Lena Snowden was a musician through and through. It coursed through her veins and dripped from her fingers. She was a very accomplished pianist and had a lovely singing voice. In her younger days she and her husband, Douglas, sang duets, Lena playing the piano. She had the opportunity to turn professional but turned it down in order to bring up her five children.
It was after Lena retired from teaching music at Tuxford Comprehensive School that she decided to fulfil a long held ambition to form a ladies choir. At that time she was the accompanist to The Retford Male Voice Choir and at one rehearsal night she handed out notes to all the men inviting their wives to meet at her house in order to sing. Twelve choir wives turned up and that was how The Lena Snowden Singers began. The date was October 1986.
Lena found a very talented accompanist for her choir in Lynn Kirk and she remained with the choir until she left Retford and retired to the coast. She was a lovely person and very much missed. She has since died.
At the annual Retford Male Voice Choir Christmas Party in 1986 the ladies made their debut and surprised and impressed their husbands with their polished performance. Lena had ‘ways of making you sing.’
Very soon other ladies wanted to join and at one point the choir had 60 members and a waiting list.
The choir started by doing concerts when invited at mainly churches and chapels but a time came when more ambitious concerts were given, some organised by the choir themselves. Two visits to Germany followed, a concert at Newark Palace Theatre and
also one in Leicester Cathedral, plus the other more local events.
The event which we are most proud of was when at our suggestion a weekend of events was organised for the 50th anniversary of VJ Day. This involved many Retford organisations and included a sell out concert with The Retford Male Voice Choir and RJB Brass Band, a tea dance and a fly past. We also had a Church Service and a military band. It was a huge success which we called Retford Remembers.
So special to us was Lena that in January 2000 we organised a surprise 80th birthday party/concert for her. We hired Retford Town Hall and invited all her family and friends to the concert and supper. Somehow we managed to keep it all a secret and she was truly surprised and delighted.
As Lena moved further into her 80’s she found conducting us increasingly difficult and so reluctantly retired, though she remained a singing member for a few years.
Lena died in September 2007 but the choir vowed to keep her name going in perpetuity as a mark of affection for her.
The choir is now very lucky to have Janet Major as Musical Director and Stephen Bilton as Accompanist. Two very talented and lovely people.
We are still doing concerts when requested and also organising our own.