Organists/choirmasters through the years
When he died in 1877, Mr Dawkins became organist. He resigned in 1911 having spent thirty four years giving faithful, patient and careful work, which was thoroughly appreciated by every member of the congregation. Mr HT Gilberthorpe, who took over from him, had "considerable experience with testimonials of the highest order" and was selected with very great care from about sixty applicants. There were regular Sunday evening organ recitals but in 1917 he resigned his position as organist after “offering his services to the Army as an Instructor in Musketry”.
Mr Russe, "FRC, &c", was appointed as his replacement. Both he and the choir frequently received praise from the vicar. Revd Coad Pryor congratulated them in 1919 “for the excellent rendering of the ‘Crucifixion’ on Good Friday, and the musical portions of the Easter Services, it reflected great credit on the singers and their teacher. Again I would ask for more adult members for the choir, Mr Russe is willing to train, free of cost, anyone likely to make a useful chorister” and again ".... deserve our best thanks for the excellent way in which they rendered the musical portion of the services".
Mr Lower was appointed in 1932 from forty-three applications. He was "young, keen and energetic, with a desire for the reverent rendering of the musical portion of the services". Congregational singing practice after evensong was introduced in 1933 to help the congregations join in the singing "more heartily" and the following year the programme of hymns and music was published each month in the magazine. Mr C Haydn-Bull, MIGCM, took over in January 1948.
During this period of changing organists a member of the choir, Chris Hodges, a founder member of The Sixteen, became choirmaster and brought the choir up to a high standard. Christopher Cromar, who had studied at the Paris Conservatoire, was appointed organist in 2002. His organ teachers included Naji Hakim, Nicolas Kynaston and Marie-Louise Langlais. Christopher left to be organist at a church in Aldgate in 2003.
At Easter that year Gavin Milmer became organist but died tragically a few months later. At the end of that year, Ash Charles was appointed. Ash began his musical career as a chorister at Westminster Abbey, going on to study at the Guildhall School of Music, Cambridge and the Moscow Conservatoire.
Martin Hinckley stepped into the breech again when Matthew moved away from the area the following summer, taking over directing the choir and also coordinating all the music for thirteen months, liaising with a group of excellent stand-in organists. Samuel Draper was appointed organist in October 2010. He went to University College, Oxford, as Organ Scholar and Director of the Chapel Choir, and then won a scholarship to study on the post-graduate conducting course at the Royal College of Music.
At the end of 2014 Sam moved away and Martin Hinckley once again took over directing the choir and then continued that job for a while when Mark Blackwell joined St James's as organist in March 2015. After a short while Mark's role was expanded to include directing the choir. He had often deputised at St James’s and had nearly 40 years experience as a parish organist. "A practising Anglican, I have also held organist and choirmaster posts with other denominations, which has enhanced my musical repertoire and experience. My background is traditionalist but I do play and encourage good contemporary music which supports the liturgy and worship."
In September 2015 Mark organised an Evensong for Harvest, inviting
members of other local choirs to join with St James's choir. It was
a highly successful event, enjoyed both by the singers and congregation
alike and was repeated the following year. He then organised a 'Come
and Sing' Crucifixion on Palm Sunday 2016.