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FAQs

Frequently asked questions about joining the Boys' and Girls' Choirs

Why should my son or daughter join?

● They will receive a free musical training from professionally trained musicians that is second to none, based on a regular cycle of rehearsals and services. They will be taught to read music, to sing well and will be encouraged to foster a love of music that lasts a lifetime.

● There are many educational benefits which can enhance overall academic achievement, including: advancements in reading age; improved presentation and performance skills; increased concentration levels; the ability to work together in a team and take pride in a common endeavour; improved social and communication skills; commitment and reliability; self-control and self-discipline (because music done well requires discipline); motivation; sensitivity and understanding of great texts and great music; an introduction to an international musical and cultural heritage. Self confidence is built, each boy or girl is valued as an individual and his or her own ability is nurtured.

● They will be paid some pocket money for attendance at rehearsals and services at the end of each term (Michaelmas, Lent and Trinity) according to seniority from Probationer to Head Chorister. Far from just being another perk that the boys and girls enjoy, it helps them take responsibility for their own attendance, encourages them to be punctual, reliable and organised (useful life skills for the future) and means that they are appropriately rewarded for their endeavours.

● In addition to singing at the major festivals of the Church, he or she will get to sing at weddings, usually at St Thomas', and in unique performances in services and concerts at a variety of venues; these have included St Paul's and Guildford cathedrals in the recent past.

● They will be invited to attend the annual choir tour. The choir tours are both within in the UK and overseas. Recent overseas tours have included Belgium, Northern France, and Prague.

● The choir has made four professional recordings - a fifth is in progress - and has broadcast on the radio and appeared on stage.

● They will have the opportunity to take part in choir activities and outings.

● Choristers and their families build lasting local friendships through their membership.

What does being a chorister at St. Thomas involve?

Commitment, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn! Being in the choir at St. Thomas-on-The Bourne is hard work, but is also very beneficial and a lot of fun. We pride ourselves on our tradition of musical excellence and work hard to maintain this through regular rehearsals.

The boys rehearse after school on a Tuesday evening between 6.10pm and 7.30pm. On Friday evenings there is a combined rehearsal with the Choir Gentlemen between 6.30pm and 8pm. Each rehearsal includes a short break for football or other games. The boys sing only one Sunday Service each week (either at 10am or 6.00pm), have a Sunday off each month in addition to Sundays off after Christmas and Easter. No rehearsals or sung services occur in August.

The girls rehearse after school on a Tuesday evening between 5pm and 6pm and on Friday evenings between 5pm and 6.15pm. The girls sing only one Sunday Service each week (either at 10am or 6.00pm) and have a Sunday off each month as well as the Sundays off after Christmas and Easter. No rehearsals or sung services occur in August.

Experience suggests that boys and girls take this routine in their stride and benefit and enjoy the pattern it creates in their lives. Indeed they generally stay in the choir until they have to leave either because (boys) their voices change, or (girls) they reach 18.  We have had very few conflicts with homework and other such potential problems.

Our Child Protection Policy is taken very seriously. For example all those in positions of responsibility involving the choristers at St. Thomas are CRB checked and a choir parent or some other suitable adult is present at rehearsals. A full description of policy can be provided on request.

Training

The Choir of St. Thomas-on-The Bourne offers its choristers a solid and practical musical training; singing in a church choir is considered to be one of the finest musical educations. Choristers at St. Thomas-on-The Bourne follow a graded training programme and are regularly prepared and entered for the Royal School of Church Music chorister exams. Our chorister training encourages all to achieve their potential and enjoy their time with the choir.

Is there any reward?

Yes. In addition to the free musical education, the boys and girls are paid according to seniority. They receive their earnings at the end of each term. There is also an opportunity to earn extra fees from weddings.

Will it cost anything?

No. There is no subscription for being in the choir. The boys wear cassocks (blue), ruffs and surplices (white) which are provided by the church. We usually ask parents to wash the surplices and ruffs once a term. The girls wear cassocks (blue) and surplices (white) which are provided by the church. We usually ask parents to wash the surplices once a term.

Can my son or daughter join the choir if I don’t attend St. Thomas’?

Yes, anyone is eligible: membership of the choir at St Thomas is not restricted to children of church members.

What do the parents do?

The choir of St. Thomas couldn’t function without the support of the parents. Parents are involved in all sorts of ways, from lift-shares to chaperoning on tours. Many of the Choir Gentlemen are past or present parents of choristers.

How many choristers are there and what ages are they?

Places are limited to about 22 boy choristers at any one time. Boys usually enter the choir around Year 5 (age 8/9), but can enter as young as age 6/7. Boys stay until their voice changes, at which point some stay on and join the Choir Gentlemen.

Places are limited to 22 girl choristers at any one time. Girls usually enter the choir around Year 5 (age 8/9). Girls can stay in the choir until they are 18.

Who’s in charge?

St. Thomas-on-The Bourne appoints a professionally trained musician to train and recruit the choir.  Robert Lewis joined us as Director of Music in September 2011.  Robert is a music graduate of New College, Oxford University, where he was a choral scholar.  He has considerable experience of singing and conducting professionally and is currently Director of Music for the Grayshott concerts. 

Julian Cooper became our Assistant Director of Music and Organist in 2007 and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. Julian has given recitals in churches and cathedrals all over the UK and overseas.

I am interested. What is the next step?

Please contact the Director of Music, Robert Lewis, for any further information:

Tel: 07973 852189

Email: director@stthomaschoir.co.uk

What happens next?

We will invite your son or daughter to attend a practice to get a feel for the choir.

At the end of the practice there is a short, straightforward, audition for which he or she doesn’t need to prepare anything (he or she will be asked to sing back some notes and clap a rhythm back). Subsequently he or she is invited to become a member of the choir as a probationer.

After a short time developing his or her vocal skills, he or she is made a full chorister at a short ceremony during a service when he or she receives his or her surplice.