WELL-known singer Jane Hobson has become the first female musical director of Skelmanthorpe Male Voice choir.
Her arrival marks a second big milestone for the choir, which also celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.
The singers will perform their first concert under Jane’s leadership at Denby Dale Methodist Church on Cumberworth Road, Denby Dale, at 7.30pm tomorrow. Pay on the door.
The 53-year-old says the choir has been a delight to work with.
“For some people, it has been a revelation to have a woman conductor,’’ she said. “But the men in the choir have been wonderful.”
Jane, who lives at Skelmanthorpe, runs her own 12-strong mixed choir at Clayton West called Hobson’s Voices.
She is also well known as a mezzo-contralto soloist.
She decided to go for the musical directorship because she likes a challenge and the timing seemed right.
“My circumstances changed in terms of jobs and I was ready to take them on at a time when they were looking for someone,” she added.
The choir had been without a permanent conductor for almost a year, with the deputy conductor Norman Bailey leading rehearsals.
The choir is now looking to a period of stability under Jane’s leadership.
There are currently about 40 singers in the Skelmanthorpe Choir and they are always ready to welcome new members.
The choir was formed in 1934 by a group of men meeting in Skelmanthorpe and the first rehearsal was in November of that year.
Rehearsals are now held every Tuesday, alternating between Pilling Lane Methodist Church in Skelmanthorpe and West Wakefield Methodist Church, which reflects the two general areas from which many of the singers are recruited.
Their next big performance, after tomorrow will be a joint concert with Wakefield Girls High School choir at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Wakefield on April 24.
The concert is in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.
These two concerts are the first in a series of 13 bookings the choir has for 2009, including a concert at St Paul’s Hall in October with the Mastersingers, whose conductor, Alan Simmons, was formerly conductor at Skelmanthorpe.
Skelmanthorpe are also heading out to Norfolk on tour in May.
Jane says she has found the choir’s schedule demanding.
“It is a big job in terms of time and commitment,’’ she said. “They only rehearse once a week now, but aside from that, you have to look up music, research it and think about how you are going to conduct it.
“I have to familiarise myself with the choir’s current repertoire. As director, I am there to bring my interpretation to the quality and style.”
However, she likes a challenge. As a part-time schoolteacher at Hade Edge Junior and Infant School, she recently tackled feats such as abseiling and climbs to heady heights on an activity weekend.
She said: “If you went through my life over the past few years, you would say I am a woman who likes a challenge!”
Her love affair with music started in childhood. She grew up in Kirkburton where her family were members of a thriving Salvation Army unit.
She sang in the Army’s choir, The Songsters, took roles in dramatic productions and played tenor horn in the band.
She was also inspired by her recorder teacher at junior school in Highburton – despite not liking the instrument itself!
She taught herself the piano at her grandmother’s house, finally impressing her parents enough to persuade them to pay for lessons.
Well-known local musician and director of Holmfirth Choral society, Ken Rothery, was her music teacher at Kirkburton Secondary School and provided much support and many performance opportunities.
Mr Rothery decided to enter children for the first time in the CSE music exam and Jane got a Grade 1, equivalent to what was then the O level and later spent four years at the Huddersfield Polytechnic where she obtained a diploma in music, followed by a year at Bretton Hall College of Education where she got her teaching qualification.
She says she owes him a huge debt of gratitude for setting her on that road.
“Ken Rothery was a huge help,’’ she said. “He took me everywhere and took me under his wing.”
Jane taught music herself for 10 years at Newsome High School before giving up 23 years ago to be a full-time mum to daughter Faye.
However, she continued to be involved with music for charity work, singing and organising fundraising concerts and performing with Huddersfield Choral Society, where she was a member for 28 years.
But four years ago, Jane went back to work with notes of a different kind – as a cashier at Barclays bank in Wakefield, later becoming local business manager.
After 12 months, music lured her back and she joined the Kirklees Music School as a peripatetic music teacher before becoming music co-ordinator at Hade Edge.
Despite all her responsibilities, she has one more challenge in store – learning to play the ukulele!
For more information about Skelmanthorpe MVC, contact secretary R E Dickinson on 01484 861045.