Who we are

birmingham choral union town hall birmingham april 2009

Colin Baines, Musical Director

Colin, our Musical Director and Conductor since 1981, studied music at Birmingham and Liverpool Universities. He has conducted the Birmingham Choral Union for over thirty years, directing performances of choral works from Bach’s Mass in B minor to Fanshawe’s African Sanctus in various major venues across the Midlands. He is also deputy chorus master of the City of Birmingham Choir.

When not working with choirs, he is a freelance performer, accompanying other choirs and soloists, playing the organ, keyboard and double bass in a number of dance bands and teaching piano and keyboard. Colin works with WNO Max on projects for schools. He is a member of the Valentini Piano Trio and has played Elgar and Schubert Piano Quintets with the Midland Chamber Players. Colin is also a composer, having written a number of children’s musicals and music for many series of BBC programmes including Let’s Move and Something to Think About. He also directs the music for the Festival Arts group in Birmingham and St. David’s (Pembrokeshire). He lives in Birmingham with his wife Jenny and they have a grown up family of four.

Darren Hogg, Accompanist and Assistant Chorus Master since 1997

Darren, born and educated in Birmingham, trained at Birmingham Conservatoire, studying organ, harpsichord and piano accompaniment with David Ponsford and David Saint. Darren is Organist at Halesowen Parish Church (St. John the Baptist) and St. Leonard’s Church, Frankley and is one of two Organists at Lodge Hill Crematorium. He is Accompanist and Assistant Director of Music for Birmingham Choral Union and accompanies many other well-known choirs and societies.

Darren has also featured as Organist on BBC 1’s Songs of Praise, BBC Radio 2’s Sunday Half Hour and BBC Radio 4’s Daily Service. He also runs his own private teaching practice (Organ, Music Theory and Piano), is a member of the Birmingham Organists’ Association and has served on the Association council. The Association awarded Darren the Leonard Gibbons Memorial Prize for Young Organists. Darren is married to Barbara, mezzo-Soprano and primary school teacher. They have a daughter, Abigail. Further details may be found on Darren’s website and his YouTube channel.

birmingham choral union town hall birmingham april 2009

Sue Houghton, Chair (2019-Present)

I think I have been singing all my life! My first recollection is singing Doh a deer on the stage at Butlins. I then progressed to singing on the exit steps of the local cinema. My choral experience spans both CBSO Chorus as a founder member and City Choir. I have been with Birmingham Choral Union now for a relatively short time and although it is a smaller choir, it is perfectly formed! I qualified as a music teacher in 1976 and have been teaching ever since. I retired from full time working in 2013 but I now teach part time in a local primary school and I hope to carry on for many more years.

Under the baton of Colin and the lightning fast fingers of Darren, BCU continues to develop and there has been inspirational and memorable singing in recent concerts. Our current aim is to recruit more singers to enable the choir to grow and develop further. We have some exciting concerts ahead and I am proud to be chair of such a great group of singers.

Val Munro, President

Val Munro joined the Birmingham Choral Union in September 1966 straight from teacher training college. The first major work she can remember taking part in was Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in January 1967 in Birmingham Town Hall. She has enjoyed singing in many memorable concerts, including Verdi’s Requiem in 1967 and the Berlioz Grande Messe des Morts in 1972, both with the CBSO as the closing concerts of The Llangollen International Eisteddfod in Wales.

For several seasons in the late ‘70’s, Val was Vice-chairman, and since then has spent many ‘happy hours’ raising funds for the choir and other causes with her husband Jim. A keen organiser and cook, her jumble sales, bring and buys, home-made jam, waste paper and aluminium collections, bucket-shaking and quiz nights have raised thousands of pounds for BCU and nominated charities. In recognition of her tireless endeavours and enthusiasm, the choir were delighted to appoint Val Honorary Vice President in January 2009 and Honorary Life President in 2013.

Mike examines a beetle

Mike Bloxham, Vice President

In 1960 Mike started work at Albright and Wilson in Oldbury. He later became a primary school teacher, with both music and science important components of his teaching life. He joined Birmingham Choral Union in 1992 after Marian Brevitt invited him to come along to a practice at Ryland Street. Handel’s Belshazzar was on the menu and he immediately asked Colin Baines for an audition. Mike was Chairman for three years from 2009, and describes it as a considerable challenge to follow in the footsteps of Marian Dawes. Choir has always been important to him and he is now a vice president. He now works as a Curator’s Assistant on the invertebrate collections at Birmingham Museums Trust. He says dead insects make little noise, so there is a great incentive to explode into song on Monday nights!

Anne Nisar

Anne has been in the choir for many years and for much of this time also was an active member of the Committee, in the role of Secretary. Taking over that role from Joye Beckett because of her advanced word processing skills, Anne became involved in all aspects of the choir, with the emphasis on organising concerts/soloists, obtaining sponsorship, selling advertising space for programmes and taking over the catering side for our popular Days of Song. Anne managed all of this alongside her work at Perryfields Secondary School and then Arden Special School. Even there, music played its part as Anne ran the school choir. With her Welsh background and alto voice, Anne is also a valued singer. In 2020, the choir was pleased to appoint Anne as Honorary Vice President, in recognition of her contribution to Birmingham Choral Union, much of it invaluable work behind the scenes.

Anne N