The History of Thames Vale Singers

The first green shoots of Thames Vale Singers appeared in the late forties as a choir formed by Mary Richards from Women’s Institute members.

By 1953 the WI were meeting in the newly built Purley Memorial Hall and as time went by Mary decided she would like to expand the choir’s repertoire by getting some men involved. In 1958 the first men were recruited and the choir was given a name, Thames Vale Singers. The name was chosen because of the view from the window of the Memorial Hall across the Thames valley.

In these early days the choir performed full versions of musicals by Gilbert and Sullivan, in costume, on a small stage at the rear of the Memorial Hall. The line of the stage curtains is still in place today.
After 1975 the choir performed concert versions of the Gilbert and Sullivan musicals. Throughout these years Mary Richards continued to conduct the choir but outside producers were brought in to organise shows.

Records show that in 1970 the choir had a formal set-up with Mary Richards as President with four Vice Presidents. None of the Vice Presidents appear to have had a contributing role to productions.

From the late 1970’s the choir started performing more song based concerts in addition to concert versions of Gilbert and Sullivan. While the G&S concerts continued to be held at Purley Memorial Hall the choir was starting holding its other concerts further afield. The last performances of Gilbert and Sullivan were of HMS Pinafore on the 8th March 1994 at the Tilehurst Methodist Church and Trial By Jury and HMS Pinafore on 21st May 1994 at Purley Memorial Hall.

From 1994 things changed and the choir’s repertoire has now a much broader base which includes part songs, spirituals, madrigals, popular music, sacred and classical – almost anything in fact.
Over the years there have been a number of Musical Directors, each making their own contribution to the choir. Since 1975 these have included: Brian Joll, Mary Harwood, Jess Lawes, Alex Taylor, Tony Mercer, Dr Derek Watson, Bernard Soper, Max Fane.

Our current MD, a GP Dr Timothy Robson, joined the choir in September 2017. With a family background in choral music he has brought his own character and expertise to the choir.
Peter Bernard, the accompanist and Assistant Musical Director, has been with the choir since 1980. His expertise as accompanist or soloist on piano, electronic keyboard and traditional organ is a major asset to the choir.

Our base continues to be Purley Memorial Hall and we rehearse there from 7.50pm to 10.00pm on a Tuesday evening. We believe in open access and require no auditions or demonstration of previous musical experience from potential members. The choir continues to be a welcoming group.