About Us

    About the choir

    We are people who love to sing, and we come from all walks of life.

    Birmingham Choral Union has been singing in the City since the 1880s, performing with professional orchestras and soloists in wonderful venues, including the Symphony Hall, Town Hall and The Elgar Hall. For larger performances we sometimes collaborate with other local choirs.

    We enjoy the challenge of singing a range of music, under the musical guidance of our charismatic conductor Colin Baines who has been with us since 1981. We sing sacred and secular pieces in different languages and from different musical traditions.

    Our rehearsals are every Monday evening near Broad Street, and include a gentle warm-up and vocal exercises, then learning each piece with piano accompaniment from Darren Hogg. We have a short refreshment break with choir notices and regular fundraising sales and events.

    We always welcome new singers, of all voices and it’s easy to join, with low membership fees. You’ll find us friendly and supportive.

    Further details about us may be found elsewhere on our website, please see our Rehearsal Details.


    Choir Summary 2019

    Birmingham Choral Union, established in the 1880s, has been actively involved in the musical life of the City spanning three centuries. Over the years, the choir has performed various types of music in venues around the City including Symphony Hall and The Elgar Hall. A previous conductor of Birmingham Choral Union, Appleby Matthews, was a Founder of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and we also had a long and happy association of over 40 years with Harold Gray OBE, first as Conductor and then as President. When Harold retired as Conductor, Richard Silk and David Sadler took over the reins before our present Conductor, Colin Baines, joined us in 1981. Under Colin’s baton, the choir has continued to develop and experiment. We count ourselves fortunate to have Darren Hogg as our Accompanist. In 2014 the Choir was chosen to perform Beethoven’s Choral Symphony in Symphony Hall, with the City of Birmingham Choir and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; and in November 2017 we sang in Symphony Hall’s Organ Spectacular. While encouraging younger singers to join us, the Choir also has a strong feeling of continuity. Our President, Val Munro, ably assisted by husband Jim, is engaged in researching and collating the Choir’s history.



    Colin Baines – Musical Director

    Colin Baines - Musical Director

    Colin, our Musical Director and Conductor, studied music at Birmingham and Liverpool Universities. He has conducted the Birmingham Choral Union for over thirty years, directing performances of choral works from Bach’s Mass in B minor to Fanshawe’s African Sanctus in various major venues across the Midlands. He is also deputy chorus master of the City of Birmingham Choir.

    When not working with choirs, he is a freelance performer, accompanying other choirs and soloists, playing the organ, playing keyboard and double bass in a number of dance bands and teaching piano and keyboard. He is a member of the Valentini Piano Trio and has recently played the piano in Elgar’s Piano Quintet and Schubert’s Trout Quintet with the Midland Chamber Players.

    Colin is also a composer, having written a number of children’s musicals and music for many series of BBC programmes including Let’s Move and Something to Think About. He also directs the music for the Festival Arts group in Birmingham and St. David’s (Pembrokeshire).

    He lives in Birmingham with his wife and four grown-up children.


    Darren Hogg – Accompanist and Assistant Chorus Master

    DarrenDarren, Accompanist, born and educated in Birmingham, trained at Birmingham Conservatoire, studying organ, harpsichord and piano accompaniment with David Ponsford and David Saint. Darren is Organist at Halesowen Parish Church (St. John the Baptist) and St. Leonard’s Church, Frankley and is one of two Organists at Lodge Hill Crematorium. He is Accompanist and Assistant Director of Music for Birmingham Choral Union and accompanies many other well-known choirs and societies.

    Darren has also featured as Organist on BBC 1’s Songs of Praise, BBC Radio 2’s Sunday Half Hour and BBC Radio 4’s Daily Service. He also runs his own private teaching practice (Organ, Music Theory and Piano) and is a member of the Birmingham Organists’ Association and has served on the Association council. The Association awarded Darren the Leonard Gibbons Memorial Prize for Young Organists. Darren is married to Barbara, mezzo-Soprano and primary school teacher. They have a daughter, Abigail. Further details may be gleaned from Darren’s website www.darrenhogg.co.uk.


    Val Munro – President

    Val1-webVal Munro joined the Birmingham Choral Union in September 1966 straight from teacher training college.
    The first major work she can remember taking part in was Elgar’s ‘Dream of Gerontius’ in January 1967 in Birmingham Town Hall.
    She has enjoyed singing in many memorable concerts, but ones that stand out are the Verdi ‘Requiem’ in 1967 and the Berlioz ‘Grande Messe des Morts’ in 1972, both with the CBSO as the closing concerts of The Llangollen International Eisteddfod in Wales.
    The performance of the Fanshawe ‘African Sanctus’ in 1985 also stands out for the novelty of trying to synchronize the choral parts with a tape of African performers.
    For several seasons, in the late ‘70’s, Val was Vice-chairman, but on relinquishing that role has since spent many ‘happy hours’ raising funds for the choir, organizing jumble sales, bring-and-buys featuring her home-made jam, plus waste paper and aluminium can collections (which earned her the nickname of ‘Vagrant Val’ around Kings Heath Park!!)
    More recently she, aided by her husband, Jim, has been instrumental in organizing regular Quiz Nights for both BCU and nominated charities.
    In recognition of her tireless endeavours and enthusiasm, the Choir were delighted to appoint Val Honorary Vice-president in January 2009 and Honorary Life-president in 2013.


    Sue Cottom (Chair 2019)

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    I think I have been singing all my life!  My first recollection is  singing Doh a deer on the stage at Butlins. I then progressed to singing on the exit steps of the local cinema! My choral experience spans both CBSO Chorus as a founder member and City Choir.  I have been with Choral Union now for a relatively short time and although it is a smaller choir, it is perfectly formed! I qualified as a music teacher in 1976 and have been teaching ever since. I retired from full time working in 2013 but I now teach part time in a local primary school and I hope to carry on for many more years!

    Under the baton of Colin and the lightning fast fingers of Darren, Choral Union continues to develop and there has been inspirational and memorable singing in recent concerts. Our current aim is to recruit more singers to enable the choir to grow and develop further. We have some exciting concerts ahead and I am proud to be chair of such a great group of singers.


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