HUDDERSFIELD Choral Society has been a major feature of Jenny Lockwood’s life since 1959.
That was when a new boyfriend asked her to accompany him to the Town Hall for the Choral Messiah.
Little did she know then that she would not only marry David Lockwood, but come to share his passion for the Choral Society and one day become its president.
That day was last Friday when Jenny, the Choral’s vice-president for the last two years, took over the top job.
“I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would one day be standing here as president,” she said.
Jenny and her husband David live in the Holme Valley and have a son, Guy, a daughter, Kate and grandson, Jacob. It is David’s family which has the longest connection with the Choral.
“David’s father taught music. His aunt and uncle both sang in the Choral and his father never missed the Choral’s Messiah,” said Jenny.
“David invited me to a Messiah performance at the Town Hall. I don’t think I realised at the time what a big deal it was getting tickets.”
“He had queued all night for the tickets as he did each year and we sat in the gallery,” she said.
But when the couple married, she quickly realised that the Choral would become a big part of family life.
“I have always enjoyed all the concerts – who wouldn’t – but must confess that I have often in the past been somewhat bemused by David’s total dedication to the choir,” she said.
“He has served for 19 years as programme officer and Choral has always had priority in the Lockwood household.”
Four years ago, Jenny, who has a formidable background in libraries, venue management and fund-raising, was asked to put some of those skills to work on behalf of the Choral to help raise money to supports its 175th anniversary celebrations.
“Once I too became involved, attitudes changed – I quickly began to see what is that makes “Choral” so addictive,” she said.
As for the Choral, this world renowned choir not only has top quality, dedicated singers, it has a first rate organisational team behind the scenes too.
And Jenny’s energy, her commitment, her organisational skills and her seemingly endless list of contacts has made her a real asset to the Choral.
Since joining the team which manages the choir, she has worked with them to promote its work, lift its profile nationally and get creative when it comes to ways in which to help secure its future.
For these are tough times economically even for the biggest and most successful of arts organisations and responding to changing times is crucial in order for even the best to survive and grow.
Jenny’s fund-raising work for the Choral’s big anniversary enabled her to spend many hours with the choir’s key asset. Its singers.
And how they have responded. They’ve not just raised their voices, they’ve rolled up their sleeves and taken part in all manner of fund-raising efforts from walks and jam-making to plant sales and workshops aimed at getting even more people singing.
“Working on the 175th anniversary committee has allowed me to really get to know the choir and to be astounded at the skills that they have as well as their musical gifts,” she said.
“When you get 200 people running from forensic scientists and an archaeologist to people who can speak two or three languages you have an amazing pool of talent to tap into.
“During the fund-raising campaign, there was a real willingness among people to do things other than sing.
“I’ve found the singing members so friendly and I marvel at their commitment. They give up every Friday evening to travel from as far as Northallerton to sing with the Choral.”
Jenny also praised the choir’s committee and its professional team.
“They all put in enormous amounts of time on the choir’s behalf and deserve our thanks and gratitude for the amount of work they do.”
Jenny’s professional career has certainly equipped her for steering the area’s premier choir through the next two years. She successfully balanced a busy and challenging career with family life and with 25 years’ service as a magistrate in Huddersfield.
Jenny has worked as a librarian in Huddersfield both for the university and for Kirklees Council.
She was at the forefront of readying the on-campus library for the town’s biggest educational institution as it switched from polytechnic to university status.
And at the public library, she project managed a wide range of community and youth opportunities programmes.
One of her many enduring achievements was in helping to found Kirklees Talking Newspaper for the Blind which continues today.
Her work for the arts division of Kirklees Council saw her managing the town halls and community centres dealing with artists ranging from the celebrated conductor Sir Simon Rattle to comedian Billy Connolly.
It taught her how to balance the artistic demands and practicalities facing major venues. Who but Jenny would remain unfazed by a request from a major music festival to put a trapeze across the town hall and string corks on to its valuable Steinway piano?
Working in the area’s venue also showed her much about the value of teamwork. And the respect and admiration with which she was widely regarded by her Kirklees colleagues was to prove invaluable when she took on another challenge, as fund-raiser for Kirkwood Hospice.
“A lot of the Kirklees staff signed up to payroll giving for the hospice and whenever I was organising a big event, former colleagues did all they could to help.”
“Going from the local authority to a voluntary organisation showed how much can be achieved by professionals and volunteers working together and the hospice is a terrific example of that,” she said.
It is a philosophy which has already served Jenny well in her work with the Choral and will ensure that the society maintains and builds on its reputation as the country’s leading choir and as a great organisation to be part of.