There is no record of when a choir was first
formed at St James's. The first reference to it states that by 1886
the organist was earning £30 and the organ blower £4 15s
6d, while the choir expenses were £14 13s. The summer of 1886
saw the first choir treat for the men, an excursion to Portsmouth. "This
was to show the parish’s appreciation of all the voluntary work
that they did in uplifting the services." In 1892 the new
edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern was adopted by the choir and provided
many additional hymns. There were twenty men and eighteen boys in the
choir by 1889, and in addition to these, there was a second, or afternoon,
choir of twenty boys, which trained them ready for the main choir. There
was a practice every Friday evening, “at
which the boys are obliged to attend regularly”. The magazine
of May 1890 reported: “The Choir
mustered well and strong. There were over forty both morning and evening.
All of them, with the organist, seemed intent on making the service
as good as a large body of voices, well trained and kept together, could
make it. Their efforts were very successful, and the anthem was especially
well and carefully sung.” For
many years, the adult members of the choir
were treated to an annual outing on the river and later joined the Sunday
School for their annual trip to the seaside.
The church choir in 1890
with Revd Bligh and Mr FW Dawkins, the organist
In 1892 the new edition of Hymns Ancient and
Modern was adopted by the choir which provided many additional hymns.
The choir frequently received praise from Revd Coad Pryor on the quality
of their singing. In 1919 he reported that
“An innovation will soon take place in the Choir. For some considerable
time there has been great difficulty in obtaining Alto voices, it has
now been decided, and I very heartily concur, to ask half a dozen ladies
to help. I believe Mr Russe has already secured the services of four,
and he will be glad to receive the names of any who are willing to help
in this very important branch of the Church Services.”
The church choir in
the 1890s with Revd Job, Mr Phillips the curate and
Mr Dawkins the organist.
Revd and Mrs Harvey
entertained the adult
members of the choir in the vicarage and the choir boys were always
treated to a summer outing and a winter trip to the pantomine. In 1926
a Choir Festival was held in the church with the choirs of St James’s,
Hampton Parish Church and All Saints Church, Hampton. On Christmas Day,
1928, new Ancient and Modern hymn books were available for the choir.
The January edition of the magazine reported:
“The supplying of these books was made possible by a generous
grant made by the Committee of Hymns Ancient and Modern, to whom we
are grateful, by the gift of a sum of money (£2 5s. 9d.) from
the old Parochial Socials’ Committee, which, at any rate for the
time being, has ceased to function……….”
The church choir in the
1950s with Revd Brunt.
During 1952 the choir had some new male members and at the same time
the two ladies in the choir left. The ladies
had given devoted service since the war years,
but felt "Now that the choir is approaching full strength again,
it is right that this period of service, undertaken 'for the duration',
should be brought to a close, and the choir become entirely male again."
Four years later there was another request for choir singers with the
October Spire reporting: "Surely amongst
our parishioners there must be some whose voices are good enough to
be used 'in consort' in the service of God. A 'prima donna' type of
singer is not required. Provided (1) that you have a reasonable voice;
2) you can read music moderately well; (3) you are willing to practise
and attend Services regularly - you can do a wonderfully satisfying
job of work."
The Tomkins setting for the Preces, Versicles and Responses at Matins
and Evensong was introduced for a time in 1957. The May 1957 edition
of the Spire reported: “Just a word
about Responses. They are ‘the replies of the Congregation - or
Choir representing the Congregation - to the Preces or Versicles
intoned by the Priest during the course of the service’. Please
note words in bold!”
However, these were found to be too
difficult for the congregation and so the old familiar settings were
re-introduced. Ten years later a new modern setting by Dr Moreton was
The church choir in 1958
During 1959 there must have been more singers around as the April Spire
reported: "Owing to the influx of
new Treble choristers who passed the recent auditions, there will be
a limited number of vacancies for Gentlemen (Tenors and Basses) in the
choir. They should possess, in addition to a voice of pleasant quality
and unbounded enthusiasm for choral singing on the traditional lines
of the English Church, at least a rudimentary acquaintance with the
reading of musical notation, although they should not withhold themselves
because they may lack complete facility in the art of sight-singing."
The April 1962 Spire reported: "At
the Annual Parochial Church Meeting Mr Sargeant was in fine voice as
he delivered an impassioned obligato on choir affairs. The many changes
of choir masters - no two alike in their interpretation of music; the
revised hymn book; the difficulty of obtaining choirboys to whom the
financial side was no longer an inducement and whose voices broke earlier
than of yore; not to mention the disconcerting behaviour of the organ
which occasionally produces resounding notes when none are pressed on
the keyboard; made the choir's task difficult indeed."
The church choir in 1961
The Commission on Worship, in 1963, wanted to know the attitude to the
music at St James’s. The policy of the Commission was that the
congregation should be encouraged to take an active part in the worship
in church. This meant that the music should be simple enough for the
congregation to join in with the choir leading the congregation rather
than giving a highly polished concert performance. However the problem
was that the congegation did not sing up even for the hymns. The July
1963 Spire reported: "Here it is a
matter of confidence. The choir could be expanded, and a section placed
at the rear of the church in plain clothes, or even as individuals planted
among the rest of the congregation. If a few people in the body of the
church sang at top volume, others could soon be induced to join in,
with a rapid snow-balling effect."
Then there were choir shortages again, with the December 1965 Spire
reporting: "The choir urgently requires
enthusiastic singers to fill the undermentioned vacancies. One of the
remarks made by the special Commissioners of the Royal School of Church
Music who recently visited us was that we were top-heavy - not that
we had too many trebles but rather that they tended to overpower too
few contraltos, tenors and basses. May I look forward to having your
enquiries? Vacancies: Gentlemen. 2 bass and 2 tenor (any age). Ladies:
3 contralto (any age). Girls: 2 soprano (14 to 18 years of age). Boys:
4 (7 to 12 years of age)."
Originally, in 1965, the PCC decided not to have
a choir at the Parish Communion service, when the altar was at the chancel
steps. However, with the re-ordering of the church and the portable
altar being used in 1983, it was thought by many that the choir could
be re-introduced. Consequently, there was much discussion around this
time about having a choir for the 9.30 a.m. communion as well as for
the evensong. "Should we, shouldn't
we have one at the morning Parish Communion Service? What, then, is
against having a choir to lead and help the congregation - and, during
the communion of the people, probably sing an anthem?.........."
The church choir in 1983
The discussions continued and there were several magazine articles
about this. In the end, though, the status quo obtained until 1993 when
the PCC agreed, following consultation with the congregation, that the
choir should sing on one Sunday a month at the Parish Communion service.
This was subsequently extended so that the choir sang on further Sundays
for special festivals or saints days.
The church choir
in the 1990s with Revd Leathard and Mrs Marcella den
Boer the organist.
The settings of the Communion service by Shephard (his 'Addington' service)
and Mathias were alternated for several years. A new musical setting
of the Liturgy was composed by Martin Hinckley, a member of the choir,
in 2003 and was used for a while, running alongside these, although
it was eventually thought to be too demanding for the congregation.
Read the articles A
New Musical Setting of the Liturgy
. In 2008, parts of the Salisbury
service by Grayston Ives started to replace Addington. Then in 2010,
Martin Hinckley wrote a new setting of the Sanctus and Benedictus to
replace that part of the Addington service, as the Salisbury version
of this was felt to be too long and complicated for the congregation
St James's Children's Choir was introduced in 2003, run by Susannah
Nettleton, a member of the choir. They sang during special services
like Christmas, Mothering Sunday and Harvest. In the same year, the
choir was invited to sing choral evensong in the Tudor chapel of Sutton's
Hospital, Charterhouse, in the City of London, and this became an annual
event for ten years.
A new idae, lasting a few years, was started in 2007 with the choir
singing parts of Faure's Requiem during an evening All Souls' Service
at which parishoners could remember their lost loved ones. The choir
also sang evensong at the beginning of Advent in 2011 and at other key
services from time to time.
above information covers the period from when any records could be found
until November 2016. This was when Revd Derek Winterburn became St James's
tenth vicar and from this time onwards any new information can be found
on the main site.