In 1959, Katharine Thomson and several members of the choir sat around her kitchen table, staring at a letter drafted to the great black performer and civil rights supporter, Paul Robeson. They wanted to make sure the tone of the letter was just right; would this great man do them the honour of being their next president?
Dr Bradsworth had been killed in a hit and run traffic accident in 1958, and the choir wanted to ensure his legacy would be carried forward with the greatest respect they could muster. Birmingham Clarion Singers and Paul Robeson were no strangers to each other; they had performed at the same concert at Birmingham Town Hall in 1949, in a concert arranged by the British-Soviet Society.
(Birmingham Clarion Singers perform with Paul Robeson at Birmingham Town Hall 1949)
They had continued their association throughout the 50s, supporting him when his passport was confiscated by the US government, and keeping in touch via the choir’s welsh connections its anglo-soviet associations and political involvements with the communist party.
A delegation of Clarion members went to see Robeson at Stratford-Upon-Avon, where he was performing the lead role in Othello. He agreed without hesitation to become president of the choir, and performed with them again in 1960 at Reading Town Hall. He remained president until his death in 1976.