It all began on May 9th 1938 when the Thurrock Male Voice Choir was founded by Mr. Arthur Jones, son of a Welshman whose family settled in Grays and he gained a considerable reputation for his knowledge and love of choral singing. The famous Welsh choral tradition, therefore, was the inheritance of the founder of the choir. He was a great choir master. The original choir consisted of sixteen voices; their first concert was given in the Congregational Church, New Road on October 19th 1938.
During the war concert activities were curtailed but although the general call up had caused a severe depletion in choir membership, other men stepped forward and the choir were able to entertain troops stationed in camps all over the area. Many tales are told of the show going on despite air-raids and doodlebug scares.
By autumn 1945 the original number of singers had doubled. Many of the concerts at this time were given in the London Hall but, with the termination of hostilities, larger and more expensive presentations were arranged in the hall of Palmer's Boys' School. The TMVC Annual Concert has been taking place in the Thurrock Civic Hall since then. One of Arthur Jones’ strong points seems to have been in the range of contacts that he had at the BBC, and after the war, when celebrity concerts were becoming in vogue, many of these celebrities performed for the choir. Names such as Owen Brannigan, Gladys Vernon, Vernon Midgley, Gwen Catley, Harold Noble and latterly Clifford Benson, a well-known and highly talented concert pianist, were guest artists. Clifford’s father, George, was a long serving choir member and Clifford became President.
1946 and the Thurrock Male Voice Choir entered the first post war Musical Festival held locally and as a result the decision was taken to compete in other festivals. Their first significant win came at the London Musical Festival in 1949 when the magnificent Huntley Challenge Shield was gained for the first time. This was followed by a second victory the next year; the first time the Shield had been held for two years in succession. It was to come to Thurrock for a third time in 1957.
1950 brought further success. In June and July they took part in six B.B.C. broadcasts with the well-known Kneller Hall Band and in October, with other male choirs, in a concert broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall conducted by the late Sir Malcolm Sargent. In November the choir gave the first of many solo broadcasts (on this occasion from the Concert Hall at Broadcasting House) and since then has been heard in all Radio Programmes, except Radio 1.
The choirs finest achievement was in 1959 (21st Anniversary Year) when they beat some of the best male voice choirs in the British Isles to become the National winners of their class in the BBC's Choral Competition, "Let the People Sing". They were also winners of this competition in the South-East Region in 1959, 1961, 1964, 1972 and again in 1973.
Thurrock Male Voice Choir has broadcast in many series of BBC programmes; “In Town Tonight", "Friday Night is Music Night" (3 times), "Song of Britain", "Song Club", (with the Freda Parry Choir and Antony Hopkins), "Friday Night is Seaside Night" (the first broadcast with the late Owen Brannigan and the BBC Concert Orchestra under Stanford Robinson from the Pier Pavilion, Herne Bay), "Time Off", "Your songs and Ours", "Meet the Choir" and "Sea Songs". Other highlights have been appearances in the BBC's Light Music Festival Concerts broadcast from the Royal Festival Hall in 1959 and I960 with the late Sheila Mossman’s Orpington Junior Singers. There were also two broadcasts on Radio 3 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Chorus and six famous soloists of Schonberg's "Gurrelieder" conducted by the late Dr. Karl Rankl. During the period 1960-1965 the choir combined with Sheila Kossman's two choirs to give six performances in Kent, Essex and .London of Elgar's "Dream of Gerontius" under the direction of well-known BBC Conductors.
Harold Noble, (formerly a BBC Chorus-master) dedicated two of his many compositions to Mr. Arthur Jones and the TMVC in 1955 and 1965, and in 1965 David Cox, Director of Overseas Service Music Programmes, also honoured the choir in similar manner.
In addition to the London Music Festival, honours have been won at Stratford, East London, Southend-on-Sea, London Welsh Semi-National Eisteddfod (winners in two consecutive years), Tunbridge Wells, and Cheltenham (winners in two classes).
During 1958 the choir spent a long week-end in West Germany and sang in joint concerts with the famous Munchen Gladbacher Quartottverein. A silk pennant, embroidered with the Coat of Arms of Thurrock, was presented' to the Ober Burgermeister which now hangs in the Town Hall at Munchen-Gladbach. The German choir came to Thurrock for joint concerts in 1957 and 1961 before going to the Llangolen International Festival.
The choir has already given around 300 concerts (not including the 70 broadcasts) and has been instrumental in bringing to Thurrock numerous well known artists. In recent years activities have been concentrated on giving concerts all over Essex and other South-Eastern counties and participation in BBC concerts at the Royal Festival Hall and the Royal Albert Hall. They have also recorded for the BBC's "Let the People Sing” International Competition.
Mr. Arthur Jones retired in 1965 after 27 years distinguished service and was succeeded by Mr Sam Hempstead until 1969. He was followed by Douglas Green, who was a chorister at Durham Cathedral for six years under Sir John Dykes Bower. From 1949 to 1961 he sang alto in the late Dr. Harold Darkes’ choir at St Michael’s Church, Cornhill, London.
Three aims have been predominant throughout the choir’s activities; training in the art of music; popularizing choral music and singing; giving concerts in order to carry out these aims. The vast majority of concerts have been for charitable causes.