Choral singing is now more popular in UK than playing football. According to the first Big Choral Census, 2.1 million people sing in choirs while only 1.8 million play football. The number of UK choirs has grown substantially and now stands at around 40,000. Recent TV programmes have demonstrated how singing can be enjoyed on many levels, and people with little or no experience can produce a decent - or even good - sound. 


The first photo above is from the 2018 Advent Carol Service, the second is from the Junior choir and senior Sunday School evening bowling outing at the beginning of 2020.

Junior Church Choir

At the start of autumn 2018 I kick started the Royal School of Church Music's 'Voice for Life' training scheme, which a couple of older members had been through but had been dormant for a few years. Participation is entirely voluntary and I thought that I might get one or two interested but ten members decided to take it up. Eight of them have now reached the end of the 'white' stage and two have passed the blue stage. At the Mothering Sunday service they were presented with certificates, badges and, in the case of those who had achieved the light blue stage, RSCM medals.

The scheme involves completion of work books and reaching stages of competence in singing and music reading. I make myself available for half an hour before each choir practice to do individual work. So extra commitment is involved and it should not be forgotten that parents also have to commit to arriving early and often have to stay for the duration. We are already reaping the benefit as a choir even though most members are only just past the first stage.

We have one or two vacancies coming up which I am starting to fill so for any parents with children between the ages of 8 and 16 who might be interested, now is the time to talk to me. I'm the guy who sits there making a racket at the organ. Well I would be if it weren't still in bits..

The Junior Choristers normally join from 8 years old upwards and can stay until school leaving age but they are also welcomed into the adult choir in their late teens if they wish to make the move.

Photos from a recent Junior Choir 'Social' 

Some join with the adults at special services. Practices take place in church, on average, fortnightly from 18.30 - 19.30. The choir sings at the 10.00 All Age Family Worship Service on the 1st Sunday of the month and at the 10.00 Family Communion Service on the 4th Sunday, also at weddings, at the service of 9 Lessons and Carols before Christmas and at the 4 children’s carol services on Christmas Eve.

New members - probationers - are given instruction on the basics of church choir membership. After passing a few tests they become full members. They can then progress through the Royal School of Church Music’s ‘Voice for Life’ training scheme, learning to read music and how to use the singing voice in the best way.

At present the choir includes a number of really good young singers and this enables us to try doing more and more ambitious music. There are vacancies in the Junior Choir from time to time and I am always happy to discuss the possibilities for membership with parents

Senior Church Choir

This has around 20 members, some of whom have many years experience and read music well, whilst others are relatively new to singing. The choir rehearses from 19.45 to 21.00 every Friday, also at 17.55 on Sunday and sings at 2 services on Sunday plus occasional weddings and funerals.

The primary purpose of a church choir is to lead the singing at services and we spend much time rehearsing for that, but we also aim to sing an anthem every week and also sing a full choral evensong at festivals.

Advent and Christmas carol services and a larger work on Good Friday also give us plenty to do. The repertoire includes some of the best of Anglican church music; for example, at a recent Patronal and Harvest festivals the music included two settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by Charles Villiers Stanford, ‘Hear my Prayer’ by Mendelssohn and ‘O how Amiable’ by Vaughan Williams.

To anyone thinking of joining us this may sound a bit daunting. However, being alongside more experienced singers makes singing much easier; all the choir members are very welcoming and always happy to help newcomers. The choir has an unusual and rather special relaxed approach to working really hard! Those who are interested in swelling the ranks are very welcome to come and try singing at a couple of rehearsals or even just watch what happens for an evening or two.

Clive Brearley -
Junior Choirmaster 

Clive’s interest in music began while at Taunton School.

Therehe started to learn the organ and joined the school choir.

He thought his interest in church music might die down when he left school and started on a hotel management course - the hours in the Hotel Industry don’t mix well with church music – but things did not work out that way.

Within weeks of leaving school he became assistant organist at a local church and started organ lessons in London with David Sanger, who was unknown at the time but became a World class organ recitalist - and a great friend. He soon became a church organist and choirmaster; career just had to fit around it. Holidays were often spent on musical pursuits such as madrigal singing or going to courses on musical interpretation and conducting where he made many friends for life.

After 12 years as a church organist and choirmaster, Clive spent a number of years deputising at churches of almost all denominations and musical standards and conducted a Sidcup based choir. He has been organist at St. Francis Petts Wood for the last 20 years 

Ralph Barlow -
Senior Choirmaster
Ralph was brought up near here, in Orpington and developed much of his love for music under the inspirational Stephen Davies at St Olave’s.

 While at University in Bristol reading mathematics he directed a number of vocal and instrumental groups and sang occasionally as a Lay Clerk at the Cathedral there. 

After teaching in a large Bristol comprehensive school, he moved to Gloucester’s cathedral school where, among more conventional musical pursuits, he directed the first ever performance of Jesus Christ Superstar in a cathedral. 

In more recent years the day-job as Deputy Head at Birkenhead and then Interim Headmaster at Sherborne School have left less time for music outside school, although Ralph was recently pressed into playing the part of “Nanki-Poo” for the Brindley society (photos most definitely not available!). 

Following a family move back to Orpington, with work in London on various educational projects, Ralph is delighted to work with the St Giles choirs, not least because his wife Liz has recently joined the senior choir and two of their three children have just joined the junior choir.  


Let's Sing Together

We run a special choir for those who would like to learn to sing.  This is an exciting opportunity for people to experience the joy and fun to be had in making music with others.  

We meet on the first Monday of each month in St. Giles from 7.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m.  All are welcome, including families (children at least 7 years old please).  

There is no cost involved in joining this.  Refreshments will be served afterwards for those who can stay.   The leader is Clive Brearley. 

If you are interested please contact Clive at or
01689 872545 / 07926 714984., or
return the form on the Downloads page.

Choir Christmas Socials 

It has become a tradition to relax and celebrate Christmas together after the last Friday practice.

Music at Services

St. Giles is one of only a handful of churches in the area that continues to offer a regular Evening service.  Despite significant changes in the make up of the congregation over the years we have still managed to retain a faithful congregation who enjoy attending this service and we continue to attract new people as well. 
For full details of music for the coming term, see the main Services page.