 with a membership of over 80 the Society was performing in the Empire Theatre, Sunderland, as well as in Bishopwearmouth Church.

Clifford Hartley who had been chairman and conductor of the Society from its inception retired from conducting in 1974, his final performance being that of the Bach ‘B Minor Mass’, the fifty sixth concert by the Society.Since then the Society has continued to flourish. Its membership, which is auditioned, though occasionally variable has remained relatively stable at 80 singers. It has since its inception performed nearly 150 concerts, in addition to some for charitable purposes, and has since 1993 sung under the baton of Mr.David Murray, a highly experienced and professional musician well known in the North East. The Society rehearses weekly on Wednesday evenings, in The Minster Church Sunderland during the months of September to June and performs three concerts per year, all of which are held in Sunderland Minster.

1993 - 1994
Songs of the Fleet (Stanford)
A Sea Symphony (Vaughan Williams)
Petite Messe Solennelle (Rossini)
Samson (Handel)

1994 - 1995
Ceremony of Carols (Britten)
Christmas Cantata (Bush)
Stabat Mater (Dvorak)
Gloria (Poulenc)

1995 - 1996
Cantata Misericordium (Britten)
St.Nicholas (Britten)
St.John Passion (J.S.Bach)
English Madrigals (Bennet, Farmer, Wilbye)
4 English Folk Songs (Vaughan Williams)
A “Carpenters Sequence” (arr Murray)

1996 - 1997
Mass in C (K317)(Mozart)
Requiem Mass (K626) (Mozart)
Dixit Dominus (Handel)
Four Coronation Anthems (Handel)
Songs by Gershwin and Copeland, The Chichester Psalms (Bernstein)
Agnus Dei (Barber)

1997 - 1998
Mass in B minor (Bach)
Requiem Mass (Fauré)
Requiem Mass (Duruflé)
Sviati (Tavener)
Song for Athene (Tavener)
Salute another Morn (Watson) (Commissioned Work)

1998 - 1999
Messiah (Handel)
Cantique de Jean Racine (Fauré)
Petite Messe Solennelle (Rossini)
Requiem Mass (Verdi)

1999 - 2000
Vesperae Solennes de Confessore (K339) (Mozart)
Mass in C minor (K427) (Mozart)
Song of Destiny (Brahms)
A German Requiem (Brahms)
The Rio Grande (Lambert)
Carmina Burana (Orff)

2000 - 2001
The Dream of Gerontius (Elgar)
Vespers 1610 - (Monteverdi)
Requiem (Rutter) Benedicite (Carter)

2001 - 2002
Dona Nobis Pacem (Vaughan Williams)
Hodie (Vaughan–Williams)
Cantata No.80 -Ein Feste Burg (Bach)
Magnificat in D (Bach)
Miscellaneous works (Gershwin & Jerome Kern)

2002 - 2003
Elijah (Mendelssohn)
St.Nicholas (Britten)
Beatus Vir (Monteverdi)
Four Coronation Anthems (Handel)
Gloria (Vivaldi)

2003 - 2004
Serenade to Music (Vaughan Williams)
Fantasia on Christmas Carols (Vaughan William)
Three Choir Carols (Terry, Willcocks, Carter)
Three Pieces for choir (Edward Watson)
St Matthew Passion (complete)
Beatus Vir (Monteverdi)
Sacred works for choir (Palestrina, Bruckner, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Franck, Fauré)
Polovtsian Dances (Borodin)

2004 - 2005
Christmas Oratorio (J.S,Bach)
The Creation (J.Haydn)
Sea Pictures and The Music Makers (E.Elgar)
Blest Pair of Sirens and I Was Glad (H.Parry)

2005 - 2006
Five Tudor Portraits and Five Mystical Songs (R.Vaughan Williams)
Side by Side (S.Sondheim)

2006 - 2007
Messa di Gloria (G.Puccini)
Four Sacred Pieces (G.Verdi)
Dixit Dominus (G.F.Handel)
Nelson Mass (F.J.Haydn)
Come Ye Sons of Art (H.Purcell)
Abraham and Isacac & Rejoice the Lamb (Britten)

2007 - 2008
Requiem & Mass in C (Mozart)
St. John Passion (Bach)
An Evening with Gershwin and Friends

2008 - 2009
B Minor Mass (Bach)
Gerontius (Elgar)
Rio Grande (C.Lambert)
Carmina Burana (C.Orff)

2009 - 2010
Messiah Complete Version (G.F.Handel)
St. Nicholas (Britten)
Beatus Vir (Monteverdi)
Gloria (Rutter)
Motets (Bruckner)
In Ecclesiis & Jubilate Deo (Gabrielli)

2010 - 2011
Nanie (Dvorak)
Stabat Mater (Brahms)
St. Nicholas Mass & Maria Theresa Mass (Haydn)
Classics Old & New (arr. David Murray)

2011 - 2012
Mass in C & Choral Fantasia (Beethoven)
Requiem & Cantique de Jean Racine (Fauré)
Panis Angelicus (Franck)
Calme des Nuits (Saint Saens)
Dirait-On (from Les Chansons Des Roses) (Morten Lauridsen)
Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott & Magnificat in D (Bach)

2012 - 2013
An Oxford Elegy (Vaughan Williams)
Carols (Bob Chilcott)
Crown Imperial (Walton)
I was glad (Parry)
Belshazzar’s Feast (Walton)
Five Mystical Songs (Vaughan Williams)
Carmina Burana (Orff)

2013 - 2014
Ein Deutsches Requiem (Brahms)
St. Matthew Passion (Bach)
Who are these Angels? (MacMillan)
Dido and Aeneas (Purcell)

2014 - 2015
Messiah Handel
A Christmas Carol (Runham and Murray)
From the Bavarian Highlands (Elgar)
The Music Makers (Elgar)
Messa da Requiem (Verdi)

2015 - 2016
Six Songs from a Shropshire Lad (A.E.Houseman)
A Sea Symphony (Ralph Vaughan Williams)
Mass in B flat (Hummel)
Side by Side (Sondheim)

2016 - 2017
Christmas pieces (Rutter, Holst, Vaughan Williams,
Murray, Leuner, Watson, Terry, Kenyon and Piercy)

Solemn Vespers & Mass in C minor (Mozart)
Popular Songs (David Murray Songbook)

2017 - 2018
Christmas pieces (Rutter, Todd, Britten, Chilcott, Murray & Runham)
Requiem (Durufle)
David Murray Songbook (Carpenters, Kern, Gershwin)

2018 - 2019
In Terra Pax (Gerald Finzi)
Dona Nobis Pacem (Vaughan Williams)
A Shropshire Lad (Butterworth)
The Creation (Haydn)
David Murray Song Book (Copeland, Gershwin, Kern, Sondheim, Goodall, Bernstein)

2019 - 2020
St.Nicholas (Britten)
Simple Symphony (Britten)
The Twelve Apostles (Britten)
Beatus Vir (Monteverdi)

Concerts then had to be cancelled due to Covid until:

2021 - 2022
Messiah (Handel)
Petite Messe Solennelle (Rossini)

2022 – 2023
Christmas Pieces (Rutter, Todd, Chilcott, Murray & Holst)
Te Deum & Nelson Mass (Haydn)
Side by Side (Sondheim)

2023 – 2024
Christmas Pieces (Watson, Walker, Rutter, Murray, Chilcott & Handel)
Serenade to Music & Fantasia on Christmas Carols (Vaughan Williams)
I Was Glad(Parry)
The Music Makers & Sea Pictures(Vaughan Williams)