Chester Male Voice Choir: 80th Anniversary 1941 - 2021

Fred Warren - A Life of Faith and Music

Fred Warren

Born in Kent in 1913, but brought up in Chester from infancy, Fred went to the Salvation Army as a youngster and was taught to play a variety of instruments when he joined first their Junior band, and later their Senior band for which he played all over the country and took part in various festivals. He also sang with and later led the Songster Brigade, the local Salvation Army choir.

Apprenticed with Brookhirst Switchgear Ltd. in 1927, he later joined the Hydraulic Engineering Company (HECO) where in 1939 he became shop steward, and soon the regional organiser for his Union. As a Christian, not afraid to stand up for his beliefs, he was a natural leader, and fought to improve the working conditions and welfare facilities for his fellow workers. All the while, he was still maintaining his musical activities, playing with the Salvation Army band and singing with their choir.

In 1941, he formed a small choir at the HECO works, the choir which was to eventually become first the Cestrian Male Voice Choir and eventually Chester Male Voice Choir. In the following war-time years he successfully pursued courses to further his musical and conducting skills, becoming a Licentiate of both the Guildhall School of Music and the British Bandsmen’s College of Music. He also studied to qualify himself for the career he aimed for in social welfare. After the War, he sang with the Chester Choral Society, sometimes as a tenor soloist, and occasionally conducting.

Fred began a new career in 1946 as a Welfare officer with the Mersey Ironworks at Ellesmere Port, and then in 1947 took up a post with Chester County Borough (now City) Council, for whom he subsequently became Chief Education Welfare Officer until his retirement in 1978. He was a committed member and lay preacher within the Methodist Church, and at the Methodist Central Hall in City Road, Chester, Fred soon became prominent as choirmaster and youth club leader.

Meanwhile, having left HECO, Fred had no difficulty in persuading his colleagues of the Choir, which in any case by this time included several members with no connection with the works, to carry on as an independent choir, calling themselves the Cestrian Male Voice Choir. By choosing to adopt the motto ‘We sing to serve’ he was demonstrating his Christian faith; and he had that burning ambition to develop them into a choir as good as any in the land.

His influence at Central Hall led to the Cestrian Choir being invited to make their home there, and under Fred’s guidance and leadership the choir went from strength to strength, to become known far and wide beyond Chester and Cheshire.

Fred Warren founded the Choir in 1941 and led the Choir as its conductor for the next 50 years. In 1991, at The Royal Albert Hall, his achievements were recognised by the North Wales Association of Male Voice Choirs when it asked him to conduct the 1000 Voice choir in its rendition of Morte Criste. On his retirement as conductor Fred was voted ‘Man of the Year’ in the Chester Chronicle/Manweb Community Awards. The Choir marked his achievement of fifty years continous service as founder and conductor by planting an oak tree. The tree still stands and flourishes in the Grosvenor Park in Chester.

From relatively humble beginnings, Fred had the determination to make the most of life. In this he was strengthened by his Christian faith which was Having set up a choir from nothing, he had the confidence, self-belief and drive to make it into a first class choir with a national and international reputation. It is typical of the man that after retirement as conductor he still continued with the Choir as Founder, Senior Vice President, committee member, active first tenor and welfare officer - devoting much of his time to caring for the health and welfare of the other members and their families until his death in March 2004 at the age of 91 years. On the 11th June 2004 a memorial service to celebrate the life of Fred Warren was held in a packed Chester Cathedral.

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