Sometimes when he’s watching Dore Male Voice Choir, says Ray Mellor, he can get so lost in the music he almost finds himself standing and staring in awe.
Which isn’t ideal. Because he himself sings baritone.
“I’ve never actually forgot my part,” he notes. “But sometimes you wish you could just watch. These guys are so talented.”
It is not some idle boast of self-promotion – and you can bet a tenor on that.
The group celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and not only is it the oldest such collective in Sheffield, it’s probably the most successful too.
In five decades, the choir – resplendent in distinctive green jackets – have performed everywhere from the Royal Albert Hall to York Minster. They’ve headlined the prestigious Llangollen International Eisteddfod in Wales and sung the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres. They’ve done a set on Look North and appeared on radio more times than anyone can remember. And they’ve spread the name of Dore out across Europe with tours of Germany, Austria, France, Cyprus, Belgium and, just last summer, Spain.
“Let me tell you,” says Ray, the group’s publicity officer and member of six years. “It’s a bit special getting a standing ovation at the Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia in Barcelona. That’s hair-standing-on-neck territory.”
Not a bad legacy for a group which started out as a bunch of ex-servicemen meeting in the pub for a sing-along.
That was the early Sixties. The gang would gather weekly in The Norfolk Arms in Ringinglow before moving to The Devonshire Arms in Dore. As numbers grew, it was decided in 1964 to form the Dore Male Voice Choir.
Today, the 72-strong members come from across South Yorkshire and range in age from Young Chris (who’s a not-that-young 29) to Ted Needham, a 90-year-old second tenor.
They practise every Thursday at Dore Church Hall in Townhead Road, and singing is sometimes just the half of it. There’s also the small matter of mastering Russian and Welsh language songs which form part of the repertoire.
“We learn it phonetically,” confides member-of-13-years Martin Haze. “Between you and me I don’t have a clue what I’m singing.”
They also perform songs from opera, musicals and modern material – “though nothing you’d get in the hit parade,” says Ray, 72, and one of the few members to actually live in Dore.
They’ve raised thousands for charity down the decades and their annual Christmas show at Dore Parish Church tends to sell out.
“Why have we been so successful?” ponders Ray, a retired businessman. “I think we’ve had successive musical directors – now Elizabeth Hampshire – who have built a reputation for quality. When we perform people know they are going to get a good show. We practise hard to be the best we can be.”
And this year they’re aiming to be even better than that. They kick off the anniversary year – no-one knows the exact date they formed – with a free show in the Winter Garden on Saturday, February 1 (11.30am-12.30pm) and follow that up with a spectacular concert at Sheffield City Hall, accompanied by Doncaster soprano Lesley Garrett on March 8.
Then after that? There’s a whole host of other concerts in the pipeline – and another 50 years to be singing their hearts out.
More details at www.doremalevoicechoir.com