By Peter Beetham
Syd was also recently made an Honorary Life Member of the Choir. He joined in 1947 under Fred Tomlinson, at the tender age of 19, as a Second Bass but quickly moved to the Baritones which suited his higher range.
He hadn’t been in the Choir very long when, at a concert in Morecambe, John Kay, who was the recognised soloist, couldn’t come, so when the Choir arrived in Morecambe Fred said to him, “you’ll do the solo tonight won’t you Syd”? In those days Syd was quite shy, but you never refused Mr T, so he sang “Love Could I only Tell Thee” and “The Holy City” to rapturous applause, and from then on Syd became a regular soloist in Choir performances. The highlight of which is his famous and beautiful Baritone solo, Loch Lomond on The Valley of Song LP.
Another highlight of Syd’s long service with the Choir was without doubt Llangollen International Festival in 1951. The Choir only intended going to watch as a Choir day out, but then decided that if they were going they might as well sing. They didn’t have any proper uniforms, going on stage in open neck shirts with no bow ties, which were the normal uniform for choirs in those days.
Unbelievably, they went on to win the Male Voice class with the Manchester Evening News reporting, “These Lancashire comedians walked on, and turned the Marquee into a Cathedral”
High praise indeed and the Choir went on to win the prestigious Llangollen Eisteddford 3 years on the run, the only Choir to ever achieve this. He has never felt anything like it when the adjudicator announced that they had won, Syd said “we were on our knees in tears of joy, very emotional”
Syd was a committee member for a while and during one particular Committee Meeting, Fred dropped a bombshell and announced that he was going to retire, because the cold nights and driving at night was making it difficult for him. Syd told him that if he agreed to stay on, he would chauffeur him to all the rehearsals and concerts. Fred accepted Syd’s offer and happily stayed on for a further 8 years.
A slight downside to this arrangement was that Fred was also President of the NAC and this involved Syd driving him to different parts of the UK for meetings.
To sum up, Syd’s love of singing has been a big part of his life. He also sang with Rawtenstall Operatic Society, sang the Desert Song in 1950 with Bacup Amateur Operatic Society and performed Gilbert & Sullivan Operas with Goodshaw Baptist Chapel, but without doubt his long service singing with RMVC has meant a tremendous amount to him and given him enormous pleasure and a lifetime of happy memories.