Background to Sussex Chorus

The Sussex Chorus, formerly the Ditchling Choral Society, was originally formed in 1921 as a WI choir. In 1965 Janet Canetty-Clarke became the choir's Musical Director. Under her baton, the choir grew from a small, village choir of 26 singers to over 150 in about 10 years.

In 2002, after 37 years, Janet handed the baton to Neil Jenkins. In 2003 the choir changed its name to the Sussex Chorus to better reflect its status as a large choir that performs in Mid Sussex, the Brighton area and elsewhere. The choir's present Conductor and Director of Music is Alan Vincent.

The Sussex Chorus performs several concerts every year, most with professional orchestras and soloists. Works performed comprise the major choral works by composers such as Bach, Mozart and many others.

Major milestones have included commissioning Howard Blake to write Benedictus which the choir performed in 1980 at Worth Abbey, West Sussex (a Benedictine foundation) with the National Philharmonic Orchestra; concerts in Vienna and the UK with the First Austrian All-women Chamber Orchestra and winning the South East Arts award for the best Brighton Festival Concert.

The choir has been asked to sing at a number of occasions including a Charity Christmas Concert in Southwark Cathedral in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of York; a Charity Concert in Portsmouth with the Band of the Royal Marines in aid of the Missions to Seamen and performing in the Brighton Centre for a Raymond Gubbay Classics Spectacular concert. For several years running members of Sussex Chorus have sung in Cyprus.

The Ditchling WI Choir in 1926

This is a photograph of the choir (as the Ditchling WI Choir, as it was then) taken in Lewes, East Sussex in 1926 when the choir was performing in the Lewes Music Festival. The 32 members at this time grew to over 150 in the 1970s after Director of Music Janet Canetty-Clarke took charge.