The Choir was formed in 1904 by Francis Foote, the first concert being a performance of Brahms Requiem in the Great Hall in Tunbridge Wells. The second concert was also at the Great Hall and the third was at the Opera House.
In July 1919 Francis Foote conducted a Peace Concert in Calverley Grounds with 2000 children and 200 adults taking part. At the Silver Jubilee of George V the choir gave an open-air performance of Merrie England.
The Assembly Hall was opened in 1939 and since the Second World War most of our concerts have been held there.
Initially, the choir was referred to as “Francis J. Foot’s Choir”, and it was not until later that the choir became known as the Tunbridge Wells Choral Society. Although King Edward VII granted the borough of Tunbridge Wells “Royal” status in 1909, it was not until the 50th anniversary in 1959 that the choir became known as the “Royal Tunbridge Wells Choral Society”.
From 1985-2011 there was a choral link with our twin town of Wiesbaden. Members of the Choral Society have travelled to Wiesbaden on several occasions to join forces with Lutherkirche Choir or “Bach Chor”. The German Choir with their conductor Klaus Uwe Ludwig have sung with us seven times in Tunbridge Wells, including our Centenary Concert in 2004. Our most recent exchanges were in 2007 when we performed Elgar’s “The Kingdom” in Rochester Cathederal (in May) and the Lutherkirche, Wiesbaden (in November), and an RTWCS visit to Germany in 2010.
Conductors after Francis Foote have included Robin Miller, Dr. Harold May, Trevor Harvey and Myer Fredman who was Head of the Music Staff at Glyndebourne and lived in Tunbridge Wells. After Fredman was appointed a conductor in Adelaide in 1973, Derek Watmough, who had been Fredman’s assistant, then became our Musical Director until our Centenary Concert in 2004 when he retired after 30 years with the choir. He was succeeded by Richard Jenkinson in 2005, and Rebecca Miller in 2012. Guest conductors of note have included Sir George Dyson and Sir Adrian Boult.
During our long history most the major choral works have been performed. Carol Concerts have also been a feature of the RTWCS. In recent years it has become a tradition to have a concert of singing and instrumental music in December at the beautiful church of St. Mary’s, Goudhurst.
For further details of the history of RTWCS and a full list of its events, see our Archive Section. Copies or transcripts of some of the old concert programme reviews and reviews published in the local “Courier” newspaper are also available in this section.