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Choir News

September 2107 - Looking back on a wonderful tour to Belgium

This year the choir returned to Belgium for its summer tour, from Friday 25 August to Wednesday 30 August. Rob Lewis, the Director of Music, led a party of 16 boy choristers, 4 senior girl choristers and 11 men, together with Julian Cooper (organist), Andrew Harrap (organ scholar), and 5 chaperones (who had the toughest job of all!). The choir sang at Mass in Brussels Cathedral, and concerts in the cathedrals of Brussels, Bruges and Ghent. Musically, the tour was a great success. The following account by Head Choristers Izzy and Joe gives their perspective.

Friday We arrived at St. T’s at 8:30 prompt. After an hour of the usual madness, meetings and missing items, we set off by coach for the ferry. On arrival at Dover the sleeping masses awoke and were let loose in the terminal shopping centre. After each chorister had been checked, escorted and carefully stowed back on the coach, we drove onto the ferry. Starting through France on the coach again, there were more naps and songs from the boy choristers – to the thoroughly well-disguised joy of the gents. After checking in to our smart hostel near the centre of Antwerp, we went straight to dinner, then bedtime for us choristers.

Saturday After breakfast, we rehearsed at the hostel, ready for our day in Ghent. On arrival there, we walked through the pretty streets to the impressive Gravensteen Castle, and climbed to the top for excellent views of the city. Then we had time to eat our packed lunches and ice cream, and explore the picturesque canals and squares before the rehearsal at St. Baaf’s Cathedral. After a very good first concert, we headed back to the hostel for dinner and a film for the choristers before bed.

 

Sunday An early start, leaving Antwerp at 7:50 for Brussels. On arrival at the Cathedral, we rehearsed for Mass; the distances between Rob, choir and organ were a challenge, but everyone pulled together and at the end of the service the clergy led the large congregation in generous applause. Then we walked to a nearby park for a picnic and a game of Frisbee, followed by ice creams and a walk into the Grande Place in the centre of Brussels. We returned to the cathedral for a further rehearsal and the concert, which was a great success. Back in Antwerp, we walked into the centre to the pizzeria Da Giovanni. After delicious meals, the choristers went to get more ice cream before bed.

Monday We started with a rehearsal at the hostel after breakfast. Then choristers and a few (lucky) adults headed off to Oceade waterpark, whilst most of the (even luckier) gents spent the day exploring Antwerp. We all had a really enjoyable day; plenty of action for some of us, a little peace for the others! We all met up again in the evening for more lovely Italian food. Afterwards the choristers headed to the hostel, stopping of course for our daily ice cream intake, whilst the gents found a nice spot on the square to serenade their neighbours with an informal vocal recital.

Tuesday After another great breakfast at the hostel we boarded the coach for Bruges. Once we arrived, we walked through part of the old city and took a canal trip: it was really interesting to see this beautiful old city from the water. Then we walked through the main square and had even more ice cream, before arriving at St. Salvatore’s cathedral to rehearse. Outside we sang “Locus iste” to promote the concert, and attracted much interest. Here too, the distance between the organ and choir gave us a challenge but, as always, we pulled together and our last concert of the tour went very well. It was followed by dinner at a burger restaurant, with the traditional tour speeches and thank-yous. Tired, we all got on the coach back to the hostel for the last time.

Wednesday brought mixed emotions for everybody – happy, but sad that choir tour was nearly over. We got on the coach for the final time, and set off for Ypres, where we split into two groups: while the gents and girls explored Ypres, the boys had a great time at Bellawaerde theme park. We arrived back into Dover very tired, and all slept most of the rest of the way back home. Waking up at St. Thomas’, having dreamt of all the fun we’d had, we realised that the tour was over all too quickly. We said our goodbyes and headed home - ready for another fantastic tour next year!

Please come and enjoy some of the wonderful music we sang on the tour at our free Post-Tour concert on Sunday 8th October at 6pm at St. Thomas’!

 

August 2017 - Looking forward to an exciting tour to Belgium

The choirs are now enjoying their short summer break, before the tour to Belgium at the end of August.  We would be thrilled to have some support from home in our audiences, so if anyone fancies a trip to the land of chocolate, chips with mayonnaise and a wonderful selection of beers, with some uplifting choral music thrown in, here is our schedule -
 
Saturday  26th Aug
Ghent – Concert in St Baaf’s Cathedral                                        1500hrs
 
Sunday 27th Aug.
Brussels – Mass in Cathedral of St Michael & St Gudula         1000hrs
Brussels - Concert in Cathedral of St Michael & St Gudula     1500hrs
 
Tuesday 29th Aug.
Bruges – Concert in Cathedral of St Salvatore                             1500hrs

 

July 2017 - a very busy term

The choir has had a very busy summer term with several outside engagements in addition to all the regular services.    Eight members of the Men’s Choir and six of the senior girls took part in a performance of Bach’s St John Passion in the annual Tilford Bach Festival at our sister church of All Saints in Tilford. Directed by Adrian Butterfield (a former Farnham chorister), the St Thomas’ choristers sang all the chorales, with eight professional soloists singing all the solos and choruses, accompanied by the London Handel Orchestra.

A week later the Men and Boys choirs sand at a moving memorial service in Twyford, near Winchester, in honour of Professor Terry Wilkin, a distinguished and pioneering doctor.  A highlight was a faultless and musical performance of the solo “O for the wings of a dove” by his grandson, Cai.  Robert Lewis, the Director of Music, said afterwards: “I was thanked countless times by members of the congregation for the choir’s performance.  Cai really deserves to be congratulated for his solo – it bodes well for a young chorister to deliver so well under pressure.”

A week after that, the full choir of men, boys and girls took part in a charity concert at Edgeborough School which raised over £6000 for Robbiesrally, a charity set up in memory of a pupil, Robbie Keville, who died tragically young; the charity supports rehabilitation for children who suffer brain cancer.  The concert featured a variety of different musical acts and styles, culminating with a traditional Last Night of the Proms rendition of “Jerusalem”, “Rule, Britannia” etc.

Robert Lewis commented: “I was delighted with the choirs’ performances in front of big audiences for these major musical events. The standard of singing was uniformly excellent – it’s great experience for the choristers and a great advertisement for the music of St Thomas’.”

The boys and girls who joined the choirs during the past year have now finished their period as ‘probationers’;  Dexter, Emily, Felix, Izzy, Olivia and Poppy were given their surplices and welcomed as full choristers.  

The summer has also seen the annual “Come and See” sessions for children who want to see what being a chorister at St Thomas’ is all about.  This has attracted a number of musical boys and girls who are keen to try the choir. There are still a few places available for girls - for more details, please contact Rob Lewis at director@stthomaschoir.co.uk
  
The choirs are now enjoying their short summer break, before the tour to Belgium at the end of August – another musical highlight to look forward to!

June 2017 - A wonderful summer concert

A quartet of girl choristers together with Andrew Harrap, our Organ Scholar, and introduced by James Harrison, entertained a delighted audience with a wonderful summer’s evening concert of piano and vocal music.  We were treated to Fauré’s 'Sixth Nocturne' and Bach’s 'Fifth French Suite' played by Andrew, and Chopin’s 'Waltz in B minor'  played by April, who recently achieved her Grade 8 on piano, with distinction.

The girls quartet of April, Beth, Izzy and Molly performed a varied selection of sacred and secular songs from the 16thC to the 20thC, featuring music by Bernstein, Elgar, Fauré, Lassus, Mendelssohn, Puccini, Sullivan and others, with solos, duets and trios, in English, French, German, Italian and Latin, both accompanied and a cappella. With a combined total of some 30 years in the Choir, the girls’ long experience of singing together clearly showed: their performance was musically excellent and polished in every piece, their voices blending perfectly, and complemented by Andrew’s expert accompaniment.  The energy and evident enjoyment with which the girls sang captivated the audience, who generously contributed over £600 to the retiring collection in aid of church and choir funds. The Quartet will sing together during the Choir’s tour to Bruges, Brussels and Ghent in August.

 

April 2017 - A busy term and some exciting plans

The choirs have been busy recording for their forthcoming CD, planning for their summer tour to Antwerp and Bruges, and further developing their skills to lead the worship at the church to ‘cathedral standard’.   Joe Edwards and Alex Thow successfully stormed their RSCM Bishops’ Award with Highly Commended marks (“Distinction”) and our choristers continue to gain accolades in the local community, whether at festivals or in their own schools.  
 
Sunday 26 March was a bittersweet day, as five of our choristers had a ceremony to mark their departure from the choir, but are moving on to great things!  Oscar and William left the boys’ choir.  William had been the very first boy chorister whom Rob Lewis recruited on his arrival at St Thomas’ nearly 6 years ago.  Naomi, Jasmine and Natasha left the girls’ choir after some 30 years’ combined service - a remarkable achievement.  We wish them all the best for their futures and hope to see them again at St Thomas’, but it is wonderful that an increasing number of choristers are gaining scholarships to 6th Form Colleges or universities, including Cambridge and the Royal Academy of Music, and studying music at a high level.
 
On Saturday 1 April a choir of men, boys and girls was invited to sing at the wedding of Oliver King att the “church in the woods” near Milland where they sang a selection of Fauré, Franck and Rutter on a lovely spring day.
 
The recruitment of new choristers begins with fervour now.  Whilst our numbers are good, it is vital that we continue to recruit talented choristers.  It is a wonderful, and free, opportunity for children to be a part of something special, and the academic and personal rewards are well documented.  Benefits include national and international tours, CD recordings, concerts at home and away and a great social life for choristers and their parents.  
 
We have ‘Come and See’ dates for children who want to see what being a chorister is all about.  Please put them in the diary. These are:
Girls aged 8 – 15:  Tuesday 6th June 5pm – 6pm or Friday 9th June  5.15pm – 6.15pm
Boys aged 6/7 – 11:  Tuesday 6th June 6.15pm – 7.30pm or Friday 9th June 6.30pm – 7.30pm 
For more details and to express interest in attending, please contact Rob Lewis at director@stthomaschoir.co.uk
 
Another date for the diary is the summer concert of piano and vocal music on 3rd June, 6-7pm, featuring Andrew Harrap, our Organ Scholar, and a quartet from the girls’ choir.  Entry is free, with a retiring collection for church and choir funds.   Light refreshments will be provided afterwards.

Arrangements for the choir tour to Belgium in August are now well advanced.  A choir of men, boys and girls will sing concerts in the cathedrals of St Baaf in Ghent (a return visit after 7 years), St Michael and St Gulder in Brussels, and St Salvatore in Bruges, as well as singing mass at the cathedral in Brussels.   

February 2017 - A New CD

After the highlights of music over the Christmas period, the following few weeks have been less busy, but not exactly quiet for the choir!  January included the feast of Candlemas, celebrated with Mozart’s Mass in D.  This was followed by a second recording session for Men and Boys for the choir’s next CD “In Paradisum”.  A third session will be held later in the year to complete the recording, with release planned for the autumn, and a companion CD to follow next year.

The continuing musical progress of choristers was marked by the award of Light Blue and Dark Blue Ribbons and  April, Izzy and Molly sang at a concert at St Peter’s Wrecclesham and helped raise almost £1000 for the Simon Trust.

Looking ahead, the choir’s summer tour to Belgium is planned for 25 to 30 August.  And finally we welcome the recent arrival on the scene of a potential new assistant organ scholar, with the birth of Elizabeth Victoria Anna to Julian and Katerina Cooper on 29 December.

December 2016 - A busy month for the choirs

December was a really busy month for the choirs at St Thomas’, with all the Christmas services as well as the usual Sunday services and weekday rehearsals.  Starting with the Advent Procession on 27 November, the Boys, Girls, Gentlemen and Chamber Choir sang in various combinations for the special seasonal services - Christingle, two crib services, Nine Lessons and Carols, Midnight Mass and Christmas morning.  

All these services were very well attended, and the standard of singing throughout the choir - including the soloists - was consistently of a very high standard. 

The music was varied and challenging, with traditional hymns and carols such as Once in Royal David’s City, the Hallelujah Chorus and “And the Glory of the Lord” from Handel’s Messiah, as well as contemporary pieces such as Rutter’s Dormi Jesu, Chilcott’s “Midwinter” and “All my Heart this Night rejoices” by the American composer, Z Randall Stroope – sung at St Thomas’ for the first time. 

The Christmas services marked a fitting end to a year which has seen a great deal of high quality choral music sung by the choirs both at St Thomas’, and further afield.  Earlier in the year, four of our choristers had entered the Farnham Competitive Music Festival, and were awarded several “Excellent” and “Outstanding” grades.  Their performances were so good that they were invited to sing two of their pieces at the Festival Concert at Frensham Heights School in December, along with a select group of other singers and instrumentalists.

Plans for 2017 include completing the recording of a CD of beautiful choral favourites ‘In Paradisum’, singing in Westminster Cathedral, and a tour to Antwerp and Bruges.  If you are interested in joining the choir, or would like to know more about us, please browse through these Music pages on our parish website, or contact Robert Lewis at director@stthomaschoir.co.uk

November 2016 - A moving Remembrance Day

The choir led the morning Remembrance Day Service in St Thomas’ with a packed church, including members from the Royal British Legion and also from the Scouts and Guides associations.  This was continued outside around the war memorial where the Last Post was sounded, a two minute silence observed, followed by the Reveille and the laying of wreaths.  Our chorister William Lardner once again showed himself to be a very competent trumpeter.
Later in the day, St Thomas’ had a Eucharist for Peace at which the choir sang extracts from the dramatic and moving ‘Son of God Mass’ by James Whitbourn with saxophonist Alastair Penman.

October 2016 - A wonderful concert

Congratulations to the choirs for an excellent concert and a big thank you to the hundreds of people who packed out the church to enjoy it!  The standard of singing was superb and it was lovely for the choirs to be able to share some of the musical highlights from their tour to Cologne.  The varied and ambitious programme comprised pieces from across the centuries from William Byrd to contemporary composers Colin Mawby, Howard Goodall and Karl Jenkins, and included well-known favourites such as ‘Zadok the Priest’ and ‘O for the wings of a dove’.  

Robert Lewis, the Director of Music, said ‘This was a real top quality concert featuring some challenging music, sung to a cathedral standard.  I was particularly pleased by the standard of the boys’ and girls’ solos and trios.  It really demonstrates the musical value of a choir tour; singing concerts and services in wonderful venues on five consecutive days really raises our standards to a new level which we carry over into the new term.  For many of the boys and girls it was their first overseas tour with St Thomas, and they showed just how much they had benefitted from the experience.’  

Thanks to the generosity of the audience the retiring collection raised over £1700 to be split between church funds and the choir tour fund, to help make further choir tours possible at a price which all choristers can afford.  Thank you to all who worked so hard behind the scenes to make this concert happen.

September 2016 - Home again after a wonderful tour

Read all about it on the Choir Tours page where choristers Eliza Craig and William Lardner give their personal report on the tour to Cologne

The choir will be performing some of their repertoire at St Thomas’ on Sunday 9th October at 6pm, so come along to hear it for yourselves!  And there are lots of photos of this trip to Cologne in the photo gallery.

Summer 2016 - excitement is building up for our tour to Germany

The tour repertoire will include works by English, European and American composers from the 16th to the 21st centuries, including Palestrina, Tallis, Handel, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Bruckner, Rheinberger, Parry and Vaughan Williams.  Have a look at our programme, and maybe come over and support us!

Saturday 27th August - Odenthal - Altenberger Dom - 6pm Mass followed by short concert
Sunday 28th August - Köln - Basilika St. Aposteln – 10am Mass
Sunday 28th August - Köln - Kirche St. Pantaleon – 6.30pm Mass
Tuesday 30th August - Köln - Cologne Cathedral – 12pm Midday prayers
Tuesday 30th August - Köln - Basilika St. Aposteln – 8pm Concert   

June 2016 - an entertaining concert and more new choristers

The choir staged a wonderful fundraising choristers’ concert ‘The Choir Entertains’ to a packed St Thomas’ church.  All the members of our choirs took part, from the youngest probationers to the oldest of the gentlemen (under his stage name of Private Godfrey) and to the delight of the audience showed the extraordinary talents that they bring to St Thomas’, and which in turn St Thomas’ supports them in developing.   From solos, duets, trios and quartets, to larger ensembles, and featuring voices, piano, saxophone, violin, recorder and organ, the members of our choirs wowed the audience with their talent and proficiency, each and every one performing before the large crowd as if it were an everyday occurrence for them.  
  
The concert was a great success in raising over £1200 to support the choir tour to Cologne in August, thanks to the generosity of the audience. But, what was even more important was that the experience was hugely rewarding and enjoyable for both participants and listeners from start to finish.  Keep an eye out for the next choristers’ concert in due course!

The choir celebrated the Queen’s 90th Birthday with music chosen specially for the occasion, including Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’, which has been sung at every coronation since George II in 1727, and Parry’s ‘I was glad’ composed for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902 and also sung at every coronation since then.  All were sung with great energy and musicality, adding to the memorable nature of the day.

Six new chorister probationers were welcomed as full choristers and received their surplices, and then tucked into another amazing celebratory cake from Sarah Dashwood.

And as if that all weren't enough, the whole choir enjoyed an afternoon of great fun at St. John's Waterloo! Forty choristers and gentlemen were invited to sing a Festal Evensong to mark the end of the week long 'Waterloo Festival'. In the afternoon, a 'Mad Hatter's Tea Party' was thoroughly enjoyed by all, with a huge amount of edible treats on offer, a bouncy castle, and numerous games including a tug of war (Cantoris won the Dec. vs Can. competition)! Thank you so much to the community of St. John's who made us feel so welcome! (More photos in the gallery.)

April 2016 - a lovely spring wedding!

A highlight for the choir in April was an invitation to the men and boys to sing at the wedding of Giles Saville, a former chorister at St Thomas’.  The wedding took place in the tiny village church of Falmer, near Gerrard’s Cross, on a rare beautiful spring day.  The choir filled the chancel, leaving barely enough room for the minister to pass through.  As befitted a former St Thomas’ chorister, the wedding contained an unusually rich musical content: the bride entered (equally unusually, on time!) to Zadok the Priest, and left to the Hallelujah Chorus (as well as Barwick Green on the organ, better known as the signature tune of “The Archers”).  In between, the choir sang some old favourite anthems and hymns, including Jerusalem, to delight a full church.  It was hard work, but a very rewarding “away match”!
The choirs are now looking forward to visiting St John’s Church, Waterloo, for a second time, as part of the church’s festival, to sing Evensong at 5.30 pm on Sunday 26 June, at the invitation of Jeff Risbridger.   All are welcome to join us.   See home page for more details.

March 2016 - Welcomes and Goodbyes

Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday were major events for the choir in a number of ways. As well as preparing and singing suitable music to mark these important occasions in the Church calendar, it was time for both welcomes and goodbyes. On Palm Sunday, new Head and Deputy Head Choristers were appointed for the Boys’ Choir: Jo Edwards as Head, and Alex Thow and William Lardner as Deputy Head Choristers. On Easter Sunday, it was time to say sad good byes to Daisy Mardel, as Head Chorister, and Charlotte Hutton, as Deputy Head Chorister of the Girls’ Choir. After a combined total of more than 20 years in the choir, with three Directors of Music, Daisy and Charlotte had reached the retirement age of 18. During their time in the choir, they enjoyed several tours, including Hereford, Southwell, Oxford, Ypres, Normandy and Prague, and took part in two recordings and numerous concerts and other special events, as well as the regular services at St Thomas’. They both leave with many happy memories and look forward to continuing their singing after they leave St Thomas’; Daisy will return for the choir tour to Cologne in August.

February 2016 - Cathedral visits

On 16 February, almost the entire choir of men, boys and girls – over 40 singers - sang Evensong at St Paul’s. The music was from the Choir’s standard repertoire, including pieces by Stanford and Aylward, as well as the beautiful anthem “Ubi Caritas” by the modern Norwegian composer, Ola Gjeilo; this piece, which is very much influenced by Gregorian chant, was sung unaccompanied. Despite the famous awe-inspiring surroundings and the extraordinary acoustics, the choir soon adjusted and sang with their customary energy and musicality, accompanied by the St Thomas’ organist, Julian Cooper. As well as the current choristers, a former Head Chorister at St Thomas’ – Revd Prebendary Guy Pope, now a canon at St Paul’s – also took part in the service and read the Second Lesson. The large congregation included the Vicar of St Thomas’, Revd Karen Hutchinson, and many chorister parents and supporters who had travelled from Farnham for the occasion. 

On 14th February, St Thomas’ Choir gave a warm welcome to the Choir of Bradford Cathedral.  As part of their Half Term UK tour, Bradford Cathedral Choir had sung at Guildford Cathedral the previous day, and were en route to sing Choral Evensong at Ely Cathedral the following day, but they were delighted to join forces with St Thomas’ choir for the parish Eucharist on Sunday morning.  This was followed by lunch then a rowdy football match between the two choirs, before the visitors finished the day with a beautiful Choral Evensong.  Bradford Cathedral invited St Thomas to visit for return matches - both singing and football.

Further plans for the choirs this year include the recording of a new CD and a tour to Germany.

December 2015 - Another busy Christmas period

Christmas is always a busy time for the choir at St Thomas’ and 2015 was no exception! The obvious musical highlights were the Advent Procession, the Nine Lessons and Carols, and Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, at all of which the standard of musicality was really excellent. These were in addition to the Crib and Christingle services, and our usual Sunday services.

The Boys and Men also had the opportunity to sing with Michael Card (a well-known Nashville evangelical singer), as part of his European tour, at the Union Chapel in Islington, a magnificent concert venue, and all very different from the choir’s usual environment.

Shortly before this, four of the boys and four of the girls enjoyed further success in the RSCM Dean’s and Bishop’s Awards respectively, with all achieving commended (merit) or highly commended (distinction) markings; this means that 10 of the girls’ choir now hold the Bishop’s Award – a clear sign of their high musical standard.

There was also some sadness. Harry Fagge, who was an outstanding Head Chorister for the past year, came to the end of his treble voice after more than 6 years in the choir. We hope to see him return to the back row once his new voice has settled down.

October 2015 - RSCM awards for delighted choristers

At a well-attended Evensong on Sunday 11 October a presentation was held for 10 girls from St Thomas’ choir, 6 of whom had earned the Royal School of Church Music Bishop’s (Silver), and 4 the Dean’s (Bronze) Award during the past 12 months.  The presentation was made by Iain Nisbet, Awards Administrator for the RSCM for the Guildford Area.  Introducing the awards, Iain commented that it was a pleasure to come to St Thomas' and to hear the choir in such good form, with a highly appropriate selection of celebratory music (introit Cantate Domino, Pitoni; Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis setting Stanford in C; anthem Haec Dies, Byrd).  Iain highlighted that the awards represent independent confirmation of the achievement of the choristers and the training they have received – “they are a significant achievement and should be celebrated”.  Iain presented certificates to the 8 choristers who were able to attend in person.

August 2015 - Fun at the Eton Choral Course

Two of St Thomas' girl choristers, Charlotte Hutton and Molly Beere, attended the prestigious Eton Choral Course. The aim of the courses is to provide a fun yet intensive week of training and performing in choral music. Each course has a course director, professional organist and several professional music teachers and accompanists, while visiting musicians also run workshops and take rehearsals.

July 2015 - New choristers

Twelve new chorister probationers have been coming along to choir practice over recent weeks:  Harry, Finlay, Sonny, Louis, Sasha, Max, Jacob, Freddie, Evie, Poppy, Emily and Freya, and some of the boys were recently invited to sing at their first service.  Music director Rob Lewis is very pleased with their progress, and hopes that they will make the grade to progress to full membership of the choir.

 

 

July 2015 - Chamber Choir leads the service on The Bourne Green

St Thomas’ Chamber Choir led the singing at the parish-wide service on The Bourne Green, and sang two anthems- Britten’s ‘Jubilate Deo’ and the beautiful ‘The Ground’ by Ola Gjeilo.  The sun shone, and the wind blew, and it appeared that the music really did raise the roof, as the tent lifted from its pegs and nearly blew away!

May 2015 - New Head Chorister

St Thomas’ girls' choir now has a new head chorister.  Congratulations to Daisy Mardel, who takes over from Anna Harrison.

  

 

 

April 2015 - Farewell and Thank You to Anna and Ana

Easter Sunday at St Thomas' was a day tinged with sadness as well as celebration for some.  The Head Chorister and Deputy Head Chorister of the Girls' Choir had both recently turned 18, and so this was their last service as regular member sof the choir.  Both Anna Harrison and Ana Cooke joined the choir when they were 9, and since them have sund with three different Directors of Music - Jonathan Lane, Philip Viveash and Rob Lewis.  They both want to continue singing when they go on to university,  Ana plans to go to Manchester University and Anna to Cambridge, where she has been offered a choral scholarship at Jesus College.

The choir has lost not only the singing of the two An(n)as, but also the support of their mothers, Bridget and Lenka, who have taken leading roles in organising the off-stage activities of the choir, especially on their recent tours.

A small celebration was held in St Thomas' courtyard to mark the girls' leaving, helped by a magnificent cake made by Sarah Dashwoos and light refreshments.  Rob Lewis thanked the girls for their commitment and the quality of their singing.  In reply, the An(n)as said: "We have absolutely loved our time in the choir, growing up and making friends in such a close-knit community, and it has been an honour to be part of it for so long,  We're really going to miss everyone, as well as singing beautiful music at such a high standard."

March 2015 - Warm Welcome to new Choristers

We were delighted to welcome eoght new choristers as full members of the choir of St Thomas-on-The Bourne on Mothering Sunday.  Each chorister was presented with his/her own surplice by Director of Music, Rob Lewis, and helped to put it on by senior members of the choir. 

Then Oscar, Oliver, Harry, Noah, Eliza, Annabel, Cai and James received a round of applause frim the packed congregation, followed by a celebration with a very special Simnel cake made and decorated with singing choristers by Sarah Dashwood.

The Director of Music is always looking for children with 'spark' to join the choirs and enjoy this unique experience in Farnham.  Look out for details of our next 'Come and See' days which give interested children and parents the opportunity to come along and see what we are all about!  

February 2015 - Girls' successes in Choral awards

St Thomas' choristers enjoyed a bumper set of outstanding results in their recent examinations.  As part of their choral training, the boys and girls in the choir work towards graded awards that are set by the Royal School of Church Music, which reflect their increased experience, talent and musicality.  Two of these highest awards are the 'Bishop's' and 'Dean's' awards.  The exams test musical ability through solo performance of prepared pieces, partly unaccompanied - a hymn, psalm and anthem (plus Magnificate for the Bishop's, and sight-reading and aural tests, general musical understanding of the Bible, liturgy anad the role of the choir in the church.  The exams are rigorous, and success requires thorough preparation and practice.

Last term, 9 of our choristers sat these exams with the vast majority achievin honours in the "commended" and "highly commended" categories, with marks ranging from 72%-91%.  We had the highest number of entries in the dioceses, even well above Guildford Cathedral, and the examiner commented on the particularly high standard of choristers that we are fortunate to have at St Thomas-on-The Bourne.

Many congratulations to Charlotte, Daisy, Natasha, Ana and Jasmine for achieving their Bishop's Award and Molly, Isabel, Millie and April for winning their Dean's award.

Having such able choristers bodes well for the choirs' plans for a tour to Germany this summer and for the continuing high standard of music at the church.  The choir are much in demand and recently performed the 'Tsunami Requiem' with Godalming Choral Society and a professional brass ensemble at Charterhouse School, and a charity concert at St. George's Hanover Square, London - both to considerable acclaim.

December 2014 - Being a Chorister at Christmas

We are very fortunate at St Thomas’ to have one of the best church choirs in the diocese, if not the country, and Christmas time is one of the occasions where the choir can showcase some of their talent, with dramatic and uplifting music.  But what does it feel like to be part of it?  Senior chorister Joe Edwards gives us a personal insight.

Christmas time as a chorister is perhaps the most enjoyable time of the year.  It is also the busiest!  Around Christmas, the choir gets up to lots of exciting things: Crib Services, Christingle, Choir Teas, Carol Concerts at other venues and, most importantly, (my favourite) the Christmas Day Service.

There are so many carols that we sing.  A couple of my favourites are The Carol of the Bells and In the Bleak Midwinter. One of the great things about the choir at St. Thomas’ is that we sing a variety of traditional and more contemporary carols, well-known and unfamiliar pieces. Many of the hymns that the choir and congregation sing during the Christmas season have descants – and the choir boys and girls enjoy singing these – the harmonies soaring over the top.

For the most popular and challenging services – the traditional Nine Lessons and Carols for instance – long rehearsals are rewarded with traditional choir teas before the services start.  This is an opportunity for you to chat and socialise with the whole choir. Choir teas are great: lots of delicious food to eat and coming together as a friendly community before singing.  Thanks to all the Choir Mums – and Dads! 

The Christingle service is one of the easier services – at least in theory.  The music is not too difficult – Christmas songs which younger children might know.  However, walking around with a candle stuck in an orange, trying not to drop music, drip wax or set fire to yourself, other choristers, the congregation or the conductor is quite a challenge. Our reward? - the orange, the Christingle, has sweets on it that you can eat at the end!  The two Crib Services are also fun – it’s lovely to see the excitement on little children’s faces as they sing songs with us and start to anticipate the big day.

In addition to all the services, the choir is also invited at Christmas time to sing a number of concerts – an opportunity to sing some different music, with other choirs and in some fantastic venues.  This year some of the choristers sang at St. George’s Hanover Square in London. The music was fun and challenging with some new pieces for us to learn. Among other well-known carols, we sang Walking in the Air (from The Snowman) and The Twelve Days of Christmas. The choristers also sang with Godalming Choral Society at a concert in Charterhouse School Chapel. Lots to learn – lots of rehearsal – but we all love these amazing experiences.    

The last and biggest celebration of all of the Christmas period is the Christmas morning service! Finally – after all the practices and anticipation during Advent - Christmas Day finally dawns.  The morning service really emphasises to me how kind the choir is – it may sound cheesy but the choir can sometimes feel like a second family! We make great friends, have a lot of fun, spending a lot of time together united in our love of singing.  Of course another good thing about the Christmas Day service is that our hard work throughout the Christmas season is rewarded with highly valued chorister pay and a fair few chocolates! We also get to wear silly Christmas hats and the atmosphere is very jovial.  Then back home for lunch and presents with our real families.

Christmas as a chorister is really gratifying.  It’s a special season for us all and we hope that the congregation get as much pleasure from the music as we get from preparing and singing it.  We hope it shows how wonderful the choir is.

December 2014 - Christmas Concert in St George's Hanover Square

Thirteen choristers from St Thomas' choir - 7 boys and 6 girls - took part in the annual carol service for the Charity 'Look Good Feel Better' at the prestigious venue of St George's Hanover Square in London on 8 December.  This was the 20th anniversary of the founding of the charity - so a particularly joyous occasion.  The choristers left school early and made their way by coach to London for a rehearsal - followed by tea and quick look around Hamleys!  Musicians attend by invitation only and - performing alongside professional singers and instrumentalists - the choristers did not disappoint,  TheCarol of the Bells, Walking in the Air and Silent Night, with the first verse in German then English, were all executed beautifully.

Molly and Joe sang the Pie Jesu duet from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem - which elicited long applause from the packed audience of 500.  The choristers were also the stars of the raucous (audience participation at this point) rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas.  The organisers praised "the superb soloists, brilliant accompanists and the angelic voices from the Choristers of St Thomas-on-The Bourne".

LGFB is the only worldwide cancer support charity providing practical support for women struggling with the side effects from cancer treatment.  It is dedicated to improving the self-esteem, confidence and wellbeing of people undergoing treatment for any sort of cancer, and aims to improve their self-image and appearance through free group and self-help skincare and make-up workshops that creat a sense of support, confidence and wellbeing.  The charity is supported by the fashion and cosmetics industry, and the concert raised over £18,000 for the charity.

The boys' choir has a long history of taking part in the concerts, but this was the first year that both boys and girls from St Thomas' took part.  Thanks are due to Peter and Monique Seager from the St Thomas' congregation for arranging this fantastic opportunity for the choristers.  Lots more photos of this event can be seen in the photo gallery and more details about the event can be seen here .

September 2014 - Welcome to the new choir boys!

St Thomas-on-The Bourne is delighted to welcome eight new probationer-choristers to the boys’ choir!  Congratulations to Oscar, Cai, Ollie, James, Noah, Charlie, Arthur and Harry who have been awarded choral scholarships at the church.  This enables them to receive a free musical education and join the talented choristers of this renowned choir.  They have plenty to look forward to – in the last year the choir toured to Prague, released a CD and recorded a soundtrack for Channel 4!
 
Director of Music, Robert Lewis, commented “I am delighted to welcome the boys into the St. Thomas’ family.  Being a chorister is a wonderful experience for children with a passion for singing!  

Whilst having to work hard, the boys enjoy life experiences and opportunities over and above those of their peers, quickly develop in confidence and make life-long friendships.  In addition, the academic benefits are well documented.”
 
Forthcoming engagements for the choir include a concert at St. George’s, Hanover Square, on 8th December and a concert at Charterhouse school with the Godalming Choral Society on 13th December.
 
For further information regarding choral scholarships or for more information about the music programme at St. Thomas’, please look at the website, or contact Rob at director@stthomaschoir.co.uk.