BCS back at the Bristol Beacon with Handel's Messiah!

Type of post: Choir news item
Sub-type: News
Posted By: Joi Demery
Status: Archived
Date Posted: Thu, 7 Dec 2023
Bristol Choral Society (BCS) is very excited to be giving one of the first classical concerts at the wonderfully refurbished Bristol Beacon.

BCS have a long and happy association both with the Hall and Messiah.

Messiah was first performed by BCS as the first concert in its 4th season (year), on 21 December 1892 and then every year after
except in 1896 (when Judas Maccabeus was substituted), in 1899 when the Hall was burned down (a fire that started in a clothing factory next door and spread), and in the years 1914 and 1915, during WWI, concerts were suspended as military forces were in occupation of the hall. Messiah was the first concert given during WWI on 16 December 1916.

During WWII the choir continued to give concerts. The choir combined forces with the Bristol Philharmonic Society (which disbanded a few years later) to sing Messiah on November 28 1942.

After the CH burned down in February 1945, the choir sang Messiah (1947 and 1950) in the Central Hall in Old Market (a Methodist hall also used for concerts and now converted into flats) and in March 1949 in St Mary Redcliffe Church.

It was sung every year between 1892 – 1939 except for the four occasions above.

A couple of extracts from a press cutting ( can be viewed in full below) from the Bristol Mercury reviewing the choir's Messiah of 17 December 1906 states:

"the choir numbered 470 voices, and in the orchestra were 110 instrumentalists". Wow!!!

Also:  "It was the second concert of the present season, which is the eighteenth of the Society's operations; and the attendance reached proportions that must be gratifying to all immediately concerned in the concerts. The night was not a pleasant one for venturing out of doors - drizzling rain being accompanied by a wintry chilliness not altogether of the bracing sort; and the warmth, brightness, and animation within the hall were in agreeable contrast to the dreariness without. Leading supporters of the Society mustered in strong force, the Lord Mayor occupying his accustomed place in the President's  Gallery, accompanied by the Lady Mayoress. The Lord Mayor is one of those who bring with them the score of a work to be performed, following it throughout with critical closeness."

We are very pleased that the Lord Mayor remains one of the Society's Presidents and we continue to welcome them to many of our concerts, with or without their copy of the score!

From some time in the 1970s and up until at least the end of the 1980s, we were singing Messiah twice at Christmas. In the latter years we introduced a whole new generation of children to the Messiah with our very popular Mini Messiah, filling the Hall with children and families and helping them to understand the music and the orchestra.

The annual Messiah has thus been feature of BCS since its very early days. Prior to the Beacon, there were four different Colston Halls, and the BCS has sung Messiah in all of them.

It’s a tradition we are proud of, and we will be filling the hall on December 16th once again.  Hurry to get your tickets.

Below you can see a performers ticket for Messiah from 1938 (for the performer to gain entry to the building via the performers' entrance)

With thanks to BCS member Julie Parker for providing the historical information.