The History of Bisley Ladies Choir

John Wisdom, BLC’s first Musical Director

John Wisdom took up his baton and began a long friendship with Bisley Ladies Choir (“BLC”) in 1970. In its formative years, membership was between 8 and 12 ladies. The choir’s first performance was at an afternoon service at Brookwood Hospital where they sang an arrangement of the Lord’s Prayer.

In those early years, emphasis was placed on the pure “fun” aspect of singing. Indeed, John made it a rule to accept all those ladies who wanted to join without assessing their competency. This was to pay off as over the years many members became competent singers; those members would not have joined had they been obliged to audition to join the choir.

Behind the apparent relaxed way in which the choir existed, John was always influencing and educating the members in the art of singing, which resulted in the emergence of a stylish, confident and capable choir, which earned respect within the local area. John introduced BLC to the world of competitive music festivals where adjudicators often commented on the friendly atmosphere which radiated from the members of BLC.

John often said that conducting BLC was not just about music but it was about friends. After he laid down his baton in 1981, he kept in close touch with BLC and was made Life President.

John was greatly respected nationally for his work within the arts. He served on the Executive Board of the British Federation of Music Festivals and was Honorary Secretary of the All England Dance Association. He was presented to Her Majesty the Queen at Court in 1990 for his services to the British Federation of Music Festivals and again in 1991 at a Royal Gala to celebrate All England Dance.

His son, Philip, took over from John as Musical Director and continued to run the choir on an open, friendly basis. The choir had close links with Knaphill Methodist Church, rehearsing there on Tuesday evenings and they helped to raise funds for the church and other local charities. The choir grew in membership to 34 ladies when Philip handed over his baton to the next Musical Director, Frederick Walker, in 1990.

Frederick brought to BLC his own special musical talents and the choir continued to flourish under his leadership in much the same way as when John first took up the baton in 1970.

Sadly, John died on 9th March 1993. Equally poignantly Philip died in 2013 but his son, Ben, is working hard to find information and photographs from his father and grandfather’s lofts. Keep looking at our site for further updates.

BLC’s Musical Directors, past and present

Philip Wisdom : 1981 to 1990
Frederick Walker : 1990 to 1993
Sue Bond : 1993 to 1998
Ian Kelly : 1998 to 2005
Jane Angell : 2005 to 2010
David Emerson : 2010 to 2013
Lewis Gaston : 2013 to 2014
Callie Swarbrick : 2014 to 2016
Lewis Gaston : 2017 to date