Parish of Leatherhead - Choir History












February 2009

Thursday 5 February: A Celebration of the life of David Oliver

New photos provided by Terry Millward are added to the All Saints Musicians page - can you add names?

January 2009

Tuesday 13 January: Our Director of Music, David Oliver, died in Southport at the age of 51. Our thoughts and prayers are with Debra and the family. The Olivers had been visiting Debra's family when David was taken ill. Our Vicar, David Eaton, was able to visit David on the Sunday before he died.

David's funeral will be at Leatherhead Parish Church on Thursday 5 February at 12.30.

July 2008

Sunday 20 July: David Oliver lead the Music Group as they play for the last Evening Praise service prior to the Summer break.

In September, Evening Praise moves the Leatherhead Methodist Church on the fourth Sunday of the month for a three month trial period as an Ecumenical service, drawing on resources from all the Leatherhead churches.


May 2008

11th May - Choral Evensong for Pentecost

At 6.30pm on a warm and sunny Sunday in May, a Choral Evensong once again joined together the two choirs of our United Benefice - St Michael's, Mickleham and St Mary's & St Nicholas, Leatherhead.

Director of Music David Oliver conducted the 20-strong choir and had written most of the choir pieces for the service, including the first performance of the anthem The Lord bless you, which David describes as an 'evening prayer'.

David says 'It is always a delight to welcome the choir from Mickleham, as both choirs complement each other so well.' Claire & Richard Price once again provided excellent solos, Mike Stewart was cantor and Mickleham's Robert Leach was the organist.
The service was led by Gail Partridge.

October 2007

Sunday 28 October: Our restored Parker Organ was 'on duty' for the first time at this morning's 10.30 service.

David Oliver played a selection of pieces by 18th Century composers Boyce, Stanley and Arne.

It was the first time a pipe organ had been heard in our church at a service for over 25 years, and the first such occasion at which the restored keyboard had been played for 134 years.

A very special day indeed.

David Oliver is pictured here with Canon David Eaton.

September 2007

25th September: Today saw the arrival of the supporting frame for our Georgian Organ.

This strong frame will support the weight of the organ over the vaults in the chancel.

The organ installation is due to begin on Tuesday 2nd October. David Oliver

photo: Mike Lewis & Andrew Cornish (from architects Brewer-Jewel)
discuss the exact positioning of the frame): Oliver

The progress of the installation can be followed via the Parker Organ link

The choir started back on Sunday 2nd September after its summer break, and we expect to have a busy few months. The choir festival at Guildford Cathedral on 6th October is not too far away, and we will be busy over the coming weeks learning the music for the service. The area behind the Allen organ is being cleared ready for the arrival of our restored Georgian Organ, which we hope to be in place before the end of October.

April 2007

Saturday 28th April - Leatherhead Parish Church's Thomas Parker Organ Restoration Project
It was open house at the parish church on 28th April - many of us turned out in our Georgian costumes to publicise the restoration of our Thomas Parker organ. Pictures of the continuing restoration (via Parker Organ link) were placed on boards all around the church. Director of Music David Oliver - looking a little too much like George Frederic Handel - played music from the 18th Century throughout the afternoon as visitors drank punch and ate ginger cake.

left: Mr David Oliver at the Allen organ with Mr Stephen Shaw
above: Mr David Oliver and Mrs Frances Presley, both of this Parish
images: Mr David Oliver

The Choir AGM took place on Sunday April 21st in the Reeves Room following the morning service. We discussed recruiting more singers to join us, as well as thanking Ginny Eaton for her 17 years' service as she retires from the choir.

David and Debra's wedding
20th August 2006

..... it's still the 20th August
with best wishes from the choir
and all at St Mary & St Nicholas

Choir Lunch, 19th Feb 2006

It's almost impossible to get all the choir together for a social these days - people have such busy lives! But we did manage it last Sunday, when Beverley and Navin Mehta kindly hosted our choir lunch following the morning service (see right). It was a 'bring & share' lunch, with plenty to eat from a delicious selection of dishes. The only 'official business' of the day was the hand-over of the choir treasurer post from Jane Haslam to Eric Weetman. Our thanks to Jane for all her hard work doing the job over the past few years.
images via David Oliver

Sue and Claire organise the
new choir members ... ha ha!

Peter and Alec put the world to rights . .

The Choir

At present there are 16 regular members in our mixed choir of sopranos, tenors, altos, and basses.  Both adults and juniors (aged 8 or over) are welcome to join, following an informal audition. There are currently no junior members in the robed choir.

Choir practice is on Thursday evenings in the Parish Church starting at 7.45pm.

We are funded in part by the PCC so we also hold fund raising events for new robes and additional music.

Leatherhead Parish Church Choir Jan 2006

We are affiliated to the Royal School of Church Music and train junior members to pass through all the various RSCM ribbon and award levels. There are RSCM courses and events during the year including the Guildford Dicocesan Choirs Festival.

Gala Concert, 8th Oct 2005

Many thanks to everyone concerned for all the hard work involved in making our Gala Concert for the Churches Together in Leatherhead Festival of Faith week go so well.

There was a full house at the Parish Church for the concert, both in the audience and on stage too - 93 performers in all, the joint choirs from all the churches in Leatherhead were joined by members of Mickleham church choir and Choral Society.

Two star performers!
A suitably varied programme ensured that the evening was very entertaining - music from Handel, Mozart, Rutter and many others with solos from Claire Price, Debra Andrew, Juliet Hornby, Ian Howarth and a quartet, as well as a flute solo from Lara Acott.

Conducting was shared between myself, Ian Howarth and Anthony Cairns, with the orchestra & band made up of local and guest musicians.
David Oliver.

A full house – the view from the chancel

A Busy Autumn Ahead - August 2005

The choir starts back after the summer break with choir practice on Thursday Sept 1st at 7.45pm in church. This is probably the busiest time of year for us, as we go towards autumn and then prepare for Christmas. This year will be particularly busy, as initially we will be rehearsing for the Festival of Faith Gala Concert on October 8th. Once the concert’s over, there’ll be little time to rest as we then go on to prepare for the Christmas services. As from October, rehearsals will take place in the Reeves Room starting at 7.45pm, following the handbell ringers' rehearsal.

New Music - July 2005

Over the past few months, you may have noticed the choir singing a new setting for the Eucharist. This comprises Gloria, Sanctus with an optional Benedictus and Agnus Dei, all in the key of E major.

We had been singing my setting in C major (which was written back in 1998) for a number of months, and it felt like it was time for a change. Rather than search around to buy new music, I was inspired to write something new, and completed the setting in E in just a couple of days back in April.

Both the Gloria and Sanctus have a strong rhythm in 4/4 time and share the same theme (or tune). At some services we carry the Sanctus through to the Benedictus. The choir do a good job of singing the Agnus Dei, which is quite tricky – and do listen out for the solo soprano ‘obligato’ sung over the held chord in the last few bars – this was specially written for Claire Price.

Also, as the choir now regularly sing evensong on the second Sunday evening in the month, I have written a new set of versicles and responses to replace the Ferial responses which, for the choir, are rather uninspiring. I have called them Everyday Versicles and Responses as the choir will sing them on a regular basis. I do hope you like them.

Finally, you can now find out what music we will be singing in the services throughout the month by clicking the This month link on the left of your screen or via the Calendar on the Parish. You’ll find a complete listing of all music we’ll be doing each Sunday.
David Oliver

Nine Lessons and Carols. 19th December 2004

this was a very successful night, and everyone worked exceptionally hard to achieve a memorable service. A seasonal atmosphere was set from the very start with pre-service music coming from all parts of the church, the organ, the handbells in the tower, flute and piano by the Christmas tree, recorder and guitar near the door and a brass quartet in the Chancel.

The service started with a solo - Emma West sang the first verse of Once in Royal beautifully. The following hour was filled with lots of traditional Christmas music as well as some contemporary pieces; the junior choir, led by Lizzie Barret, sang Away in a manger, One Star a carol written by Director of Music David Oliver, and were then joined by Jay Bristow for a timely version of Happy Christmas (war is over) by John Lennon.

The song The little road to Bethlehem was sung beautifully by Claire Price, accompanied by David Oliver on the piano. Both Claire and Alec Henniker took the leads during the verses of Harold Darke’s In the bleak mid winter.

David Oliver is pictured conducting the choir (image courtesy Peter Murphy).

Mid November 2004

As we look forward to Christmas, put a reminder in your diary for this year’s service of the Nine Lessons which takes place on 19th December  at 6.30pm - it will be very special. Following on from the success of last year, the Nine Lessons service will be by candlelight only, creating a very seasonal atmosphere.

Last year we were delighted to welcome some pupils from Therfield School who came along and formed a small brass section in the Chancel, playing before the service and this year, we’re hoping to do the same again with perhaps a larger group. Also, the musical content of the service will have a very precise focus. Apart from the very broad range of traditional carols and songs that you’d expect to sing every Christmas, the choir will only be performing  traditional English Christmas music ; and I hope to include many pieces that we all associate with Christmas, yet don’t seem to hear very often these days.

Which pieces? Come along and find out!

Late JULY 2004 Director of Music David Oliver is now back full time leading the choir and Music Group, following time off during May & June due to illness. Please note that there will be no choir practices on Thursday evenings now till September 2nd, as we take our break for the summer holidays. Even though many people will be away on holiday, there will still be a much reduced choir who will sing at services throughout August, and we look forward to being back at full strength in the Autumn.

MAY 2004 Director of Music David Oliver continues to improve well following his operation for prostate cancer back in April. David is convalescing at home, but hopes to be back leading the music at church sometime in June. Thanks to everyone who has sent good wishes, emails, cards and flowers over the past few weeks. Thank you to Geoffrey Harvey, Esme Burrows, and especially Richard Price who have kept the music in church going over this period.

APRIL 2004 The Choir recently welcomed Beverley Mehta and Eric Weetman to swell its numbers. We now have 18 regular adult members, but are in need of a few more men, particularly tenors. We held our annual meeting on 8 February, when the subjects under discussion included choir robes. It was agreed that we should continue to be a robed choir and while it had been felt that our present robes looked "dated", perusal of a number of catalogues had failed to find anything better. As re-equipping the whole choir would be very costly, we decided to stick with our present blue robes, replacing those which were past their best. We also decided that the ladies should no longer wear white collars and jabots and that the men should not wear white surplices. This took effect from 15 February, and we would welcome feedback on whether this improves our appearance or otherwise.

Sadly, Ros Corteen [seen here with David Oliver and David Eaton, 28 March 2004 following the service during which she received a presentation] has decided to retire from the Choir at the end of March. Ros has been a valued member of the alto section for over 30 years and has undertaken a number of administrative tasks behind the scenes. Ros compiled a list of the jobs, which would have to be filled by others - these came to an incredible total of 16. We are very grateful to Ros for all that she has done over the years and we will miss her a lot. We are glad that she has agreed to be on the list of "extras" who can be called on to sing at weddings, funerals and other special occasions.
Anne Thomson

February 2004

The Choir AGM took place on Sunday Feb 8th in the Reeves Room following the morning service. Among the items discussed were the Christmas CD, new choir robes and Ros Corteen’s retirement from the Choir after over forty years.

November & early December 2003

We continue to prepare and rehearse for the Nine Lessons Service on 21st December, which will include many popular seasonal pieces, as well as items from our Christmas CD. The service will also include Christmas pieces and arrangements specially written for our choir and music group by Director of Music David Oliver.

October 2003

Work commences on the new parish Christmas CD. This year we have included the choir from Mickleham on our CD, as well as local children from both St Mary’s and All Saints Schools.

26th October – At 6.30pm a special Anniversary Choral Evensong celebrated the choir’s 60th anniversary of affiliation to the RSCM in a joint service with Mickleham Choir. The 28-strong joint choir made Leatherhead Parish Church resound with the sound of voices in harmony. Some well-known traditional hymns  were wrapped around new music written by Director of Music David Oliver, including the Introit Let the Words of My mouth and the powerful anthem He can move mountains.
the 'United Benefice' Choir
The two choirs complement each other and only just fitted into the choir stalls.

Claire and Richard Price provided excellent solos. Mickleham's Bernadette Coote was the organist and Barbara Stedman-Allen was the guest speaker. The RSCM was represented.

The service was lead by Canon David Eaton and the joint choir was conducted by David Oliver.

in rehearsal

As background to this event, David Oliver wrote in the October Parish magazine: The certificate in the choir vestry states that Leatherhead Parish Church Choir was affiliated to the School of English Church Music on 27 October 1943. The SECM was inaugurated at a meeting in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey on 6 December 1927, the feast of St Nicolas (spelt without an h!). It was based at Chislehurst in Kent.

In 1945, by command of King George VI, the SECM became the Royal School of Church Music. By 1952 over 3000 churches were affiliated. The RSCM moved from Addington Palace, near Croydon, to Cleveland Lodge at Westhumble in 1996, and continues to seek "to enlarge its ecumenical mission, to serve the needs of its affiliated members and the wider Church; to develop first-class resources; and to continue to train and educate musicians and clergy to make best use of music in worship".

We will continue to uphold the RSCM values and traditions here at Leatherhead - and although we are currently short on trebles and tenors, we have a dedicated and loyal team of choir members who are a pleasure to work with.

I am delighted that for this anniversary service, the choir from Mickleham will join us; and I'm particularly grateful to Bernadette Coote who has very kindly agreed to play the organ so that I can conduct. We will be singing my own Leatherhead Versicles & Responses in G, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in E-flat, as well as the anthem He can move mountains, first premiered at our choral evensong back in June. You may remember how beautifully Claire Price sang the anthem, and I was so pleased that I have re-worked it into a very powerful arrangement for the full choir.

Finally, listen out for a special descant written by Linda Heath in the last hymn. Special thanks to Ros Corteen for the information about the RSCM.
David Oliver

Nov 2nd – Hedley Kay and the music group lead the Family service at 10.30am – taking full advantage of our new sound system!

November -  we will complete the recording of our Christmas CD which will include well known carols, special choir pieces and solos as well as some specially written pieces. 

Notes from the Choir, from the July 2003 magazine As from 11th May, for sung communion services, we have re-introduced my own communion setting, which I wrote specially for our choir back in 1998. I hope this provides a change from the Rizza setting, which we've now been using for quite a while.

The new setting comprises the normal three sung parts of the communion service: Gloria - this is in 3/4 time and has a joyful "lilt" to it; Sanctus - shorter than the Rizza, I haven't included the Benediction, and it finishes with the choir proclaiming, unaccompanied, "Hosannah in the Highest!" Agnus Dei - always very meditative, this is slightly more difficult to sing and the ending is a "Tierce de Picardie" ...... is anyone familiar with the term? There will, of course, be a congregational copy available, and I've tried to make the tunes very singable and in keys that aren't too high for a Sunday morning! I hope everyone enjoys it.

On 22nd June at 6.30pm, we had a full Choral Evensong with a new music setting that I composed. This was of course in the traditional style. In June we were delighted to welcome into the choir Alison Draper who joined us as an alto. Alison has been singing at St Paul's in Dorking. We are always on the look-out for new choir members, particularly tenors and basses. Do you know anyone who would like to join us?

Our Music Group (MG) goes from strength to strength, sounding ever more confident and worshipful. As you will have no doubt noticed, we have tried a different location recently for the group at the Come & Worship service. Placing the MG higher up in the chancel means that the choir can remain in position and the choir stalls do not need to be moved. The MG is in a compact position, though not completely ideal, as they are further removed from the congregation. Medieval churches were never designed to meet the needs of 21st century worship! Once the new PA system is installed in church however, the sound will be greatly improved and members of the MG will be able to come down into the nave as before using the hand-held radio microphones.
David Oliver

Thank You from David Oliver Lots of thanks are due to everyone who supported our Choral Evensong on the 22nd June 2003 ! Thanks to our choir who turned out in force and sang with such enthusiasm on the day; thanks to Richard Price who sang the bass solo in the Nunc Dimittis, to Robert Jenkins who kindly came from Weybridge to sing the "cantor" part to our responses; thank you to everyone from the parish who supported us on the day, it was really lovely to have so many people there for the evensong service; and most of all a special thank you to Claire Price who sang my anthem He can move mountains - I hadn't initially thought of doing an anthem, yet as the day approached I felt the service would be incomplete without one.

As a result I was still finishing writing it at choir practice on Thursday! On the day, Claire performed the anthem beautifully, and I greatly appreciate her skill and professionalism.

Also on the same weekend, the Pilgrim Players and Singers performed for the first time my piece called One Universal Love - which was specially written for them for their "The World is my Church" concert. The song is in a very contemporary style and quite difficult, yet it was sung brilliantly well. Special thanks, too, to Ian Howarth who conducted.

Notes from the Choir, from November 2002 magazine

For anyone arriving for the Harvest Thanksgiving Service last month, it may have come as a bit of a surprise to find the music group up in the chancel with the choir. Having taken over as Director of Music, I am keen to integrate the differing kinds of music in our church wherever possible, and when choir and music group are involved together in a service, having them so far apart just doesn’t work. Believe it or not sound doesn’t really travel very fast, and it is virtually impossible for us to stay together ‘musically’ when we are so far apart either side of four feet of stone pillar!

Ideally, the music group & choir should be together in the same area. So, working closely with Hedley Kay and David Eaton, I intend to bring both groups together in the chancel, trying out different set-ups to see what works best for everyone concerned. The main aim of all this, of course, is to compliment the worship through our music, and musicians always sound better when they are together! As we try out different things, please do let me know what you think.

Junior Choir
Surprise surprise, we are very short of junior choir members! In today’s world where young people have so many pressures from school work and other interests, it is sometimes difficult to enthuse them about the benefits of singing in a choir. In a world where they are bombarded with anything from Atomic Kitten to Westlife, perhaps traditional church music has little appeal. As a result, we intend to relaunch the junior choir as a young people’s choir, focusing much more on contemporary christian music, and particularly with the lead up to Christmas seasonal songs that are popular with the young. This young people’s choir will be focusing on singing for the family services on the first and third sundays as well as the Christmas services.

If you know of any young people who may be interested in joining us, please put them in touch with me (contact details elsewhere in the magazine). We are gradually broadening the parish choir’s repertoire to include much more modern music, and I want to make being in our choir fun as well as stimulating and worshipful. For all new members – of any age - there is now an audition to do, but it’s really easy, informal, and no, you won’t have to sing in front of the whole choir!  We look forward to welcoming anyone who feels they can make a contribution to our junior and senior choirs - come along and sing with us!
David Oliver


David Oliver and his appointment

As from 1st September 2002, David Oliver took over as Director of Music at Leatherhead Parish Church from Chris Slater.

He is a composer & writer, specialising in children’s music – writing for  BBC TV, GMTV and many holiday companies within the UK & Europe. He has been a professional musician for over 25 years, and was formerly organist at West Rainton in County Durham.

David, who is from the North East, has lived in Leatherhead since 1992 and has written many pieces for the parish choir over the past few years including a setting for the Eucharist.

As Director of Music, David brings to the parish his experience of differing musical styles - particularly contemporary music – and has set himself the task of integrating the sometimes diverging styles of worship music within the parish.

David conducted and was instrumental in organising the Ecumenical Songs of Praise at The Theatre in Leatherhead. This brought together all the local Christian churches for a service of praise and worship along with a 30 strong choir, 8 piece orchestra and 7 piece band.

David is looking forward to leading the music and choir at St Mary & St Nicholas and has written a special piece for Harvest Festival

David Eaton, Vicar: July 2002

I am delighted to have been able to appoint David Oliver as Director of Music to succeed Chris Slater. David takes up his post from 1st September and is already well known to many in the congregation.

This appointment, by mutual agreement, is initially for six months. This will allow David to judge whether he can take this new commitment on board alongside his other professional responsibilities. I very much hope the outcome will be positive.

David is a professional musician and has worked in the music industry for many years. He was previously organist and choirmaster at West Rainton, County Durham. David will work in close liaison with the church choir and with Hedley Kay and the Music Group. We remain indebted to both these groups for their musical contribution to worship.

The way forward in church music now lies in letting the different traditions, traditional and contemporary, formal and informal, complement each other and together to serve the worship we seek to offer week by week. We are extremely fortunate in the quality of musicians of all ages we have available to enhance church worship, mostly on a voluntary basis.

We wish David every success as he takes on this new role.


Parish Church Choir 1961?

Parish Church Choir 1952?

The Founding of the Parish Church Choir in 1861 - from the November 2014 Parish Magazine

The November 1914 Parish Magazine has a tribute to Mr Fitzherbert Hailstone, who died aged 74 on 21st Oct 1914. It states that "he was one of the original members of the Parish Church Choir formed by Miss Chapman during her father's incumbency in 1861." Benjamin Chapman's incumbency began in 1836. He was preceded by James Barker and was followed by Thomas Thompson Griffith 1871.

Only a few years, then, to wait for the 160th Anniversary of our Choir ...
Frank Haslam, Parish Archivist