Back in September 1992 a small group of people met for the first time in Englefield Church to sing under the baton of Ian Westley. The adult education class ‘Singing for Pleasure’ was born. It was the brainchild of the then Head of Centre for Adult Education at Newbury College who had been given the brief to set up some new and exciting classes. She herself loved singing and felt there was an opening for a course for beginners who wanted to hone their singing skills. For around two years they met every Wednesday afternoon, but the numbers were growing and an opportunity arose to move to the John Cumber Hall in Theale.

Unlike other adult education classes, course members re-enrolled term after term so the group took on more of the feeling of a choir than a class. In an effort to share our love of music we began to visit Day Centres and Residential Homes to perform short concerts. An annual event was a musical afternoon shared with the Late Starters Orchestra to which friends and family were invited. It was not until several years later that we performed our first ‘solo’ concert at St Luke’s Church in Theale.

Going from strength to strength as we approached our ten year anniversary several changes came about. There had always been one or two men singing with the group but when the last of these left it was decided to formally make it an upper voice choir. We still sing in four parts a lot of the time, two alto and two soprano parts. Since we felt more like a choir we decided to change the name from ‘Singing for Pleasure’ to ‘Newbury College Singers’. We also began to perform a slightly more formal concert at the end of each term raising money for a different charity each time.

In 2007 Newbury College class fees rose prohibitively, due in part to a reduction in subsidies for adult education, and the group was in danger of disbanding. For a transitional period of one year we became semi-independent but still under the umbrella of Newbury College. Then we discovered a wonderful organisation called Making Music which supports voluntary music groups throughout the UK, and so after some discussion we took the plunge and went totally independent. At that point we became Vivace Voices. A similar problem occurred in the group that Ian ran in Reading, so some members of that group came and joined us. At around the same time we were forced to find a new venue and came to St Catherine of Siena in Tilehurst.

Twenty years on we number around 35 and have developed into a more polished choir. Ian is still in charge, though he may sometimes dispute that, and a lot of members have been with the choir for 15 years or more. Unfortunately we are no longer able to visit as many day centres and residential homes due to the number in the choir, but we do put on at least three concerts a year for charity, regularly sing carols at Sainsbury’s Calcot at Christmas and are often invited to sing at the Duchess of Kent Hospice Light up a Life service and the Flower Festival at St Mary the Virgin Stratfield Mortimer.

We are constantly striving to raise our standards and to that end are gradually becoming an auditioned choir. We enjoy singing all types of music including sacred music, songs from the shows, jazz standards, folk songs and world music. Despite the name changes we are still singing for pleasure, our own and hopefully that of our audiences.