The origins of the present society date back to 1934, when a number of parishioners of St. Edmund’s Roman Catholic Church in Bolton, Lancashire, decided to form a musical society with the intention of performing Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas. They called their new society St. Edmund’s Catholic Operatic Society, but it had been in existence for less than a fortnight when its Committee was approached by the Committee of St. Edmund’s Dramatic Society, who suggested the two society’s merge. As a result, St. Edmund’s Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society was formed, with the intention of performing a dramatic work each spring, and a Gilbert and Sullivan musical each autumn. The first musical show performed by the society was Gilbert and Sullivan’s “THE MIKADO” in 1935. Fittingly, the same show was performed in the society’s Silver Jubilee Year, 1960, and in its Golden Jubilee Year, 1985.
At first, both the dramatic work and the musical show were staged in St. Edmund’s new school hall at Heaton in Bolton, but the increasing popularity of the musicals after the war led to the Musical Section moving to the Great Hall at Bolton Technical College in 1952. From 1963 onwards, the society began to perform musical works by composers such as Lehar, Rogers and Hammerstein, Romberg and many others, although the works of Gilbert and Sullivan still featured occasionally.
For three years during the 1960’s, the society also performed a pantomime each Christmas, but the dramatic work was discontinued in 1967, and it was not until 1973 that the society put on anything other than a musical show. The then President, Mr. Tom Arkwright, had suggested that the society’s Catholic roots should be recognized by singing a choral Mass by one of the great classical composers, and a new section of the society, the Choral Section, was founded. Its first work was Beethoven’s Mass in C, followed by Masses by Haydn, Bruckner, Rossini and many more of the great masters. Since then, the Choral Section has performed Masses, Oratorios, stage versions of operas, and other choral works in churches of various denominations, including Bolton’s fine Victoria Hall.
In 1977 the society changed its name to its present one, Bolton Catholic Musical and Choral Society, and is now known to its friends in and around the town as “Bolton Caths”. There is no requirement to be a Catholic however, and anyone who shares our love of music and theatre is welcome to join. A couple of years later, the Musical Section of BCMCS moved venue again, this time to the main hall of Thornleigh Salesian College at Astley Bridge, Bolton.
In 1985 BCMCS established a Junior Workshop, with a view to giving the musical and acting talents of our member’s younger relatives a chance to shine. Now called the Youth Theatre, they perform a musical show each spring at what has become their permanent venue, the Theatre Church at Astley Bridge. A number of members of the Youth Theatre have gone on to appear in shows with other societies, as well as with BCMCS’ own Musical and Choral Sections.
BCMCS has always been dependent for its income on revenue raised by ticket sales for the various shows it puts on, and money it receives from sponsors of programmes, etc. Nevertheless, the society has always been prepared to raise money for various charitable causes. In 1991 BCMCS became a registered charity in its own right, although it maintains links with other charities, particularly the Bolton Hospice.
Over the years, BCMCS has built up cordial relationships with other musical societies in the area, and played alongside the Bolton Symphony Orchestra, Bolton Chamber Orchestra, Corus Brass and the renowned Wingates Band.
2010 saw the society recognise their 75th Anniversary with a year of celebratory shows, concerts and functions along with the production of a book written by Anthony Wilkinson and a DVD entitled; ‘BCMCS – Preserving Past and Future’ detailing the history of BCMCS. We wanted you to be part of these celebrations along with any ex-members who had been associated with the society.
For more information about joining BCMCS please call or email using the Contact Us page and we’ll be delighted to provide the information you want and keep you informed of everything that is going on.