NSW Police Choir

In 1931 a number of Police interested in singing made application to the Commissioner of Police for permission to form a Police choral unit as a cultural interest within the Police Department. The application was duly considered, but it was not until 1933 that the request was finally approved.

An approach was then made to a Mr. Richard G. Thew, a leading Sydney teacher to conduct and coach the newly formed unit. Mr. Thew consented and rehearsals then commenced in a basement room at the Criminal Investigation Branch. The basement room soon proved unsuitable however, lacking a piano and proper acoustic qualities.
Arrangements were then made with a cafe proprietor at Railway Square for the Choir to rehearse in the dining room during the post luncheon session for a two hourly period every Tuesday afternoon. This location proved quite suitable, but in 1934, owing to a rapid expansion in membership, activities were transferred to Palings Concert Hall, Ash Street Sydney. The Choir remained at Palings until 1950, when rehearsals were transferred to the Band Room at the Police Training Centre at Redfern.

The New South Wales Police Choir was an established musical unit in the cultural life of Sydney. The Choir had 34 members, all of whom were attached to city and suburban stations. In 1962 there were still three of the foundation members in the choir ranks. Concerts were rendered by the Choir with the approval of the Commissioner of Police for any charitable purpose, but was not available for any professional or commercial engagements. the Choir had sung on many occasions with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Town Hall under the baton of distinguished conductors Sir Eugene Goossens, Nicolai Malko, Sir Bernard Heinze, and Mr. Joseph Post.
The unit also made frequent radio broadcasts on A.B.C. programmes throughout the years, appeared on television, and participated in Eisteddfod competitions in Sydney and country centres, with marked success. The Choir also rendered recitals for the affiliated Music Clubs of Sydney.

The Choirmaster, Mr. Richard Thew, continued his long association with the Choir since its foundation, and in 1962 was a leading adjudicator, conductor, and singing authority and was solely responsible for the Choir’s musical pre-eminence in male choral circles throughout the Commonwealth.

The Police Choir offered a wonderful opportunity for all police desirous of developing their vocal talents. Many outstanding singers emerged from the Choir ranks, annexing high honours in the spheres of concert, radio, stage and opera. The most illustrious product of the Police Choir was undoubtedly Kenneth Neate, who went on to become a operatic star of world renown. Kenneth Neate was a member of the Choir for several years prior to World War II, when after a successful Commonwealth tour for the Australian Broadcasting Commission he resigned from the Police Force and proceeded to Canada, the United States, and later Italy, to further his vocal studies. Ken had sung in all the leading lyric theatres of the world, and in 1962 was the first tenor of the Paris Opera. He toured twice for the A.B.C prior to 1962 and always found time to visit his old Choir associates at the Police Training Centre in Redfern.

The late eighties and early nineties, saw the greatest threat to the Choir’s existence. Due to the economic climate, the Police Minister who came to power in 1988, placed all Police Music Units under the microscope. The Police Choir was made redundant in December 1988.

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