Aberdeen Bach Choir

Paul Tierney
Ensemble type

Founded as the Aberdeen Bach Society by Charles Sanford Terry in 1913, Aberdeen Bach Choir was reconstituted in 1956 under conductor Willan Swainson. Beginning with a core of twelve members, the choir now consists of more than a hundred singers and usually performs two main recitals a year, one of which normally features a work by J.S. Bach. In 2016 the Choir celebrated its 60th Anniversary since reconstitution.

The impetus for its formation began with the retirement from the Music Department of Aberdeen University of Willan Swainson, distinguished academic, organist and conductor, and the desire of a number of people who had sung under his direction in the University Recital Choir and the Oratorio Choir to continue working with him. The first performance by the new Aberdeen Bach Choir was J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, in St Machar’s Cathedral on December 17th 1956. Coincidentally, Mr Swainson’s farewell concert with the university choirs and orchestra was the first work performed in the 60th Anniversary season - J.S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor.

Aberdeen Bach Choir has singers from different professions - as well as having various members who are connected to music through teaching, many others enjoy singing in the choir.  Professional soloists are brought in for our main concerts, but we also support young, developing soloists and encourage choir members to sing solos when appropriate.

St Machar's Cathedral in Old Aberdeen was the venue for the first performance of a Bach work in Aberdeen (in 1912) and has been our spiritual home ever since. It is a very special place in which to sing, being a regular concert venue. The choir normally holds performances twice a year in April and December, in St Machar’s Cathedral or in the Music Hall where there is greater scope for scaling up.

Getting involved

Choir rehearsals for the autumn term 2023 recommenced on Tuesday 22nd August 2023 in our usual venue, now known as Hillside Parish Church 1 - 3 Hilton Drive, Aberdeen (formerly High Hilton Church). Our rehearsals last for 2 hours and take place every Tuesday evening (during school term time) from August to December and from January to April. They include a short “bring your own” tea/coffee break.

We are a friendly, non-auditioning choir open to anyone over the age of 15. We are by no means all expert musicians or sight readers, but if you are able to sing accurately and in tune, have a secure sense of rhythm and a familiarity with musical notation, you may enjoy the experience of rehearsing and performing with us.

Newcomers are offered 2-3 weeks to settle in before confirming their membership and being asked to pay their subscription (see information on rates below). There is normally a modest additional charge for music hire each term, sometimes with an option to buy.

If you are interested in joining us, or would like to know more, please contact our Membership Secretary via our website. 

Our annual subscription rates for 2023/24 are as follows:

Full Member Subscription: £65.00

Concessionary Subscription: £45.00

Student/Under 18 Subscription: £0.00

Half-year rates are not offered.

We feel our membership subscriptions offer excellent value for money. Anyone who needs it qualifies for our concessionary rate, and students are asked to pay only a £10 returnable deposit for music hire.

We invite anyone interested in joining us to come along to a rehearsal to find out if we are the right fit for you as a singer. We will do our best to ensure you are introduced to someone who sings the same part as you, to help you fit in quickly. Your first point of contact, our Membership Secretary (Sandra Massey), is usually on hand at rehearsals to meet and welcome new singers.

If you have any other questions, you can contact the Aberdeen Bach Choir via our website. 

Rehearsal times
Tuesday 19:30 - 21:30
Membership criteria
Welcomed ability Intermediate
Ages Students, Adults
Auditioned No audition required
Hillside Parish Church, Hilton Drive, Ashgrove
AB24 4NQ
Visit website

Upcoming performances