The Lena Snowden Singers

by | 5 March 2023 | Community Focus, Hobbies, Music, Retford

It is the end of the era in Retford – the well-known Lena Snowden Singers, who have entertained audiences for many years, are taking their final bow.

Sadly, as their ages increase and their numbers decrease, choir members feel the time has come to end 36 wonderful years of singing.

Judy Kewarth takes us through a brief history of the choir and says thanks…

It was after Lena retired from teaching music at Tuxford Comprehensive School that she decided to fulfil a long-held ambition to form a ladies choir. At that time she was accompanist to The Retford Male Voice Choir and at one rehearsal night she handed out notes to all the men inviting their wives to meet at her house in order to sing.

Twelve choir wives turned up and that was how The Lena Snowden Singers began. The date was October 1986.

Lena found a very talented accompanist for her choir in Lynn Kirk – and she remained with the choir until she left Retford and retired to the coast. She was a lovely person and very much missed. She has since died. After Lynn left, it was Lena again who found another talented accompanist in Stephen Bilton who has remained with the choir since then. Since lockdown Stephen has also taken on the position of Musical Director.

The choir started by doing concerts when invited, mainly at churches and chapels, but a time came when more ambitious concerts were given, some organised by the choir themselves. Two visits to Germany followed, concerts at Newark Palace Theatre and Leicester Cathedral, plus other more local events.

The event which we are most proud of was when at our suggestion a weekend of events was organised for the 50th anniversary of VJ Day. This involved many Retford organisations and included a sell-out concert with The Retford Male Voice Choir and RJB Brass Band, a tea dance and a fly past. It was a huge success which we called ‘Retford Remembers’.

So special to us was Lena that in January 2000 we organised a surprise 80th birthday party / concert for her. We hired Retford Town Hall and invited all her family and friends. Somehow we managed to keep it all a secret and she was truly surprised and delighted.

As Lena moved further into her 80s, she found conducting increasingly difficult and so reluctantly retired, though she remained a singing member for a few years. Lena died in September 2007 but the choir vowed to keep her name going in perpetuity as a mark of affection for her. We are very grateful to the people who have led us since Lena.

We give thanks to the many ex-members of the choir for making it the success it has been and particularly to our ever-loyal audiences who have turned up to our concerts regularly. You have been truly appreciated, allowing us on many occasions to support charities, especially the Royal British Legion and Bassetlaw Hospice.

The choir has been fortunate is having non-singing members who have helped us at concerts, taking tickets and doing the raffle and we extend grateful thanks to them.

Lena once said ‘I have ways of making you sing’ – and thank goodness she was right