In 1941 Portsmouth was subjected to intense attack from the air. Officers of the Portsmouth City Police together with War Reserve and Special Constabulary colleagues were called upon to add civil defence and emergency duties to their conventional police ones. Many hours were spent on stand-by between air-raid alerts and Sgt F T (Tommy) Holland saw a chance, when the men harmonised, of roping in the best of them to form the nucleus of a choir. It gradually improved to such a standard that the Chief Constable approved the formal establishment of the Portsmouth City Police Choir. Its first conductor was Special Sergeant (later Inspector) James Cracknell.
Very soon the choir was in demand to raise morale and for fundraising activities in the battered city. Many concerts were given with the Band of HM Royal Marines, then, as now based in the city. Invitations also followed to broadcast on the Home & Overseas programmes of the BBC. This activity continued after the war and included appearances in ’Friday Night is Music Night’. After the rationalisation of police forces in 1967 the choir became the Hampshire Police Choir. Its size has remained at about 60 with serving and retired police officers, special constables, civilian staff and others associated with the service.
In recent years the choir has sung with choirs from Duisberg and Kiel, Germany, Oslo, Norway, Le Havre, France as well as the Rhos Cwmtawe Choir from South Wales and the St Colomba choir from Cornwall. The choir has exchanged visits with most of them. The choir sang in both the British Police Male Voice Choir concerts in the Royal Albert Hall, London in 1987 and 1990, and also with the massed bands of four regiments of the Brigade of Guards, directed by Owain Arwel Hughes, at the Cardiff Arms Park, in Wales in 1992 for the concert of the World Choir.
The choir has a long history of community involvement and has raised tens of thousands of pounds for charitable purposes. This was marked in 1991 by a notable 50th Anniversary Concert with the band of HM Royal Marines before a capacity audience of 2000 in Portsmouth Guildhall. The choir is non-competitive but in 1993 it was invited to sing in the 5th Malta International Choir Festival with choirs from many European countries. In the male voice section the choir was placed first and received the Gold Award, bearing testimony to its quality.
Hampshire Police Choir has also been privileged to visit the States of Jersey by special invitation, and to have shared platforms with the band of the Scots Guards, the Central Band of the Russian Army (formerly the Red Army Band) and the band of the United Air Forces in Europe and many other local amateur bands like the Solent Concert Band who have won many prizes. The sustained quality and reputation of the choir was marked by an invitation to join the massed choirs in the National 50th Anniversary of VE Day celebrations in Hyde Park, London, before members of the Royal Family, Heads of State and an audience reported to be about 200,000! In 1997 the choir made a week long tour of Croatia at the invitation of the government. The choir sang in Zagreb, Pula and Dubrovnik in support of children’s charities looking after the many orphaned children following the dreadful civil wars in the region. The choir was overwhelmed by the generosity and friendliness of the Croatian people and very much hopes to host a Police Cadet choir in the near future. Despite the war, Croatia is certainly an exceptionally beautiful country with many ancient sights and monuments.
For 21 years the choir was conducted by Trevor Ibbotson, but in 1997 the choir appointed its first female Musical Director, Mrs Terri Freeman LRAM, LTCL, ISM. In the following years under their new conductor the choir has continued to grow and now has an expanded repertoire covering many genres including songs from the musicals, classical works and popular music from the past. The choir has sung at exciting new venues such as Romsey Abbey, Winchester Cathedral, Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral together with a special invitation to take part in the BBC ‘Songs of Praise’ programme for Remembrance Day. The Choir has also participated in the Cornwall International Male Choral Festival. The choir’s accompanists are Sian Bibby-Hsia, Nigel Smith BA, and Lisa Timbs.
The Choir is very popular and much in demand - their previous visit to Waterlooville Music Festival in 2016 was a complete sell-out. Advance purchase for tickets to this event are strongly recommended.