News from the choirs

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An invitation to the organ loft

On 24 February, we welcomed visitors to the organ loft at St Thomas’, following an open invitation from our organist, Julian Cooper, to come and find out more about playing the organ. A number of budding organists came along and had a try, including choristers, members of the Choir back row from St Thomas’ and visitors, young and adult. Julian said: “I was delighted to give people this opportunity, not least to give a taste to youngsters of what the organ can do and how exciting it is to play. And I hope that some of them will be inspired to start learning the instrument. We will probably repeat this event at a future date.”



Celebration of grant from the Cathedral Music Trust and the RSCM

At Evensong on 10 December we were joined by Dr Isobel Pinder, a Trustee of the Cathedral Music Trust, and John Halsey from the Council of the Royal School of Church Music. Our visitors were here to celebrate the award of £5,000 for the Choir of St Thomas'.

The Cathedral Music Trust is a national charity which supports the work of musicians who enrich lives through cathedral music. The Trust's objectives are to support excellence, broaden participation and increase the long-term sustainability of the cathedral music sector. Their grants help to maintain and develop the work of choral foundations across the UK and Republic of Ireland, and have made a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of individuals involved in the UK’s vibrant choral tradition. 

St Thomas' Choir is one of seven places of worship in 2023 which were successful in winning a Church Choir Award, in a scheme run by the Trust in partnership with the RSCM. The award is designed to support Choirs that sing less frequently than the choral foundations that are usually supported by the Trusts's main grant programme. The grant will be used to support choristers and our music by contributing to the choir tour fund, and enabling us to recruit a vocal coach and produce a professional video to encourage more young singers to join our choirs.

More details of the awards are at this link:

December 2023 - Congratulations to our finalist in the BBC's 'Young Chorister of the Year'

Congratulations to St Thomas' chorister Freddie on reaching the finals of the junior section of the BBC's Young Chorister of the Year 2023. Sadly, he didn't win, but just getting to the final is a great achievement, in competition with cathedral choristers who sing in their choirs every week or even daily. Wynne Evans, one of the judges, commented that Freddie "has one of those voices that touches your heart". Laura Wright, another judge, noted the purity of Freddie's voice and the joy of singing that he conveyed. The judges all agreed that the three choristers have something special and a bright future ahead. We wish Freddie all good fortune with his future singing.

Photo courtesy of BBC Photographer Tricia Yourkevich

In reaching the finals of Young Chorister of the Year, Freddie is following in the footsteps of fellow St Thomas' chorister Cai Thomas, who was a finalist in 2019.   

November 2023 - More success for choristers in RSCM exams

2023 has seen further successes for St Thomas' choristers in the RSCM's Singing Awards at Bronze, Silver and Gold levels. Abi, Archie, Seth and Toby have all been successful at Bronze level, Emily at Silver, and Bethany and Phoebe at Gold. In most cases, the St Thomas’ candidates achieved “Commended” or “Highly Commended” markings. These are excellent results, achieved in externally marked exams, which demonstrate the quality of singing among St Thomas' choristers. Achieving success at Gold level is especially noteworthy - this is the first time in many years that choristers from St Thomas have taken exams at this level, which is evidence of singing at the standard of a cathedral chorister.

Combined choirs perform Duruflé Requiem for Remembrance Day

On Remembrance Day the performance by the combined Choirs of the Requiem by Maurice Duruflé was both highly appropriate, with its themes of peace, faith and hope, and a musical triumph, hugely enjoyed by the audience. The Requiem is one of the more demanding pieces in the choral repertoire, especially for the organ, so the concert was also an opportunity to celebrate the refurbishment of the organ this year.

Our congratulations are due especially to Julian Cooper, the organist, to soloist Molly Beere, a former chorister at St Thomas', cello soloist Toby, a current chorister, and above all to Jordan Theis, as Director of Music, who made a performance of such quality possible. Donations made by the audience will be divided between the Royal British Legion and Choir funds. A recording is available at 

Big audience for the Choir's post-tour concert

The St Thomas’ choirs re-performed their concert programme from Belgium for the benefit of a large audience of supporters in the church on the evening of September 23rd.  The music covered a range of composers from Guillaume Dufay, who died in 1474, to Alexandre l’Estrange, born in 1974.  Old favourites like Cesar Franck’s Panis Angelicus and new favourites like Undine Smith Moore’s We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace were featured and the emotional tone varied from Grieg’s lyrical Ave Maris Stella to Bairstow’s darkly mysterious Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.  Where possible, there was a Belgian connection to the music, but a particular favourite was home-grown, a thrilling setting of Breathe on me Breath of God composed by one of the choirmen, Matthew Rogers.  

An enjoyable aspect of St Thomas’s concerts lies in the name, the plural choirs of St Thomas’.  Works were sung by full choir, or Back Row (adults) and boys, or Back Row and girls, or youngsters on their own or the adults alone, which produces a great variety of tone.

The singing was splendid, and the wonderful evening was rounded off by Director of Music, Jordan Theis’, thanks to the choirs, Andrew Harrap, the assistant organist who played for the tour, and the chaperones and organisers, particularly Janey Thomas, James Harrison and John Edwards.  Finally the choristers presented flowers to Jordan and the ladies, before a retiring collection was taken for next year’s tour.

September 2023 Open Garden supports St Thomas' choristers

On 10 September, an Open Garden event was hosted by Lenka and James Cooke, the parents of a former St Thomas’ chorister, under the National Gardens Scheme. They generously donated the £340 raised by the sale of plants and tea / coffee / cake to St Thomas’, to be used to support the choristers; it will be used to help pay for a vocal coach.

Choir sings at wedding in Hereford

On 9 September, members of the Choir Back Row enjoyed an outing to Herefordshire to sing at the wedding of Abigail Morris, daughter of our former Vicar. Rev John Morris officiated at the ceremony, which was held in the church of St Peter in Lugwardine, where Abigail was baptised and John was first Vicar.

September 2023 What a wonderful tour in Belgium!

The choir enjoyed a highly successful tour to Belgium over the August Bank Holiday weekend – their first European tour since Venice in 2018. 

A party of 11 boys, 10 girls, and 16 adult singers undertook the tour, led by Jordan Theis, the Director of Music, and supported by chaperones.  The Choir sang concerts in the cathedrals of Bruges and Ghent and the great church of St Martin in Kortrijk, accompanied on the organ by Andrew Harrap, the Assistant Organist.  The “high standard” of singing was greatly appreciated by the large and enthusiastic audiences (including supporters from St Thomas’). The demanding repertoire included works by Bach, Grieg, Parry, Schubert and many others, ranging from the 15th to the 21st centuries and including music by Belgian and Flemish composers.

Click here to read the tour report by Head Choristers Bethany and Freddie   '...We all enjoyed every part and we can’t wait to go on another choir tour next year." And have a look at the photos from the tour here  Please note there are two pages of photos, so don't forget to check out page 2 !

'Travelling Evensong' with St Thomas' Choir

Between Easter and early July, the organ was out of commission while it was being refurbished.  During this period music for services at St Thomas’ was limited to either voices accompanied with piano, or unaccompanied voices alone.  The choir’s repertoire made this feasible for morning services, but quite impractical for the twice-monthly Evensong.  Rev Sandy Clarke, the Vicar, and Jordan Theis, the Director of Music, made use of this opportunity to reach out more widely to engage with churches in the local community. 

The innovation of 'Travelling Evensong' was introduced, with the choir singing Evensong at St James’ Rowledge, St Joan of Arc Catholic Church Farnham, St Andrew’s Farnham, St Peter’s Wrecclesham, and subsequently the Spire Church .  The services brought together the congregations of St Thomas’ and the host church, and enabled St Thomas’ Choir to lead worship in a number of new settings.  Our hosts warmly welcomed us, and we all benefitted from the experience.  The experiment was so successful that we plan to continue it in future, most likely in the summer.

Music for Matti Charity Concert

In October 2021 the mother of Matti Carrington, one of the youngest choirboys at the church of St Thomas-on-The Bourne, gave him an amazing, life-giving gift, one of her own kidneys.  The operation was carried out at Southampton Children’s Hospital and delivered Matti from years of dialysis treatment.  Recovery was a long, hard rollercoaster for both mother and child but Matti, eight years old, is now able to run around, play sport, and join in music-making like other children, although he will always need medication, care, and monitoring.  The family describe it ‘as a rough ride along a never-ending road, which is why Southampton Children’s Hospital is such a big part of our lives and we would like to give something back to help others.’  

To celebrate and raise funds for the hospital, a charity concert of light entertainment was given by the Carrington Family Quintet and friends at St Thomas-on-The Bourne Church on Thursday 13th July.  The main fund-raising thrust was to raise money to support the Southampton transplant unit and particularly to send the children treated at Southampton to the transplant games in Coventry later this summer.  Exercise is vital for the replacement kidneys to function well and it is inspiring both to see what the kids can do and to see them so happy.

Matti’s brother and sister could not visit him in hospital, so they set up an online family quintet, Dad on the piano, Mum and sister Emily on oboe, clarinet and French horn, Toby on the cello and Matti in hospital joining in on a drum made out of boxes supplied by Baxters hospital equipment company.  The concert had the Quintet as star performers but Matti’s many friends backed him up.  The Potters’ Gate Singers, who judging by size and number, must have been most or all of his class, sang two songs and Potters Gate Ensemble, a small orchestral group, performed two swinging numbers.  Various of Matti’s fellow-choristers, Freddie, Freddie, Seth, Sasha, and George, and an older friend, Ed, contributed a variety of solos and duets for voice, violin and piano.  

The music ranged from Frank Sinatra to Ed Sheeran via The Hollies, Bob Marley, Queen, and songs from the shows.  The evening had a classical beginning and end.  The St Thomas young choristers beautifully sang two modern anthems by Peter Hurford and Morfydd Owen, the Family Quintet gave a moving rendering of Karl Jenkins’ Benedictus, and the Farnham Music and Drama Youth orchestra, in which the Carrington children play, concluded with excellent performances of pieces by Johann Strauss, Mozart, Gabriel’s Oboe, solo by Emily, and Smetana. Something for everyone in the packed audience which has resulted in over £3000 for the hospital.

June 2023 Choir Concert at All Saints, Tilford

On Saturday 10th June the Choir visited All Saints, Tilford (part of the United Benefice), to take part in All Saints' series of monthly, Saturday morning "cafe" concerts. The choir gave a spell-binding performance of a number of items from their extensive repertoire.  A particular gem was Finzi's "God is Gone Up", which certainly raised the roof!  Andrew Harrap accompanied the Choir on the organ, as well as playing an organ solo by William Mathias. 

A large and appreciative audience and a bread and soup lunch helped raise over £350 pounds for church funds.  The concert was recorded and can be viewed on YouTube using this link:


June 2023 Visit of Hugh Morris, RSCM Director

To mark the 96th anniversary of the RSCM the Director, Hugh Morris, and Deputy Director, Paul Hedley, rode a tandem bicycle from Addington Palace in Croydon, the former home of the RSCM, to Sarum College in the Close of Salisbury Cathedral, its current location.  This 96 mile journey - the "Director's Challenge" - was a fundraiser for the work of the RSCM in supporting and providing training for church music in many churches and schools.  On the way the riders stopped at churches where the choirs play an important role: St Thomas’ was honoured to be among them. After taking part in a ‘Come and sing’ event at St. John’s, West Byfleet, on Saturday 10th June, Hugh and Paul cycled to Farnham in the afternoon, and were welcomed by adult choir members, choir parents and church members. 

Sunday June 11th was the Royal School of Church Music’s designated Music Sunday, to celebrate and give thanks for church music and church musicians. At the rehearsal before the morning service at St Thomas’, Hugh and Paul met choir members, many of whom progress through the RSCM Award system.  During the service they described the work of the RSCM to the Sunday morning congregation, with music provided by the 40-strong choir. A retiring collection in support of the RSCM raised £280 towards the target of £9,600 for the “Director’s Challenge”.  After the service, the tandem set off to Winchester on the next leg of the journey, accompanied for some of the way by the Rev. Sandy Clarke, the Director of Music, and some of the choirmen and choristers. 

May 2023 Freddie and Friends Concert

Freddie and Friends' concert on Sunday 21 May was a great success. 

Freddie led the programme with his friends Lowe on piano, Emily on oboe, Toby on cello and two duets with Cai,  accompanied by Rob Lewis. 

The concert was well attended and streamed live, and within a few days had over 220 views!  Over £650 was raised to go towards The British Heart Foundation and St Thomas’s Choir Tour Fund.




April 2023 Choir members raise funds for Christian Aid

Current and former members of St Thomas’ Choir and the Chamber Choir, accompanied by Andrew Harrap, performed the final lunchtime concert in the Lent series on 5 April. Their performance of seasonal choral and organ music by Vittoria, Palestrina, Bach, Handel, Schubert and others raised £634.20 for Christian Aid’s East Africa Hunger Crisis Appeal. A recording of the concert is at

The Choristers go 'Donutting'

On Saturday 4th February 24 young members of the choir plus an intrepid director of music and an even more intrepid vicar travelled to Aldershot to Alpine Snowsports for an afternoon of donuttng.  Not the stuffing your face variety but sledding down a dry-ski slope in an inflatable ‘donut’ shaped vessel, as in the picture.

Once equipped with helmet and safety briefing, the choristers marched up a hill and lined up in rows for the descent.  Having practised the technique for several runs, they demonstrated their creativity by joining together the donuts in various configurations to increase speed and enjoyment.

After an hour of this, they retired to refresh themselves with burgers and fizzy drinks in a nearby restaurant.



January 2023 - Recitals by St Thomas' organists

Our talented organists, Julian Cooper and Andrew Harrap, have given recitals to raise funds for a Ukraine medical charity and for the repair of Tilford church, part of the United Benefice that includes St Thomas'.  On Friday 20 January, Julian gave a recital at St Thomas’ in aid of Medizinische Nothilfe für die Ukraine (Medizinische Nothilfe Ukraine (, a charity based in Germany that provides medicines, medical equipment and surgical material directly to Ukraine through personal contacts with doctors and clinics in Ukraine.  The need for such aid remains as great as ever, and the recital brought donations totalling £420. 
Julian is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, and has been Organist and Assistant Director of Music at St Thomas’ since 2007.  He chose a varied and lively programme for the recital, comprising personal favourites by English, German and French composers, and spanning the centuries from the 17th century to the present day: 
Processional                                                   G. Ives (b. 1948) 
Fugue in G minor                                            J. Reincken (1623 – 1722) 
Fantasia and Fugue in G minor BWV 542      J.S. Bach (1685 – 1750) 
Nőel                                                                L. d’Aquin (1694 – 1772) 
Prélude (from suite Op. 5)                              M. Duruflé (1902 – 1986) 
Orb and Sceptre                                            W. Walton (1902 – 1983) (arr. R. Gower) 
On behalf of an enthusiastic audience, Bishop Christopher Herbert thanked Julian and complimented him on his skill and panache. 
Andrew Harrap has been Organ Scholar / Assistant Organist at St Thomas’ since 2011. During this time, he has been studying the organ with Julian Cooper.  On Saturday 21 January, Andrew gave his first full solo recital given in the parish at All Saint’s Tilford, St Thomas’ sister church in the United Benefice.  The recital raised donations towards the cost of repairs to the church ceiling, part of which collapsed in 2021, necessitating the replacement of all the 19th century plasterwork.  
Andrew’s programme comprised: 
Intrada                                                  G. Ives (b. 1948) 
Sonata in F Major Wq 70/3, H 84         C.P.E. Bach (1714-1788) 
Praeludium in E major                          D. Buxtehude (1637-1707) 
A selection of music for manuals by English composers of the 18thc: 
     Voluntary in D                                  J. Hook 1746-1827) 
     Cornet voluntary                              G. Berg (1730-1775)  
     Voluntary in A minor                         W. Croft (1678-1727) 
     Voluntary 10 in F                              J. Stanley (1712-1786) 
Fanfare                                                 William Mathias (1934-1992) 
Tuba Tune                                            C. S. Lang (1891-1971) 

December 2022 - Choristers' success in RSCM exams

Prior to COVID, choristers at St Thomas’ regularly routinely achieved success in the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) Bronze and Silver Awards, which are generally considered to be roughly equivalent to Grade 3 and 5 singing exams, respectively.  However, COVID severely disrupted both preparation and participation in the exams in 2020 and 2021.  During 2022 we have been able to start catching up, and George, Jake and Poppy were successful at Bronze level, Sasha and Freddie at Silver level, and Bethany and Phoebe at both Bronze and Silver. In many cases, the St Thomas’ candidates achieved “Commended” or “Highly Commended” markings.  These achievements require candidates to demonstrate both a high standard of musical ability and commitment to the extensive preparation necessary, and they provide independent validation of the continued high standards reached by choristers at St Thomas’.


October 2022 Chorister Sasha raises money for Ukraine and for medical research

Our deputy head chorister, Sasha, recently raised £420 for charity. He and his friend George, also a St Thomas chorister, can often be seen at weekends singing in Guildford and Farnham, where their performances are greatly appreciated. They enjoy raising funds for themselves, but also aim to raise funds for good causes. Accordingly, they divided funds that they raised equally between the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal and Endometriosis UK.

Sasha became a chorister at St Thomas’ at age seven. He is now deputy head chorister and holds Royal College of Church Music awards at Bronze and Silver level.

Sasha has toured in Germany, Belgium and Italy with St Thomas’ Choir, and has performed in many venues, including St Marks Basilica in Venice and Cologne Cathedral.

September 2022 - Two concerts and a Royal Request! 

At very short notice, BBC News requested to film the Choirs of St Thomas-on-The Bourne singing the hymn ‘There were Ninety and Nine’, to feature as part of their tributes to the Queen. The hymn tune was arranged by the Director of Music, Jordan Theis, and recorded 24 hours later during the choirs' Friday evening rehearsal.

Film of the choirs was shown on the BBC’s national news bulletins throughout Sunday 18 September, and an audio recording of the hymn was played on local BBC radio stations.  You can hear two different recordings - one is what the BBC broadcast, with an introduction to the background of the hymn and a short clip of the hymn, and the other one is our choir singing the whole hymn. Listen to them sing it here 

The Queen’s Domestic Chaplain, Kenneth MacKenzie, explained that the Queen had mentioned the hymn as a favourite, which her father (George VI) had sung to her. The words are a poem written in 1868 by Scottish songwriter, Elizabeth Clephane, and based on the parable of the lost sheep. The tune was composed by American evangelist and gospel song-writer Ira Sankey, while touring Scotland; the hymn proved an immediate hit, and continues to be popular in the United States.  

There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold,
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold;
Away on the mountains wild and bare,
Away from the tender Shepherd's care

Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?"
But the Shepherd made answer: "This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.

Earlier in September, having enjoyed a successful and enjoyable tour to Pembrokeshire in August, the choirs sang the highlights from the tour programme at a well-attended concert at St Thomas’, which raised over £400 towards the cost of next year’s tour.  More information about the next tour to follow!

This was followed a week later by a wonderful recital by several former members of the choir.  These 'Choir alumni', some of whom have gone on to become choral scholars or cathedral singers, returned to St Thomas’ to perform solos (voice and instrumental) and join in with a small SATB ensemble of current and former choir members. 

The recital brought in donations of £267.50 to each of the nominated charities, the International Campaign for Afghan Musicians and the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Appeal.





August 2022 - Choir Tour to Pembrokeshire!

Following the easing of COVID restrictions, the choirs were able to tour for the first time since their tour to Venice in 2018. 

The tour to Pembrokeshire included concerts and services in Tenby and Cardigan, culminating in Evensong at St David’s Cathedral. 

The tour enabled the choirs to work intensively together over a short period, develop their choral skills, grow together as a team and sing in new venues.  They were also able to enjoy time to relax, have fun and develop the personal relationships that are so important for a successful choir.   Click here to read a full tour report.   Click here to see a selection of photos from the tour - there are 3 pages of photos so make sure you see them all !


July 2022 - The choir sings at the Civic Service for the Mayor of Waverley

The incoming Mayor of Waverley celebrated his inauguration at St Thomas-on-The Bourne: the choir was invited to sing at the service.






May 2022 - Charity Event

Members of the choir took part in a charity event in Rowledge to raise funds for Brain Tumour Research, in memory of Piers Muddle, a local boy who tragically died at the age of 15.

January 2022 - We welcome Jordan Theis

In January we welcomed Jordan Theis as Director of Music at St Thomas' in January, in succession to Robert Lewis. Jordan studied music at King’s College London, specialising as a first-study pianist, and then continuing to study a Masters in Musicology and Ethnomusicology. He teaches piano at Guildford High School, runs community choirs at St. Botolph without Aldgate, directs Southwark Chamber Choir, and works as a section leader with the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain. 

Jordan is passionate about inclusive, high-level musical education, and firmly believes in the transformative power of choral music. He has strong local connections and applied for the post at St Thomas’ because it was an exciting opportunity to move back to this beautiful part of the country, within easy reach of a variety of other musical opportunities. He is excited to be Director of Music at St Thomas’, and build on the wonderful choral tradition of the church and its choir.

Click here to read Val Lewis’ interview with Jordan.

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