History of the Nelson Civic Ladies' Choir

When the Nelson Town Council formed a ‘Municipal Children’s Choir’ some 70 years ago nobody could have foreseen the successful organisation of over 100 voices aged from 7 - 70  which the Nelson Civic Choir has become today.

The Civic Choirs organisation was formed in 1949 as the Nelson Municipal Children’s choir and in 1953, under its conductor Edward Parr, was split into two groups - a primary group for children from 5 - 11 years and a junior group for boys and girls from 11 - 16 years. Under his direction, by 1957 the Junior Choir had won first prize at the International Eisteddfod of Llangollen.   

The Nelson Civic Ladies’ Choir was formed in 1959 from a small number of sixteen year old girls in the Junior Choir who were anxious to continue singing with young people of their own age group.  This small band of ladies went from strength to strength and over the years has gained recognition as an outstanding choral group. 

There have, of course, been pinnacles of achievement which stand out - particularly first prize in the Ladies Choir competition at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod, and 1st prize winners BBC Television ‘Grand Sing’.  The Choir also appeared on the hit BBC TV Series, 'Last Choir standing', reaching the final 28 out hundreds of choirs that applied. 

It has broadcast on radio and television on numerous occasions and whilst concert engagements will always be a major part of the choir’s calendar, both here and abroad, competing against other choirs on festival platforms throughout the length and breadth of the country helps to keep the choir on top form. 

In 1999, after over 40 years as Musical Director, Ted moved to Cornwall with his wife Kath to live nearer to his family.  He now holds the honorary title of ‘Conductor Emeritus’.  

When Ted retired the position of Musical Director was filled by acclaimed local musician Nigel Wilkinson, who continued to develop the choir and achieved further success.  Our current Musical Director, John Garrett took up the baton in January 2003 and the Ladies choir is flourishing under his direction.

Our present accompanist is Elizabeth Cockshott who is the head of music at Queen Elizabeth’s grammar school in Blackburn.

The three choirs continue to thrive and regularly join together to the delight of their many supporters.  Many of the ladies have sung in all three choirs and now their own children are in the younger groups, so that a delightful family togetherness exists.  

Edward Parr MBE [1930 - 2019], Conductor Emeritus

 Ted Parr began training seriously as a tenor vocalist in 1952 with Mary Galloway and Isobel Bailey, having  qualified  with distinction as a primary school teacher in music and education at Alsager Training College. 

 In the following three  years he had achieved first prizes at all major northern festivals including Blackpool in  1954  and 1955, and the coveted 1st prize [tenor] at the International Eisteddfod of Llangollen in 1955. 

 During the next four years he was in constant demand on the concert platform with his considerable oratorio  and  operatic repertoire. He regularly shared the platform with artists of the calibre of Owen Brannigan,  Elizabeth Harwood,  Felicity Harrison, John Lawrenson, George Allen and Scott Joynt. He was engaged by  many of the leading northern  choral societies including Sale & District, Lancaster, Ulverston, Blackpool  Philharmonic, Rochdale Philharmonic,  Wrexham, Middleton, Salford etc. 

Parallel to his solo work, Ted was rapidly developing the Nelson Civic Choirs into an internationally recognised group. As early as 1957 the Junior choir, under his direction, had won the 1st prize at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod. 

As the pressure of his teaching career and choral interest increased, Ted decided not to pursue his own personal singing career and concentrated on teaching. He held the position of headteacher at Barrowford CP school for 20 years until his retirement. 

His three Civic choirs went from strength to strength with numerous broadcasts, festivals, concerts, and TV appearances. For over 35 years Ted Parr concentrated all his leisure time to introducing adults, youths and children to the wonderful joy of singing. Hundreds have benefited from his vast experience and natural skill as a teacher. 

In the New Year Honours list of 1984 he was awarded the MBE for his services to music in the Pendle District of Lancashire by Her Majesty the Queen, to the great delight of his family, the choirs and his many friends. 

In 1999, after over 40 years as Musical Director, Ted moved to Cornwall with his wife Kath to live nearer to his family. He now holds the honorary title of ‘Conductor Emeritus’.



 Nigel Wilkinson      

 Musical Director 1999 - 2003

Andrew Simpson 

                         Accompanist 2016 - 2018


 Barbara Budden [Dec'd 2017]

 Accompanist 2001 - 2015

Sheila Doyle 

Accompanist 1981 - 2001

Mary Butler [Dec'd 2020]

Accompanist 1966 – 1981

Community Web Kit provided free by BT