In 1987, whilst drinking coffee in the vicarage kitchen, Rosie Shaw and Gill Lumby hatched the idea of forming a concert society. The Milverton and Fitzhead Society were approached and agreed to “ parent” the new society. The first two concerts took place in the Victoria Rooms with the support of Mary Ann Devlieg of Take Art. Mary soon suspected that the society was “too successful” for Take Art to support and suggested contacting Nick Capaldi of South West Arts for help. After a successful funding bid in Exeter, Melvyn Tan was the first performer at a concert held in the church, a larger venue.
The seating plan was generated on a computer by Leo Shaw, then aged eleven and is still used to this day! The aim was to create a warm, welcoming and professional atmosphere. The concerts are candlelit with professional stage lighting originally provided by Brian Plumb and now provided by Duncan Stewart working in close co operation with the performers. The beautiful church building provides superb acoustics often remarked upon by international artists.
By 1989 Gill felt the Society could be more inclusive and we began to ask musicians if they felt able to provide a workshop for Milverton Primary School in the afternoon before a concert. These workshops continue. In the summer there were Jazz concerts and two summer events promoting world music ,the school hosted Jaleo a flamenco group and we were fortunate to be included in a European Tours by Ugandan musicians with a workshop and the main concert held in the school grounds. More recently the Milverton May festival concert became a showcase for young, more local musicians.
In 2003 the Society became independent of the Milverton and Fitzhead Society in order to obtain charitable status and therefore be eligible for grant funding. The Committee retained most of its initial members apart from Rosie Shaw who resigned after 17 years of unstinting commitment. In 2004 the church heating died. This suddenly left the Society without a base for a season, so Fitzhead Church, Wellington School and Oake Village Hall were used. Then, with the return to the warm church, began the exciting plans for our own grand piano.
For 25 years the concert society has supported Milverton School
Providing the opportunity for children to see and hear the best classical musicians is a core aim of the society. Each year we hope that once again through us, some artists will be running workshops at the school.