A CHORAL society whose roots stretch back to the Second World War will celebrate its 75th anniversary this month.

Otley Choral Society's origins can be traced to a party held in the drawing room of Farnley Hall in 1943.

Sylvia Horton Fawkes, who was the choir's president from 1943-1963, had hosted the event for members of a local music society.

An advert was then placed in the Wharfedale & Airedale Observer, inviting people interested in forming a choral group to attend a Tuesday evening meeting in late 1943.

They were also asked to bring copies of Handel's Messiah and no fewer than 50 singers turned up - though there was a shortage of men, due to the war.

Now, 75 years on, Messiah continues to form a crucial part of the group's annual calendar and is performed every December.

In the spring of 1944 Otley Choral Group planned a concert of the opera Merrie England, and invited Sydney Parsons to conduct.

By the time the show took place in April, 1944 the choir was known as Otley Choral Society and 70 singers took part.

In another nod to its past the group, in 2002, performed Merrie England again- this time to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

Otley Choral Society's publicity officer, Anne Cook, said: "The choir has managed to continue through many difficult times but its success bears witness to the enthusiasm and loyalty of its members.

"Charles Bainbridge trained and educated the society from 1946 until his retirement in 1980- an incredible sign of dedication, commitment and enthusiasm.

"Alan Horsey more recently retired from being the musical director for the choir in 2015, after 19 years of dedicated service.

"He originally only came to cover for his predecessor, who had been taken ill for a couple of rehearsals!

"Currently the choir is relishing working with its youngest musical director, Yonni Levy, who is rapidly establishing himself as a leading choral director of the future with his enthusiasm, passion and drive for choral singing.

"We have also been blessed with three long serving accompanists - Rupert Tong from 1948 until 1970, Bob Walker from 1970 until 2000, and Pat Jordan from 2000 until 2017.

"Unfortunately, Bob recently passed away and the choir were invited to sing the Hallelujah Chorus at his funeral- his memory, though, continues in the choir as his detailed programme notes are often used in the current concert programmes."

The society can also boast of a family who has had representatives singing for it for more than 70 years.

Doris Moxon was a founder member in 1943 and after the war was joined by her husband, Cyril, who went on to chair the group from 1964 to 1986.

They were then joined by their son, David, who sang in the tenor section until more recently.

Mr Bainbridge, meanwhile was responsible for encouraging the formation of another local society as the Ilkley Choral Society grew out of his Musical Evening Class, in 1949.

Since then the two organisations have worked together for most of their major concerts.

Functioning as two separate societies with the same conductor, they rehearse the same music and come together for a joint rehearsal just before each show, forming a chorus of up to 150 voices.

The choir has also performed with many other local groups including the Yorkshire Chamber Ensemble, Otley Brass Band, Yorkshire Evening Post Brass Ensemble and the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra.

Ms Cook added: "We are very excited about our forthcoming 75th anniversary concert on March 24, at Otley Parish Church, that will also feature the Leeds Symphony Orchestra.

"The choir will perform Andrew Carter’s Musick’s Jubilee.

"Andrew is a locally based musician who was commissioned by the choral society to write this piece, which was first performed at the choir's 50th anniversary concert. "Schubert’s lyrical Mass in G will also be performed and there will be displays of choir memorabilia available for the audience to enjoy.

"Joanne Dexter, herself a local girl, will be the soprano soloist."

The choir, which rehearses at Newall Church Hall from 7.30pm to 9.30pm on Tuesday evenings between September and May, is always happy to welcome new members.

For more details contact Anne Lovell on (01943) 863432, e-mail annelovell18@gmail.com .