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Choir Notes


St Thomas’s Choir Notes


Christmas is always a lovely time for the choir, and this year it seemed to be extra special. Our anthems during Communion in Advent included the likeable modern anthem ’There is no rose’  by Graham Ellis, and the well-known ‘This is the truth from above’. And all the favourite Advent hymns were sung.

Most of the choir has remained faithful as always - where would we be without them! We are still hoping for Eric’s return to complete the basses, but are glad to have Andrew as tenor.  And we have recently included Beth, a young singer who is here on a year’s placement., sight-reads well, and is happy singing alto or soprano - as is Sue. We nearly always have Jill and Pat, and this means we can balance the ladies’ sound better, often with two or  more on each part. 

Over the years, the choir at Christmas has varied enormously, depending on who is available. Members of our choir are sometimes away, but others will bring in relations who sing, and this is always a great pleasure. This year we did really well. Nearly all the choir were with us, and Beth produced a father and a brother to join us for the Midnight Communion. We also had Chris and Caroline Erni, and Mike Brooks from the Augmented Choir and his daughter - and we made time for a practice for most beforehand. The result was a super choir well prepared, and we sang carols for half an hour before the service, to our great pleasure, and hopefully the congregation’s too. During Communion we only had time to sing one carol, which was of course our favourite Shepherd’s Farewell. But we sang the congregational carols lustily, including descants.

The Christmas Day Communion was different, in the style of the service, with lots of children in the congregation, and also with the choir. Not many of the regular choir came to that as well, but we had Beth and her father back, and also Meg and David, their son, and their granddaughter Rosie who got them into the choir in the first place! We did not sing beforehand, but had time for three carols during Communion, beautifully sung.

To round off Christmas, so to speak, Vittoria led a Carol-a-long. This is the third service we have had in this popular format. The congregation chooses batches of three carols - or hymns, in the summer - and explain their reasons while I find the music. Not always simple, as the choir uses various different versions, but we managed in time, and the choir sang their usual parts and descants to lead the singing. Included was the lovely ‘O Holy Night’, which is quite tricky for a congregation. I was privileged to have Beth’s father as page-turner, singing it as a beautiful solo. I was engaged with a rather tricky accompaniment - I hope the congregation were enjoying singing it too! We sang well-known carols as well, people were very willing to make their choices, and it was a lovely service. 

So - back to the usual! We have had a choir practice, and sang the wonderful ‘Locus Iste’ by Bruckner on Sunday, with more anthems practised. Just as well - the usual snow descended after that, with another cancelled choir practice. But the music will go on!

Sheila Maxwell  January 2019


St Thomas’s Choir Notes

The Choir has managed to keep going right through the holiday period, in spite of the small numbers. Anthems have included ‘Comfort, O Lord’ by Crotch, and a favourite, ‘Like as a hart’ by V. Novello. It has been a quieter spell, but things are beginning to get more exciting. The launch of the Maxwell Collection at the Harvest Communion will hopefully involve two of my choral compositions, and we will try to augment the choir a bit for the occasion.
It will not be long before we start preparing for Christmas, with rehearsals for the Augmented Choir for the Carol Service on 10th December, and singing by the choir for the glorious Christmas Eve Communion. These always need a good deal of preparation, but are well worth the effort when the time comes.
The regular choir has worked hard and conscientiously again, and we are all grateful to them.
Sheila Maxwell, October, 2017

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posted 12 Apr 2019, 08:35 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne


October 2018

posted 7 Nov 2018, 12:48 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 12 Apr 2019, 08:34 ]

St Thomas’s Choir Notes


Another Evening of Praise is safely over, and Jean Sowrey has given a full account of it elsewhere. Marcus has been cutting down his commitment to the Augmented Choir, and we were delighted to have Lucy conducting for the first time, including the passing on of her singing skills, which was much appreciated by the choir. Warren was not able to record the whole service, but kindly recorded my new anthem to Vittoria’s words, ‘The last Dance’, and put it on YouTube. If you want to hear it, and see Lucy conducting, the link is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTp_Osw2p_0

Preparations are just starting for the Carol Service on 9th December, and we  hope for a good choir for that again, under Marcus’s baton.


The regular choir, although small in numbers, continues to sing splendidly, with our anthems during Communion being a special feature. Just once, with no soprano, we sang a hymn instead, but it was a lovely one, and the altos managed the tune beautifully. We are currently preparing for the Harvest service, with Handel’s ’O Lovely peace’, commonly known as ‘the wavy corn’ because of all the repetition towards the end.  My thanks again to all the choir for their singing and dedication.

Sheila Maxwell, October 2018


April - November 2018

posted 7 Nov 2018, 12:43 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 12 Oct 2019, 15:03 ]

St Thomas’s Choir Notes

The choir has continued to sing some lovely music during Communion. We had a special rendering of our favourite Harvest anthem ‘O lovely peace’, known to us as ‘the wavy corn’  We were fortunate in having Caroline and Chris Erni with us, so that the sound was better than ever.  One Sunday we sang ‘Ave Verum Corpus’ in a beautiful setting by Saint-Saens. The words seem to inspire some really lovely music from a variety of composers.

We are now thinking ahead to Christmas. A choir of sorts will sing at the Midnight Communion, and this is always rather a gamble, some people are away for Christmas, others have visitors who like to join us, and it is different every year, and difficult to plan. But we do always manage to include our much-loved ‘Shepherd’s Farewell’.

The Augmented Choir started rehearsals a few weeks ago for the Carol Service on 9th December, with Marcus conducting again. We have a large choir of about twenty singers, although the basses are down to two, both good competent singers. We are singing four choir carols in different styles, from a boisterous setting of ‘Tomorrow shall be my dancing day’ to a slow and beautiful setting of ‘Love came down at Christmas’ by modern composer Thomas Hewitt-Jones. 

I have again produced a new Carol, this time with some traditional words written years ago by the mother of choir member Barbara Henderson. With four regular verses, it needed a simpler sort of setting from the highly imaginative poems written by Vittoria Hancock - and it is perhaps a bit easier to sing! The poem is reproduced below.

My thanks to all the choir for their dedication and lovely singing.

Sheila Maxwell, November, 2018


Far away Star in the  heavens shining bright

Once more your message on this holy night

Comes to a world that is restless with fear

Jesus beloved we know you are near.


We still remember a Babe long ago

Born in a stable sheltered from snow

Brought us the gift of redemption and love

Life everlasting in Heaven above.


Still through the night, on Angels soft wings

Steals a sweet glow and a peace on all things

Saviour of man you have come yet again

Let not your message be offered in vain.


Christmas the birthday of Jesus our King

May we the gifts from our humble hearts bring

Let us remember to serve thee and give

Thanks for thy blessings on this Christmas Eve.


From Barbara Henderson, written by her mother,  Phyllis McNaught




St Thomas’s Choir Notes


Another Evening of Praise is safely over, and Jean Sowrey has given a full account of it elsewhere. Marcus has been cutting down his commitment to the Augmented Choir, and we were delighted to have Lucy conducting for the first time, including the passing on of her singing skills, which was much appreciated by the choir. Warren was not able to record the whole service, but kindly recorded my new anthem to Vittoria’s words, ‘The last Dance’, and put it on YouTube. If you want to hear it, and see Lucy conducting, the link is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTp_Osw2p_0

Preparations are just starting for the Carol Service on 9th December, and we  hope for a good choir for that again, under Marcus’s baton.


The regular choir, although small in numbers, continues to sing splendidly, with our anthems during Communion being a special feature. Just once, with no soprano, we sang a hymn instead, but it was a lovely one, and the altos managed the tune beautifully. We are currently preparing for the Harvest service, with Handel’s ’O Lovely peace’, commonly known as ‘the wavy corn’ because of all the repetition towards the end.  My thanks again to all the choir for their singing and dedication.

Sheila Maxwell,  September 2018


St Thomas’s Choir Notes


The Choir has kept going as usual, thanks to the talented and dedicated members, who seem happy to sing in spite of very small numbers sometimes. We have usually managed an anthem during Communion, including Spohr’s ‘Teach me thy way’ and Tallis’s ‘If ye love me.’ There is also a setting of Elgar’s Ave Verum by Harrison Oxley, which is nearly all in unison, so helpful if we do not have all the parts. The basses have been struggling a bit, as Eric is still away because of problems with his shoulder. We wish him well and hope for an early recovery, for our sake as well as his! David and Meg are also away a lot, unfortunately for us.


It has been great to hear of two singing exam successes. Sue, for the second time, has passed her exam in classical singing with distinction, this time Grade 5. Her development has been particularly welcome in the choir, as she now sings soprano quite happily, including the descants. Jill has for a long time kept the soprano part going wonderfully, but in a choir it is good to have more than one singer, and of course on occasion Jill is not with us. If neither is with us, the altos get to sing the tune!


We are also delighted that Marie Wilde, who only occasionally joins us, but sings with the Augmented Choir, has got a distinction in Musical Theatre, as well as a good credit for her classical singing recital, Grade 3. It is enormously enterprising of both of them, one associates these exams with young children, but no, there is no stopping them! 

Thanks to all for your contribution to the musical life of St Thomas’s.

Sheila Maxwell, August 2018


St Thomas’s Choir Notes

The Choir at St Thomas’s continues happily. We are fortunate in having such talented and confident singers, which means we can sing our anthems during Communion without too much difficulty even with very small numbers. But occasionally we get nearly everyone together, and it does make a lovely sound when this happens. We had a new anthem recently, which rarely happens these days. It is not easy to find suitable anthems for singing during Communion, and with a small choir. ‘Shew me thy ways, O Lord’, by J. Lamb, is a quiet thoughtful piece which I think we all enjoyed. We also sang the slightly more complicated ‘Loving Shepherd of thy sheep’, by Philip Ledger, who was in the year below me at Cambridge, and a brilliant accompanist for the University Choir. 

On a personal note - Geoff Cormack celebrated his 90th Birthday! Amazingly, he still sings with us in the choir, and when in the mood, can bring forth a goodly sound! Congratulations to Geoff, and we hope to have him with us for many more years yet. But thanks too to all the choir for the wonderful way they keep it going so strongly.

Sheila Maxwell, June 2018


St Thomas’s Choir Notes


The choir has managed to keep going throughout the winter months, in spite of snow and various indispositions. Even when there are small numbers, they have managed an anthem during Communion, culminating in the solemn and lovely ‘Drop, drop slow tears’ by Orlando Gibbons, for Lent. However, we let our hair down on Mothering Sunday, as did the rest of the congregation. It was the launching of our Lent Appeal, Send-a-Cow, and by special request, my harvest anthem ‘Brambles’, words by Vittoria,  was sung during Communion - because there is mention of cows in it!

The choir continues to be loyal on Sundays, although choir practice has been cancelled too often, because insufficient numbers could come to make it worth it. We hope to do better now that the winter is past. But I am grateful for the loyalty of the choir members, and for their lovely singing.


The Augmented Choir is in full swing, practising for a Choral Evensong for Palm Sunday. Marcus was not able to conduct this time, and our previous choir master, Owen Jenkins, has been an enthusiastic conductor - as well as choosing the music, with a little help from me. We chose music by Charles Wood, a prolific 19th century composer, and will sing his lovely anthem ‘Expectans Expectavi’, as well as his setting of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. The responses will be sung to a setting by Ayleward, which is new to me, and I think to most of the choir. I do love learning new music, and we have plenty of it in the service. I hope everyone who comes will enjoy it, as well as taking part in a very traditional and beautiful service.

Sheila Maxwell, April 2018



February 2018

posted 7 Nov 2018, 12:32 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne   [ updated 12 Apr 2019, 08:33 ]

St Thomas’s Choir Notes


The Choir had a busy time in December. First there was the Carol Service with the Augmented Choir - of which more elsewhere - and most of the choir joined in this. Then there were the Christmas services to prepare, on Sunday morning, and the Midnight Communion the same day. We try to sing carols before the service at Midnight, and this year we had the best choir ever for the occasion. Some of our choir were away, but the stalwarts who were left were supplemented by Mike Brooks, who sings with the Augmented choir, along with his musical daughter, Lucy and Jane Bailey, and Caroline and Chris Erni. Most had been to a practice beforehand, and it went really well, with five carols before the service and another two during Communion, as well as the traditional ones for the congregation. After that, only Jill turned up on Christmas morning!  So we did without a choir, for the first time for a long time.

Things are now back to ‘normal’, with enough singers to form a choir each Sunday, but with various absences, especially for the Thursday practices, which all too often have to be cancelled for lack of support. We were delighted to see Eric back, after a lengthy absence following a fall. However, it would be good to have more members of the choir, so if you can sing at all, do think about it! You don’t need to be brilliant, just keen, there is plenty time to learn your parts if necessary.

My thanks again to the regular members who keep the choir going so magnificently.

Sheila, February 2018


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