Betty’s 60 years of making music


Singer Betty Willoughby is celebrating 60 years of making music with Nelson Civic choirs. She was just eight years old when her next door neighbour suggested she might enjoy going along to a Saturday morning children’s choir that rehearsed in a chapel in Stanley Street, Nelson.

And from the moment she walked in, she was hooked.

The conductor was Ted Parr, who became a lifelong friend.

She was one of the Civic youngsters who became the pride of Nelson when they won the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen.

Betty’s older sister, Kathleen, also loved to sing, and badgered conductor Mr Parr to start what was to become Nelson Civic Junior Choir for teenagers, which, in turn, led to the creation of Nelson Civic Ladies.

She kept in touch with the choir during her further education, attending as many rehearsals and concerts as she could before returning to the area as a languages teacher.

Betty’s parents were on the first parents’ committee, working behind the scenes to support choir activities, and she and her husband, Robin, carried on in the same vein when their own children, Stephen and Catherine, joined the choirs.

“My dad used to say the Civic is a lot more than a choir,” said Betty.

“He had it just right. It is more than a choir – it’s a support network, with wonderful friendships.

“Everybody has been so kind. I’ve enjoyed every minute, so I think I might just stick around!”

Contralto Betty has frequently performed as the choir’s soloist, most recently at Burnley Festival, when her voice was instrumental in the choir winning two pretigious trophies.

The win followed the choir’s success at a regional festival in Huddersfield in preparation for singing at the Llangollen Eisteddfod in July.