Choir News

April 2020

As always, there were many musical highlights over the Christmas period, including the Advent Procession on 1 December and the Nine Lessons and Carols on 22 December, which included both traditional and exciting modern carols.  We were delighted to welcome back former choristers to reinforce the soprano and alto lines for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.  

The final of the BBC Chorister of the Year competition was broadcast at Christmas: in competition with cathedral choristers who sing daily services, Cai Thomas, from the Boys’ Choir, did exceptionally well to finish second in a very close competition.  On 27th March Cai released his album 'Seren', which also features our other boy and girl choristers, as well as the renowned London Mozart Players and the Pegasus Choir.  Two singles already released - 'Suo Gan' and 'Ave Verum' - can be found on all streaming services and are gaining much attention on Classic FM!

On 9 February, a fund-raising concert was held in “Songs of Praise” format.  Members of the congregation bid for their favourite anthems and hymns. The evening was a great success musically, with the selected favourites including such pieces as Parry’s “I was glad”, Handel’s “Zadok the priest”, Faure’s “Cantique de Jean Racine” and Lauridsen’s “O magnum mysterium”. The event was also a great financial success, thanks to the generosity of the congregation, raising over £400 for the choir’s summer tour.

Summer tour to Rome

Planning continues for the choir’s summer tour to Rome from Friday 28 August to Tuesday 1 September. Touring is so important in the life of the choir; choristers learn so much from singing in different venues, and it's a wonderful bonding exercise for such a hard working group. It's also a major factor in recruiting and retaining choristers. The tour will include singing mass on Saturday in the basilica of Saint John Lateran, the cathedral church of the Diocese of Rome - the oldest basilica of the Western world – and on Sunday in St Peter’s Basilica itself.  The programme is also likely to include a concert in Anzio, famed for the 1944 WWII battle, as well as  visits to the Colosseum and the Vatican Museum, and purely fun outings to the beach and waterpark.

New choral awards and appointments

Recruiting new choristers has been a priority in recent months, in order to maintain the current excellent standards of singing into the future. New choristers continue to be welcome – see the superb video on the church website  Experienced alto, tenor and bass singers are also warmly welcome.

The first new choral award has been made to Harry Fagge, and three choral awards are available next academic year up to a value of £750. For further information, please contact the Director of Music, Robert Lewis, [email protected]

Finally, congratulations to Beth Payne on being appointed Head Chorister of the Girls' Choir


December 2019

The Choir has been attracting both local and national interest in recent months.  We were delighted to learn that Cai Thomas, from the Boys’ Choir, has won a place in the final of the BBC Chorister of the Year competition.  You can hear the broadcast – and find out the result - on BBC Radio 2, close to Christmas.  Cai has also recorded a CD with our St Thomas’ choristers, which will be released in spring 2020.  And recently the choristers enjoyed a visit from ITV, who were filming a story about the choir.

Near to home, St Thomas’ and its Choir are featuring on BBC Radio Surrey.  Robert Lewis, the Director of Music, and Jordan Amadi-Myers, our Youth Minister, are appearing on radio to talk about the different types of music that can be used to support faith.  You can hear them on local radio during the period up to Christmas.

Following the successful 2018 tour to Venice and Padua, the choir again plans to visit Italy in 2020, this time to Rome, Frascati and Anzio.  It is hoped to include engagements at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and at Frascati Cathedral.  The dates will be around the late August Bank Holiday weekend.  

The choir continues to perform top quality choral music at a consistently high standard.  St Thomas’ offers unique value to local children, who in many cases have only limited singing opportunities in their schools.  The Christmas period is a great time to hear the quality of singing that young voices can produce.  If you know any boys aged 6-11 or girls aged 7-15 who are musical and would relish the outstanding opportunities available to our choristers, please encourage them to come along and try singing with us.  The choir has produced a superb recruiting video giving a real feeling of what choir life involves, as well as a taste of their singing – see the church website or look up the choir on Facebook.

Experienced alto, tenor and bass singers are also warmly welcome.  For further information, please contact the Director of Music, Robert Lewis, at [email protected]


September 2019

We are very proud that St Thomas’ Choir is one of the best church choirs in the country, a parish choir in a small town in southern England, not a big and lavishly resourced cathedral choir.  What it achieves with boys and girls recruited from all the local schools, in both the state and private sectors, is amazing.

One of the recent highlights was an invitation to sing for the Saturday evening Mass at Westminster Cathedral, Britain’s premier Roman Catholic cathedral, where the Director of Music, Rob Lewis, was himself a boy chorister.  They sang to a packed church from a great height, and also that day enjoyed picnics, and cable car rides, making it a fun and memorable day out.

In addition to live performances, one way in which musical standards in the choir can be measured is through the external exams set by the Royal School of Church Music.  In March, Cai, Freddy, Kieran and William from the Boys’ Choir, and Beth, Lydia and Yasmin from the Girls’ Choir all successfully passed the Silver (or Bishop’s) Award, with 2 of them achieving a Commended and 3 a Highly Commended marking.  The Award is of roughly comparable standard to Grade 5 singing, but is significantly longer (40 minutes), and requires greater knowledge of the music and its church context. At the final service of the choir year William and Kieran were appointed the new Head Boys and probationers Annie, Archie and Seth were awarded their surplices to become full choristers.

Thinking about joining? 

The choir is keen to recruit new choristers and has produced a great video giving a real feeling of what choir life involves, as well as a taste of their singing, watch the video here.  Belonging to the choir gives children an excellent free musical education and we would like to increase the awareness of the exceptional musical experience and education on offer.  They learn to be confident and work as a team, which can enhance overall academic achievement, whilst remembering that social interaction and fun are also important.  Highlights for the choristers are being paid and the choir tours, the most recent being to Venice, where a girl chorister was heard to remark, “I loved singing in the Basilica and the trip to the water park.”

The Bourne Parish is launching A Year of Music to raise money for the organ restoration, choir and youth funds and to promote all kinds of music from classical to gospel and jazz, at St Thomas and at our other centres of parish life, St Martin’s and Brambleton.  We want to celebrate the range and quality of music on offer across the parish.  Forthcoming events include a musical accompaniment to the harvest lunch at St Thomas' on September 29th and the Mass for Peace with the Fauré Requiem on November 10th.


April 2019

Over the Christmas period the choir sang at many services with full congregations. The service of Nine Lessons and Carols was an especial highlight, sung by the full choir of adults, boys and girls and featuring the choir’s first performances of “The Holly and the Ivy” by Jonathan Willcocks, and “What Sweeter Music” by John Rutter.

The period following Christmas has been relatively quiet – a period of preparation: preparation for Easter, the next busy season in the church calendar, with special services on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day itself, with adults, boys and girls all singing, as well as the Chamber Choir. It has also been a period of preparation for Royal College of Church Music exams, with 7 boys and girls entered for the Bishop’s (Silver) Award in March. This external exam – equivalent to Grade 5 singing – is an important independent validation of the quality of our choristers, and requires them to spend time in private study, in addition to their usual schedule of services and rehearsals. During this term, it has also been possible to focus attention on probationers and newer choristers: Sarah Burston, one of our altos, has provided invaluable support in helping them to acquire the level of musical skill needed to sing regularly in services at St Thomas’.

Looking ahead to the summer, a highlight will be returning for a second time to Westminster Cathedral to sing at the Vigil Mass on Saturday 4 May; this is where the musical career of Robert Lewis, our Director of Music, started. This service is regularly attended by up to 1000 worshippers and offers the choir the opportunity to sing great music in awe-inspiring surroundings.

The choir continues to recruit new choristers; if you know any boys aged 6-11 or girls aged 8-15 who are musical and keen to progress, please encourage them to come along and try singing with the leading church choir in the area. Experienced alto, tenor and bass singers are also warmly welcome to join us. For further information, please contact the Director of Music, Robert Lewis, at [email protected] or why not look at our website to hear the choir.



The weeks after the October half term seem to be the busiest, most varied and longest time of the year for the whole choir, as we approach Christmas.  First, on 4th November our Chamber Choir sang at the moving All Souls Service, when members of the congregation are invited to remember their departed loved ones.  On 11th November - the centenary of the Armistice marking the end of the First World War - men and boys sang at the traditional Remembrance Day service, with the church even more packed than usual.  This was followed in the evening by a Mass for Peace, sung by adults and girls, featuring several movements of the Duruflé Requiem, including the Pie Jesu, beautifully sung by the girls’ choir, accompanied on the organ and featuring a guest cellist from Farnborough Sixth Form College. 

The week after Remembrance featured the annual “Come and Sing” sessions, at which prospective new boys and girl choristers can try out being a chorister at St Thomas’.  It is essential that we continue to recruit regularly to maintain both the number and quality of choristers, both now and for the years ahead.  But new choristers are welcome any time of year.  Please contact Robert Lewis, the Director of Music, on [email protected]  if you know any boys aged 6 – 11 or girls aged 8-15 with musical ability, who would like to try singing with one of the best parish church choirs in the country. 

A short period of normality follows, then the Advent Procession on 2nd December marks the start of the build up to Christmas.  A combination of readings and music, sung by adults and girls, and a candle-lit procession celebrate the light of Jesus bringing an end to darkness. 

The traditional cycle of services follows, with Christingle on 9th December, the Nine Lessons and Carols on 23rd December, Crib services and Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, finishing with the celebration of Christmas Day morning.  And then a short, well-deserved rest, before the new choir year starts, with plenty to look forward to!


November - Come and See Days

Once again, we are holding our popular Come and See Days for girls aged 8-15 and for boys aged 6-11.  If you have a musical child bring him or her along to one of these informal  singing sessions, to join in with our choristers and find out all about what it's like to be a member of our fantastic choir! 

September - Venice, ahhhh Venice !

The highlight of the year for many! The choir made its first ever visit to Venice, with a musical programme comprising Sung Mass at one of Venice’s huge Gothic churches – Sta Maria Gloriosa dei Frari; an open air concert in the Campo San Polo nearby; High Mass at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice; and Sung Mass at the Basilica di Sant’Antonio in Padua, one of Italy’s most important pilgrimage churches. There was little or no time to rehearse beforehand at any of these venues, though an open-air rehearsal outside St Mark’s attracted considerable interest from the crowds of visitors. Despite this, and aided by a full day’s rehearsal at St Thomas’ before departure, the choir performed at its best every time. Robert Lewis, Director of Music, said: “I have taken choirs to Venice before and sung in St Mark’s, but never before at the main Saturday Mass, before a large congregation. There are few greater honours that a choir can aspire to!

At each church, the choir was given a very warm welcome, and at St Antony’s the clergy even presented the choir with items from their own music library. The choir also very much appreciated the presence in the congregation of both chorister parents and members of St Thomas’ congregation, who had travelled independently to provide support. The tour wasn’t all hard work, of course – there have also been reports of sight-seeing, pizza, ice creams, beaches and a theme park ..... The tour could not have taken place without an enormous amount of hard work by Jeremy Mardel and Jon Edwards, as well as Robert Lewis.  For a full report on the Venice by two choristers, see the Choir Tours page.

Post-Choir Tour Concert

St Thomas’ was packed on Sunday, 9th September to hear the choir perform selected pieces from the tour repertoire. In addition to choir families and members of the St Thomas’ congregation, the audience included Peter Allwood, Chairman of Friends of Cathedral Music. This organisation was formed 60 years ago: its aims are to increase public awareness and appreciation of cathedral music, encourage high standards in choral and organ music, and raise money for choirs in need. The Friends also provide funding in the form of grants. Peter Allwood presented a cheque for £15,000 to Robert Lewis, and complimented St Thomas’ on its high musical standards. The choir has also been successful in securing a grant of £6,750 from the Ouseley Church Music Trust, a charity set up to promote and maintain to a high standard the choral services of the Anglican Churches of England, Wales, and Ireland. These funds will be used to provide up to three bursaries a year for singers aged 16 – 25 (altos, tenors and basses), covering A-level students, those on gap years, university students and recent graduates. The scheme will pay for singing teacher costs and similar expenses.  Any interested parties should contact Rob Lewis at [email protected]     Securing this funding marks a new development for the choir and has involved a great deal of hard work by James Ross in preparing applications. Thanks to the generosity of the audience, the concert raised a further sum of money for choir funds.

The concert was also an opportunity to say goodbye to choristers Izzy, Molly, Joe and Ollie, who have given many years’ outstanding service to the choir. The choir continues to recruit new choristers: if you know of any boys aged 6-11 or girls aged 8-15 who are musical and keen to progress, please encourage them to come along and try singing with the leading parish church choir in the area. For further information please contact the Director of Music, Robert Lewis at [email protected]

Girls’ Quartet and CD

In addition to all this, on Saturday, 8th September, in another “first”, the Girls’ Quartet gave a lovely lunchtime recital in Bath Abbey, one of England’s most beautiful churches. Andrew Harrap, Organ Scholar, accompanied with considerable artistry. The recital was well attended and the Abbey encouraged a further visit by St Thomas’. An “in-house” recording of the Quartet is now available on CD.

John Morris, the Vicar, has now been in the Parish for nearly a year.  He said: “One of the factors that made me want to come to St Thomas’ was its strong choral tradition. Now that I have been able to enjoy a full year here, including the tour to Venice, I realise how fortunate I am to serve at a church where the worship is enhanced by music of such high quality.”

August - A fantastic tour to Venice

The choir have just returned from a thrilling tour to Venice.  Have a look at the photos in the gallery.  More details to follow soon, but do come along to St Thomas' at 6pm on Sunday 9th September for a free concert where the choir will be showcasing some highlights of the music they performed on their tour.

*STOP PRESS* You can hear the St. Thomas' Choristers singing on the BBC Film 'Mother's Day' this Monday 9th September on BBC 2 at 9pm!  Here is some further information:   And the trailer teaser:   There's been lots of publicity and talk about it  Anna Maxwell Martin was on the cover of the Observer Magazine last Sunday and talks extensively about it in her interview.  Rob Lewis hopes you enjoy their performance, albeit brief!


July - A busy summer term and looking forward to Venice

The last few weeks of the summer term have been as busy as ever before the choir gets a well-deserved summer break.  In June, the choir gave a concert to mark the occasion of the Golden Wedding Anniversary of Chris and Jan Herbert;  Chris has been a strong supporter and occasional bass member of the choir, and it was an honour to be invited to share in celebrating this wonderful occasion.  The concert was a great musical success, showcasing the choir’s varied repertoire, including works by Handel, Faure, Mozart, Britten, Rutter, Rachmaninov and Herbert Howells.  A former Director of Music at St Thomas’, and of the renowned Farnham Youth Choir for 30 years,  David Victor- Smith, said that he and his wife were moved to tears by the sheer musicality of and high standard of performance!  Thanks to the generosity of the Herberts, the concert also helped to raise much needed funds for our tour to Venice in August and for chorister training which is to be expanded next year.

In a further sign of the choir’s growing reputation, the boy and girl choristers were invited to record part of the sound track for the forthcoming film,  ‘Mother’s Day’, which is due to be released in a couple of months; the film concerns Tim Parry, whose tragic death at the age of 12 in a terrorist bombing in Warrington in 1993, was one of the events that eventually led to the Northern Ireland peace process.  The composer and BBC sound engineer were delighted with the choristers’ performance in the recording, which was done at St Thomas’.   It was also an eye opener for the choristers to see how much time it can take to produce and record even a few minutes of soundtrack to a professional standard!

On 8th July, the choir said a sad farewell to John Schofield, who has retired after an unprecedented 57 years’ service, almost all of it as a “temporary” counter-tenor!  John’s sons and grandson were also members of the choir, so we owe a great deal to the family and were delighted that they could attend John’s final service and the celebration afterwards.

Our current schedule for our exciting tour in Venice is:
Saturday 25th August 6.30pm: Santa Maria dei Frari
Sunday 26th August, 6.45pm: St Mark’s Basilica
Monday 27th August, 11am: Basilica Sant’ Antonio, Padua
It is likely there will be a concert after the evening service on Saturday 25th, details to follow. 

After the summer break, and the Venice tour, it will the next performance will be the Girls’ Quartet farewell concert at Bath Abbey on Saturday 8th September; and the Post-Tour Concert at St Thomas’ on Sunday 9th September, at which we will also say farewell to some of the senior boy and girl choristers.

June - Another successful concert by The Girls' Quartet and Andrew Harrap

On Saturday, 2nd June, an audience of some 120 were treated to a summer concert of piano and vocal music by Andrew Harrap and the Girls’ Quartet – April, Beth, Izzy and Molly. Andrew accompanied the girls in most of their vocal pieces, with great skill, as well as playing solo piano. In the first half, this was Haydn’s Sonata 59, a lively and enjoyable work, which enabled Andrew to display both his considerable technical skills, and the musicality and range of colours that he brings to his performance. In the second half, he chose to give a first public performance to a lively and entertaining selection of short pieces by Peter White, Director of Music at the Royal Grammar School, Guildford.

The Girls’ Quartet demonstrated their constantly improving skill and confidence with a thoroughly professional performance of a wide range of sacred and secular music by English, European and American composers from the 16th to the 20th centuries. They included solos and duets, as well as compositions for three and four voice parts, all performed to a very high musical standard and with evident enjoyment, their voices blending beautifully. The music ranged from the opening joyful traditional English carol “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day” to the despair of Victoria’s “O vos omnes”; from the well-known “He shall feed his flock” from Handel’s Messiah to the less well-known but equally lovely “En prière” by Fauré; from the deeply moving spiritual “Steal Away” to the fun of the “Three Hungarian Folk Songs”, and the pathos of “Roses of Picardy”.

Thanks to the generosity of the audience – both parishioners and visitors – the concert raised over £1000; this is to be shared between the Choir Tour Fund and St Thomas’ church funds, with a donation also to St Peter’s Wrecclesham, who have kindly allowed the girls to rehearse in their beautiful church on days when St Thomas’ has been unavailable. The funds raised will help cover the costs of the choir tour to Venice in August, which will include singing at Mass in St Mark’s Basilica. 

The Girls’ Quartet, with Andrew accompanying, will give a final concert together at Bath Abbey on 8th September.

May - a busy time ahead

The choir is looking forward to entertaining audiences with several concerts at St Thomas’ in June and July. On Saturday, 2nd June the Girls’ Quartet and Andrew Harrap will be giving a summer evening concert featuring choral works by Handel, Mendelssohn, Fauré, Bernstein and others, and a Haydn piano sonata; there will be a retiring collection in aid of church and choir funds. On Saturday, 23rd June the full choir will take part in a concert sponsored by Chris and Jan Herbert to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary; proceeds of the retiring collection will be shared between the church and the choir tour fund. And on Saturday, 7th July – “The Choir Entertains” – choristers will perform their party pieces in aid of the choir tour fund. Planning for the choir’s summer tour to Venice is proceeding, and contributions from these concerts will help to make the tour affordable for all.

Also, in June will be the annual “Come and See” – an opportunity for new boys and girls to come and find out what it is like to join the choir at St Thomas’. Both the boys’ and girls’ choirs are performing at a very high standard and with strong numbers, but we have to regularly recruit children of musical ability. As their voices develop, they will replace the older choristers who leave at the end of their time, when their voices break (boys) or they leave for university (girls). If you know of any boys (ages 6 – 11) or girls (8 – 15) who are musical and keen to progress, please encourage them to come along and try singing with the leading parish church choir in the area. For further information please contact the Director of Music, Robert Lewis [email protected]                                                                                         

April - planning ahead, for Venice!

Planning and preparations have begun for the choir’s first ever tour to Venice, from 25 – 28 August, perhaps its most ambitious overseas venture for many years. Robert Lewis, the Director of Music, said: “We are convinced that we will be able to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the choristers, not only by singing in some wonderful venues, but by sharing with their friends the incredible scenes and culture in this famous city.”  Unsurprisingly, nearly all members of the choir are keen to take part, with the result that we expect to be able to take a full choir of adults, boys and girls, without even the need for one or two extra “volunteers”. Although such a tour will inevitably be more expensive than those in recent years to Belgium and Germany, it remains important to ensure that all choir members are able to take part in the tour. The choir will therefore be making extra efforts to raise funds through a variety of means over the coming months, to ensure that the tour remains affordable for individuals.

March 2018 - 'a once in a lifetime experience' with Sir Karl Jenkins

The boys and girls from St Thomas’ choir were delighted to be invited to sing at St Luke’s, Grayshott, in the latest concert in the series featuring Sir Karl Jenkins, the most performed living composer in the world. They performed side-by-side with the Marylebone Camerata orchestra, the Excelsis chamber choir and an amazing organist - Angelina Plamblad, as well as soloists who have performed with leading orchestras in the UK and abroad: Kathryn Rudge (mezzo-soprano), Belinda Sykes (ethnic vocals), Joo Yeon Sir (violin), Stephen Morris (violin) and Zands Duggan (percussion). All the music for the concert was composed by Sir Karl Jenkins, who shared the conducting with Robert Lewis, the Director of Music at St Thomas’, who also directs Excelsis. The music included: Lament for the Valley (written for Joo Yeon Sir to commemorate the Aberfan disaster in 1965 and first performed in 2015), Stabat Mater, and The Armed Man, The Healer, and The Peacemakers. St Thomas’ choristers sang a number of pieces from Lament for the Valley and The Peacemakers (Includes Healing Light, Evening Prayer and The Dove).

It seemed like winter as the choristers trudged through the snow into the church to start the concert. And it was undoubtedly going to be a challenge to sing with professionals. “But it was really worthwhile”, said Mixtli, one of the senior boys, “a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” The choristers sang all the pieces from memory, an achievement in itself. And sat in complete silence throughout the rest of the concert, almost equally impressive!

“During their time at St Thomas’ many of these choristers have already sung in some wonderful services and concerts in cathedrals and churches in this country and overseas”, said Robert Lewis. “But this was one of the most demanding events that they have taken part in, especially for some of the younger choristers. Singing alongside such top-class performers – and in front of the composer of the music - was a huge challenge for all of the choristers, and one that they fully met. I received many compliments and Sir Karl himself said: I was impressed by the very high standard of the choristers. They performed with a beautiful, well-blended sound and were highly professional throughout. My congratulations to them.”

Hot on the heels of this concert came rehearsals and preparations for the special services at Easter: the “Way of the Cross” service in place of Evensong on Palm Sunday, the Maundy Thursday service with Chamber Choir, the Good Friday service, and Easter morning itself.  

February 2018 - a successful fundraiser, music exams and our Chamber Choir

After the burst of musical activity leading up to Christmas, the new year generally a quieter period for the choir, before the build-up to Easter begins in earnest. But it hasn’t all been quiet. On 20th January choristers Joe and Eliza organised a concert to help raise funds for their charity trips to Ghana and Sri Lanka, where they will be working alongside local schoolchildren on a variety of community projects. The performers – including both choir members and other friends – showed that their talents go far beyond choral singing. An appreciative audience enjoyed both vocal and instrumental solos by choristers, including on piano, saxophone, cello, trumpet, and oboe, as well as songs from Girls’ and Men’s Quartets. Almost all were accompanied by Andrew Harrap, who demonstrated his versatility across a great range of pieces. (Andrew will next be performing at a lunch- time concert at St Thomas’ on Tuesday 13th March). The concert was a hugely enjoyable occasion for the performers and audience, as well as making a solid contribution towards Joe’s and Eliza’s charity trips.

Alongside their regular rehearsals, services and concerts, choristers also progress through exams organised by the Royal School of Church Music. In November, Beth, Lydia, Yasmin, and Mixtli all successfully passed their Dean’s Award exams, with either Commended (Merit) or Distinction. Successes in these external exams are a good, independent measure of the standard of the singing at St Thomas’.

This season is also a good opportunity to highlight the St Thomas’ Chamber Choir, which sings services on important festivals in the church calendar which fall on weekdays, including Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Ascension Day. For these occasions the St Thomas’ Gentlemen are joined by accomplished local adult singers to perform inspiring masterpieces of sacred music such as Allegri’s Miserere and Byrd’s 4-part Mass.

Looking ahead, the next highlight is the Karl Jenkins concert at St Luke’s, Grayshott, on 17th March in which the boy and girls choristers will be taking part.

January 2018 - reflecting on a busy Festive Season and lots to look forward to

The choir took a full part in the Advent and Christmas Services during the month of December, as well as taking part in a number of external events, finally getting a break only at the end of December. The choir sang at St Thomas’ in varying combinations of Gentlemen, Girls and Boys at the Advent Procession, the service of Nine Lessons and Carols, at Midnight Mass and on Christmas morning, as well as at the Christingle and two Crib services. The standard of singing was consistently excellent throughout, and the choir was able to help bring the Christmas message at some very well-attended services. It was especially good at Midnight Mass to welcome back a number of girls who had “retired” from the choir during the past two years and were keen to rejoin us for the occasion.

The boys’ choir again made a superb contribution to the annual Christmas concert at St George’s Hanover Square in London, which raised over £15,000 for the charity “Look Good – Feel Better”. On 28 December, a small group of gentlemen and senior boy and girl choristers was invited to sing at the Thanksgiving Service for the wedding of Philip Viveash, our previous Director of Music at St Thomas, with Revd Jonathan Still, our former vicar, presiding. Philip was instrumental in developing the choirs at St. Thomas’ and particularly in preserving the boys’ choir, so this was a great opportunity to show him our appreciation, as well as to sing with some professional singer friends of his. 

Several choristers took part in this year’s Farnham Competitive Music Festival at Frensham Heights School: the quartet of senior girls received the Mary Joynes Memorial Choral Award for best ensemble, and Izzy Edwards and Cai Thomas were invited to sing at the Festival Concert in December. The girls’ quartet also sang some beautiful carols at two local care homes before Christmas and repeated the programme at St Thomas’ on 7 January.

None of this excellent music would have been possible without the outstanding keyboard skills of Julian Cooper, our organist, and Andrew Harrap, the organ scholar. The choir has much to look forward to in 2018, including a concert which will be co-conducted with our Director of Music, Robert Lewis, and Sir Karl Jenkins, whose works are currently the most performed of any living composer in the world! Part of this performance will be Sir Karl conducting the boy and girl choristers in a performance of part of his recent work to commemorate the Aberfan disaster of 1966. They will be joined by rising star violinist Joo Yeon Sir and a top London orchestra, the Marylebone Cantata. Joo and Sir Karl will be reunited again -  after their initial recording of the piece with Bryn Terfel - but now it will be with St Thomas’ choristers singing the choir parts. If you search Google or You Tube ‘Jenkins Lament Valley’ you will find the performance with Sir Karl and Joo Yeon Sir. For tickets, please contact


December 2017 - Choir Review of the Year

As we approach the turn of the year, it is a good time to look back over the past year, enjoy the present season, and look forward to the year ahead.

Highlights of past year

For many of us, the highlight of the year was the tour to Belgium, and the opportunity to sing some of our favourite music really well in some stunning venues – Brussels, Bruges and Ghent Cathedrals – not to mention plenty of sightseeing and fun. Another musical highlight was taking part in a performance of the Bach St John Passion at Tilford Church, with top class professional soloists and the London Handel Orchestra. Other concerts have included a combined fund-raising concert in aid of Robbiesrally, a charity dedicated to providing specialist medical professionals to help children with brain tumours, and a joint concert with one of Robert Lewis’ other choirs, Excelsis, at St Alban’s Hindhead, including an 8-piece brass section to accompany John Rutter’s exciting Gloria and Parry’s I was glad. A busy year has also included weddings at St Thomas’ and the “church in the woods” at Milland. Overall, already high musical standards have continued to improve throughout the choir, we have learned new and challenging repertoire, and we have recruited able new singers to the boys, girls and gentlemen’s choirs. 


As always, Christmas is a highlight of the church’s musical, as well as spiritual calendar. This year it will start with the usual Advent Procession, and continue with Christingle and Crib Services, Nine Lessons and Carols, Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, the Christmas morning service, and a charity concert at St George’s, Hanover Square.

Looking ahead to next year

Next year promises to be no less varied, challenging and rewarding, and will include a concert at St Luke’s, Grayshott on 17 March with Sir Karl Jenkins, Excelsis and the Marylebone Camerata. Other concerts, visits – and a tour – will no doubt follow! 

For more information about the choir please contact Director of Music, Robert Lewis on 01252 715505 or visit the parish website


October 2017 - A great post-tour concert, and our new Scholarship Scheme

Parents, families, friends, parishioners and visitors all enjoyed the choir’s post-tour concert which showcased the very best of the music that the choir sang in the cathedrals of Bruges, Brussels and Ghent during their recent tour.  The concert opened with a stirring performance of Vaughan Williams’ “Let all the World in every corner sing”, and closed with the less familiar, but lovely “All my heart this night rejoices” by the contemporary American composer, Randall Stroope.  In between, the audience was treated to a varied repertoire, including works by Britten, Byrd, Faure, Handel, Mendelssohn, Mozart and Vivaldi, in varying ensembles – Men, Boys and Girls; Men and Boys; Boys only; the Girls’ Quartet; and a chamber choir – skilfully accompanied by Julian Cooper and Andrew Harrap on the organ.

The Director of Music, Robert Lewis, said: “It was a great display of the vocal talents at St. Thomas’. I received many heartfelt compliments on the standard of performance. Thanks to the generosity of the audience, the concert raised £1,202, which will be split between choir tour funds and a new choral scholarship scheme.”

Scholarship Scheme

The PCC has recently agreed to launch a scholarship scheme to attract talented young singers to the men’s choir. The scheme will offer up to 3 bursaries a year of up to £750 each, to pay for singing teacher costs and similar expenses. The target age group is 16-25, which will cover A-level students, those on gap years, university students and recent graduates. Candidates will be auditioned before any awards are made.

The PCC has generously agreed to fund one of the scholarships in the scheme’s first year, and then underwrite the cost of the scheme on an ongoing basis. The other two scholarships in the first year are being covered by other resources, including the Choir Tour Fund. The choir is applying for grants to provide a capital sum for the long term.

The scheme will be formally advertised for the start of the 2018-19 academic year and local colleges and universities will also be contacted in the next few weeks to gauge interest for the current year.

Potential candidates are encouraged to apply to [email protected]   If you would like to make a financial contribution which will help to further enhance the standard of music at St Thomas’, please get in touch with the Parish Office and don't forget to Gift Aid it if you can.  This gives the parish 25% extra at no cost to you and means less money goes to the tax man!


September 2017 - 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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]

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 [email protected].