Soham Grammarians: Choir

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Soham Grammarian Summer 1967

Revival is the only word to describe the School Choir this year. After a few years of dubious success it is now reaching its peak. This success can only be attributed to hard work by both the members of the choir and by the new choirmaster Mr DH Riley.

The choir made its school debut at the Carol Service, which this year was held in Soham Parish Church. This was followed by carol singing at Burwell and Prickwillow Churches.

The treble section has been well cultivated to fit into Mr Riley's own choir, the Gibbon Singers, who are partially made up from Choral Scholars of King's College, Cambridge. These have sung at Great Dunmow in Essex and at Ramsey Grammar School.

Probably the best achievement of the choir this year, was its appearance, at Easter, on Anglia Television. They sang in three programmes of their own.

On Ascension Day, the choir proved that they could sing under all conditions when they climbed the tower of Soham Church and sang the hymn "God is gone up on high today".

Mr Riley's work and his contacts in the musical world have put the choir into their rightful place as one of the School's leading Societies.


Newmarket Journal 2 Dec 1967


Soham Grammar School choir travelled to London on Friday to sing at the Church of St. Sepulchre, Holborn. There were 42 boys in the choir, under the direction of music master Mr D Riley. Another member of the school teaching staff, Mr P Scott, was organist at the service. The choir sang a procession [sic] with carols for Advent.

The Vicar of St Sepulchre is Canon R Tydeman, who is also canon at St. Paul's Cathedral. Mr Tydeman was formerly Vicar at Newmarket All Saints'.

The members of the choir wear gowns of red and black - the school colours - made by parents and friends. The choir is making a name for itself these days and they will be taking part in about ten other services during the coming month. These include services at Cambridge, King's Lynn, Wisbech and USAF Mildenhall.

The school's annual carol service will be at Soham parish church on December 21, at 2.15 pm.

Newmarket Journal
14 Dec 1967
via Mrs Armitage

Soham school choir

Members of Soham Grammar School choir wearing their distinctive red and black gowns - red and black are the school colours.

On Sunday the choir, with Music Master Mr D Riley, will take part in a festival of lessons and carols at Haddenham parish church, followed the next day by carols and readings at USAF Mildenhall theatre.

Newmarket Journal 11 May 1967
via Mrs Armitage

Ascensiontide hymn on Soham church tower

At noon on Ascension Day (Thursday) 4th and 6th year students, members of the Soham Grammar School Choir, with the Headmaster Mr E Armitage, and members of the staff, climbed the tower of St Andrew's Church, Soham, to sing the Ascensiontide hymn "God is gone up on high, Today".

The Vicar, the Rev G Ogden-Swift, read the Collect for Ascension Day and F Gamble read the Lesson. The hymn was announced on a trumpet by J Lancaster, pictured here with music master Mr DH Riley.

The ceremony was based on that at Magdelene College, Oxford, where it is performed at 6.30 in the morning, and at St John's College, Cambridge. On their return to ground the boys repeated the ceremony for the benefit of the pupils of the Church of England Junior School.

Newmarket Journal 8 June 1967
via Mrs Armitage

Singers at Soham

A recital of choral and organ music was held at St Andrews Church Soham on Friday. The Gibbons Singers, consisting of Cambridge undergraduates, girls from the sixth form of Cambridge Grammar School and boys from Soham Grammar School choir and organist Mr Peter Scott, of Soham Grammar School, gave a recital of mixed Church music from the Tudor period to the present day. Mr Donald Riley, music teacher at Soham Grammar School, was the conductor.

The programme was arranged to raise money for the church restoration fund and was well attended by parents, friends and local people.

The choir performs at the Old People's Tea, December 1968
from the Newmarket Journal 24 Dec 1968, via Mrs Armitage

Soham Grammarian Summer 1969

School Choir

Another year has passed, and it can only be described as our most successful to date. Starting with a happy weekend on the Norfolk coast, by way of a reward for the continuous work of the practice room throughout the year, the choir was well received at each place and invited to return. The keen ones, led, not followed, by Mr D Riley, rose early for a run before breakfast, while the others came to life more gradually and dressed. This was the keynote of the weekend, and in addition to the singing in Cromer, Walsingham and Sheringham, swimming, football and tennis filled a glorious, sunny weekend which will be remembered by all, and by one boy in particular, who argued with a tennis racket (wielded by the Head Boy) and came off second best, resulting in a visit to Norwich hospital. A recital to a large audience in St. Mary's Parish Church, Ely, finished the term.

The holiday was willingly interrupted a fortnight later, to sing at Mr Wain's wedding in Bexley Heath. According to the vicar, this was all part of Mr Wain's plan - to fill the church with friends so that no one could be there who would plead 'any cause or just impediment'. Humour aside, it was a pleasant way of thanking Mr Wain for the interest and help by which we have benefited.

The Michaelmas Term was mainly occupied with preparations for Christmas, the Choir's busiest season, with services and concerts in Fenstanton, Newmarket, Cheveley and the School Carol Service in Soham Parish Church. With the Lower School Choir, twenty four candle bearers, servers and readers, over ninety boys took part in the moving spectacle, as the new form of service progressed from the secular and jovial to the central theme of the 'babe lying in a manger'. Mr Makin and Mr Scott helped devise a completely different set of non-biblical readings, and Alan Coxhead of 5 alpha spotted a possible simple revision of the order during the first performance, which effected a smooth transition from the secular part to the religious section. Over a, thousand people listened to the carols this year af our various performances. The third annual Choir Dinner was held in School in February, with the generous advice and practical help of Mrs Jarratt. A showing of 'Brothers in Law' replaced the traditional' games afterwards.

A lull of about a month followed before we sang next in Chrishall in Essex, to be invited to return on Trinity Sunday to sing a choral evensong at their church Festival. The year was completed to date with the County Music festival and a further visit to Soham Church on Ascension Day.

Since our inception, three years ago, we have performed over forty times in public. We hope now to venture forth next year to attain and maintain an even higher standard. Thanks can here be suitably expressed to Messrs. PD Scott, RJ Makin and CJ Wain for all their willing and devoted help and enthusiasm, and to anyone else who has helped in any way to make our singing pleasurable and possible.

D Bryan and D Scott

see also July 1972 Commemoration Service

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last updated 14 Dec 2007