Kirkcowan – What's Going On?

John Crozier J.P.

Kirkcowan Orchestra

John Crozier was a Kirkcowan tailor who lived and had his shop in a house near the lower end of the main street.

In his youth he played in a house near the lower end of the Main Street. the flute band and sang in the Choral Union which was conducted by Mr. W. H. McDowall. When Mr. McDowall retired, his “apprentice“ conductor, John Crozier took up the work. With no formal training and only books to instruct him, he formed the Kirkcowan Musical Society.

In order to provide musical accompaniment to the singing, he encouraged his own large family and interested friends to learn to play musical instruments. He himself learned to play the cello. Because of his insistence, there gathered together a group who, between them, learned to play violins, cello, flute, clarinet, saxophone, and even drums.

Kirkcowan Choral Society

The choir’s first performance was on 27th March, 1903. The concert was chaired by Sheriff Watson. There was a cantata, “Sherwood’ s Queen}” in the first half of the programme; lighter works and solos formed the second half. The doors opened at 7:30 p.m. for the concert at 8:00 p.m.

Front seats cost 2 shillings; second seats were one shilling; back seats only cost sixpence.

Every year for fifty years a concert was held by the Kirkcowan Musical Society conducted by John Crozier. In 1904 a soloist was brought from Glasgow to perform. In 1908 the concert featured Handel’s oratorio

“Judas Maccabaeus.” In 1917 the concert opened with “Till the Boys Come Home.

The concerts were a mixture of piano or organ accompanied choral works, solos, and instrumental pieces played by the band, but they always concluded by a choral piece accompanied by the orchestra.

In 1925 John Crozier was appointed a Justice of the Peace.

In 1934, the soloist for the annual concert was Cullen Clark the principal tenor of Glasgow’s Opera Society. There were then 45 members of the choir.

In that year the conductor John Crozier was honoured at a great gathering of appreciative music lovers who paid tribute to his contribution to the area. In an evening of speeches and feasting in a packed St. Couans Hall, he was presented with a record cabinet, an extension loud speaker, an album of gramophone records, and a wallet of treasury notes.

A brother of John Crozier who lived in Dalry started a choir there. Rivalry between the choirs of two brothers from different parts of Galloway created great interest and enjoyable competition at the annual music festival for the area.

In May of 1938, the Kirkcowan choral group gained more points at the festival than any other choir in the county, and it was therefore given the privilege of sending a quartet of four of its members to take part, with representatives of choirs from all over England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, the Isle of Man, the Channel Isles, and some of the commonwealth countries, at a Royal Command performance in the Albert Hall in London on Empire Day, 24th May.

Two hundred and eighty eight choral societies were represented and the concert was broadcast to the nation and the empire. Both the King and Queen were present. Among the conductors were Sir Malcolm Sargent and Sir Henry Wood. The Scottish choirs sang “Scots Wha Hae,” “Ca the Yowes tae the Knowes” and “Wit a Hundred Pipers an’ A ‘ “ The Kirkcowan quartet who took part were Ray Armstrong (soprano) , Peggy Crozier, niece of John Crozier (alto), Jim McKie (tenor) , and David Laurie (bass)

In 1945, soldiers of H.M. forces were admitted to the concert for half price.

In 1948, Mr. Charles K. Setz, L RAM A R C M of Kirkcudbright, made his first appearance as concert accompanist.

On 18th March, 1953, there was a great jubilee concert to celebrate 50 years of music in Kirkcowan under the direction of Mr. John Crozier.

This concert was graced by four favourite soloists of past years, Miss Janette Sclanders, soprano, from Glasgow, Miss Flora Blythman, contralto, from Glasgow, Mr. John Tainsh, tenor, from Edinburgh, and Mr. Alex Carmichael, bass—baritone, from Largs. Mr. Charles Setz was accompanist. The concert went on until midnight. The orchestra played an overture to open the occasion. There were songs from the chorus, solos from the visitors, and selections from Handel’s “Messiah” by the choir. There were Scottish songs and a classical quartet was performed by the four well—known soloists. “The Huntsman Chorus” from “Der Friescheibzt’ by Weber concluded the long programme.

John Crozier lived only two months after the Jubilee Concert of his beloved Choral Society. As well as conducting the Musical Society for fifty years, he had served as the church’s precentor, had been church organist for 64 years, and had, by 1934, taught Sunday School for 25 years. He had further been involved in curling, the football club, and especially bowling.

After his death his niece Peggy Crozier carried on his work for two years. However, the original enthusiasts had either died or given up singing, and interest waned. It ceased to function after its last concert, the 52nd, in 1955.