History of Cunninghame Choir
Cunninghame Choir was founded in 1978 in order to fill a gap in the musical life of North Ayrshire. There was not in existence a choir whose sole aim was the regular performance of choral and orchestral music. In September 1978, a group of enthusiasts began rehearsing in Beith Community Centre - performing their first concert in April 1979. 40 years on, the choir has followed an interesting musical journey through the guidance of a number of very enthusiastic and experienced Musical Directors.
Adjacent picture taken around 1996 during Dorothy Howden's tenure as Musical Director.
2019 - 40 Years of Cunninghame Choir!
Our 2018-19 season marked 40 years since Cunninghame Choir started singing and performing together. To celebrate this occasion, we commissioned our talented and creative accompanist, composer Maciej Granat, to write us another piece of music for performance in May 2019. This work sets to music a poem by local character, Andrew Aitken, musing on hearing Beith's Parish Church bell toll for the first time in 1810. Our 40th anniversary concert also revisited a previous Choir commission from renowned Scottish composer, Sir James MacMillan. It proved to be a very exciting, emotional and unique concert of music!
In its 45 year history, the Choir has been led by 5 highly talented and enthusiastic Musical Directors. A new era for the Choir begins in 2023 with the appointment of our long-term accompanist, Maciej Granat, as Musical Director. We are curious to see the direction that Maciej will take the choir, especially as he already knows us very, very well! You can read Maciej's biography on our Who's Who page.
Tiffany Vong, Musical Director 2016 - 2023
Vong is an organist, harpsichordist and choral conductor based in Glasgow. She is the Organist and Director of Music at Jordanhill Parish Church. Originally from Hong Kong, Tiffany was organ scholar at Glenalmond College, Perthshire, Oriel College, Oxford, and University of Glasgow.
Tiffany completed a Master of Music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with scholarships from the RCS Trust and ABRSM. Awards include the Governors’ Recital Prize for Keyboard (Highly Commended), Bach Prize (Commended), Harmony and Counterpoint Prize and the Early Music Prize.
Tiffany completed a Master of Music in Historically Informed Performance Practice at the University of Glasgow. She has previously performed with the Kellie Consort, Caccini Ensemble, and the Glasgow University Opera Society, and is currently a member of the International Baroque Consort. Tiffany works as a conductor and accompanist around Scotland and is the Choral Music Assistant at St. Aloysius' College. She is the Vice-President of the Glasgow Society of Organists and an Associate of the Royal College of Organists.
In addition to choral conducting, Tiffany is also active as a solo recitalist, accompanist and continuo player.
Tiffany has worked tirelessly on behalf of the choir, and especially so when the Covid pandemic forced our rehearsals online. Sadly after 7 excellent years, Tiffany outgrew our community choir, and has followed new and very exciting opportunities with the National Youth Choir of Scotland. We are delighted to have been part of Tiffany's journey, and her first professional choral MD role. We wish her much success and look forward to reading about her future choral exploits.
Robin Versteeg, Musical Director 2007 - 2016
Robin Versteeg was born and brought up in Edinburgh, and studied Music at the University of Edinburgh and Royal Academy of Music in London. As a pianist, Robin performs with singers and instrumentalists throughout the UK and, as a founding member of chamber trio Vocali3e, was featured in Creative Scotland’s prestigious Made in Scotland showcase.
Choral music has played a central part of Robin’s working life over the past ten years. An experienced repetiteur and choral accompanist, Robin has played for the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus, Scottish Opera Education, and Cappella Nova Outreach. He enjoys collaborating with young people and has worked extensively with NYCOS and Glasgow City’s Voice Factory, and as an audition pianist for the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland. As repetiteur for Cromarty Youth Opera, he has assisted on Peter Maxwell Davies’s Cinderella, and Britten’s St. Nicolas and The Little Sweep.
Also a former Musical Director of Eastwood Choral Society, Robin's association with Cunninghame Choir began in 2007, where he immediately began introducing new and varied music to the choir. An overarching theme would bring a variety of genres, styles and musical eras together and make for an interesting and enjoyable concert for choir and audience alike. Have a look at our concerts page to get a feel for the breadth of our repertoire under his direction.
Following our 2015 season, Robin and his wife, Emma, decided that it was time to relocate their young family to the Scottish Highlands. They settled in Dulnain Bridge in the Spey Valley in time for son Elijah to begin school. We thank Robin for his never-ending enthusiasm, commitment and patience as we have navigated our way around some wonderful pieces over the past 9 years. We also wish Robin and his family the very best for their future and hope that he will not forget us. We will certainly miss him!
Edward Caswell, Musical Director 2005 - 2007
Edward Caswell trained as a singer at the Royal College of Music and now teaches singing at RSAMD. As a talented choral conductor and soloist, during his short tenure he introduced Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle and reunited the Choir with Beethoven's Mass in C, Mozart's Ave Verum and highlights of Handel's Messiah as well as some lesser known Christmas Carols and selected choruses from "musical" heavyweights, Rogers and Hammerstein.
Dorothy Howden, Musical Director 1984 - 2005
Commissions under Dorothy Howden
The 15th Anniversary commission, performed in May 1994, was Rasa by Jane Gardner.