Sir Gerald WollastonThe Deal and Walmer Handelian Society was established in 1946 by three co-founders: Dr James S Hall, the well-known Handelian scholar and Lifeboat surgeon, his wife Cynthia, and Ernest Stride who was Keyboard Professor at the Royal Marines School of Music in Deal.

Repertoire

Whilst the original object of the Society was to perform Handels works, its repertoire has expanded over the years to include the works of other composers. The Society has undertaken several trips abroad during its history, notably to Handels birthplace, Halle, for the 1959 bicentenary celebrations of Handels death. That occasion also included a memorable trip to Leipzig, in what was then the East German Republic, where Ernest Stride played J.S.Bachs organ in the Thomaskirche. 1970 saw the Societys visit to Amsterdam to perform Israel in Egypt with the Dutch Handel Society, and in the 1980s several visits were made both to St Omer and Vlissingen, Deals two twin towns across the Channel.

Relationship with the Royal Marines

During the 1960s the Society established a close relationship with the Royal Marines, and was conducted on a number of occasions by their various Principal Directors of Music, with the musicians of the Marines School of Music making up the orchestra. This connection enabled the choir to tackle many works that would normally have been out of their reach, such as the Verdi Requiem, Elgars Dream of Gerontius and Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony. The sad departure of the Royal Marines from Deal in 1996 bought an end to this association.

The many distinguished soloists that have appeared with the Society over the years have included soprano Heather Harper, and pioneer counter-tenor Alfred Deller.

Conductors

Dr James Hall conducted the choir from its inception to his death in 1974, followed by Dr John Pond, who sadly retired due to ill health, but remained as Chairman until his death. In 2003 Peter Litman joined the Society as Conductor and was later succeeded by Robert Tapsfield who had been rehearsal pianist since 2005.  Robert reverted to that role when Stefan Catto became conductor in 2015.

Several works from the standard choral repertoire have been performed under both conductors, notably Bachs Christmas Oratorio, Haydns The Creation and, a different departure, a St Cecilias Day Concert with both Purcells and Handels Odes to musics patron saint. A more recent notable landmark was a performance of Messiah in conjunction with Sandwich Choral Society under the baton of renowned choral conductor Sir David Willcocks, at that time nearly 90.

The Society is affiliated to the Choral Society's umbrella body 'Making Music'.