Welcome to St. Peter's Church Stockton-on-Tees
Vicar's Monthly Letters -
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 10:11




Choir news
Thursday, 23 September 2010 18:19


In last month’s magazine I mentioned a forthcoming exam to be taken

by Kate Short – RSCM Dean’s Award.

We were delighted to hear recently that Kate passed with a high

mark of 77% - a commendation.

On Saturday 25 June Kate will be presented with her Bronze

medal in Durham Cathedral during the RSCM Choirs’ Festival.

George Barber


Away from the routine weekly services and rehearsals, members of our Junior Choir are very active:

  • In February four of them attended a three-day RSCM course in Newcastle Cathedral;
  • (Ella, Kate, Laura)
  • This summer, three of them will attend an RSCM residential course in Whitby;
  • (Euan, Lydia, Laura)
  • One of our members has been successful in being selected for the Northern Cathedral
  • Singers which involves visiting famous cathedrals for a day; intensive rehearsals are
  • followed by a service of worship with full musical settings. Places listed for 2016
  • are the cathedrals of Chester, Manchester, York, Liverpool, Selby and Hull (Holy Trinity)
  • – (Laura)
  • On the evening 11 June the Junior Choir will sing songs from musicals at the Salvation
  • Army Citadel as part of a Charity Concert. A former choir member, Isabelle West
  • (sister of Beth), is raising money for the building of schools and houses in Tanzania.
  • Next year she will go out there to help with the project;
  • In May one of our members took the RSCM Dean’s Award exam in Durham.
  • If successful she will be presented with the Dean’s Medal in Durham Cathedral
  • at the RSCM Festival on 25 June.
  • (Kate)

For the festivities planned on Saturday 11 June, for the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations,

a 30-minute concert will be given during the course of the afternoon by St Peter’s Choir

and Andrew Wilson (organ).

The royal theme will include a choral piece by the 20th century composer, Elizabeth Poston,

‘The Queen’s Hymn - God save Elizabeth our Queen, Defend her in thy right’. The words ar

e from the Accession Service of Queen Elizabeth 1, 1558.

Andrew’s pieces will also have a royal theme and will include his own transcription of William Walton’s

famous Coronation March – ‘Orb and Sceptre’.

Should be good!

George Barber


Many people have commented recently how good it is to see the front choir stalls

completely full: on several Sundays in March and April as many as 17/18/19 young

members of the choir have been in attendance at the Sung Eucharist.

The rapid growth of Junior Choir membership during recent months accounts for such an

increase and how encouraging that six of the members are boys!

Such numbers are not unique to our choir. Looking back at old registers I note that throughout

a large part of the 20th century an average of 18-22 trebles were regular and faithful members


of St Peter’s Choir (all boys, of course - in those days girls were not allowed to sing in the choir…

.where would we be without our young ladies today?).

During one period in the 1970's we had 33 boys in the choir: chairs had to placed in front

of the choir stalls in order to accommodate them all.

Many of our new members are very young and it will take time for them to develop strong

voices and to learn the choir’s extensive repertoire; nevertheless we now have a strong base on

which to build, and there is much hope for sustaining our choir’s contributions over the years to come.

George Barber

George Barber


During the summer Laura Toomey, one of our choristers, was

successful in gaining her RSCM Dean’s Award with a very high

mark. (The examiner was James Lancelot of Durham Cathedral.)

As a result of her success Laura was asked to read one of the

lessons in the cathedral during the annual RSCM Festival – this she

also accomplished with much distinction, reading slowly and clearly.

Laura received many compliments including one from the Bishop of

Durham with whom she was photographed afterwards.


The Junior Choir, which was set up two years ago, continues tothrive and progress. Importantly, virtually all children who were involved in its inauguration have stuck together and been consistent in their attendances at Friday choir practices and Sunday services. During the last year five new members have been admitted bringing the total number of members to fourteen.

The two senior ladies in the choir, Julie and Beth, provide assistance at choir practices and, of course, on Sunday mornings.

A repertoire has been built up over the two years to such an extent that thirty-five hymn/songs have been sung at the Sunday morning Eucharist by this young group. On a few occasions they have combined with the older members of the choir for the motet/anthem, notably a few weeks ago when all members of the choir sang ‘Call of Wisdom’ by Will Todd, and a special part was sung by the Junior Choir. This piece was commissioned for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee service in St Paul’s Cathedral last year.

With regard to the future it is hoped that we can attract more young children to join our Junior Choir and that older existing  members will soon move into the senior choir and take a fuller part in the choir’s music.

George Barber

A photograph in the vestry,  shows two young choirboys dressed smartly with choir robes and taken exactly one hundred years ago -1913 – by Thirwell and Co., formerly of Bridge Road, Stockton.

I have to express a personal interest in the photograph as both of them were my uncles: they were the two eldest male members of the Matson Family, Norman (Len Matson’s father) and Jack.

Little did those two little boys know that together they would give 155 years of service, man and boy, to St Peter’s Choir – Norman 70 years, from 1907 to 1978; and Jack 85 years, from 1912 to 1998.

Norman had a very fine tenor voice and sang many solos; Jack was a most reliable bass/baritone who rarely missed a lead. Both in their younger days were superb trebles.

Furthermore they had four younger brothers – Wilf, Albert, Fred and Len – all of whom gave many years of service to the choir.

They had only one sister, Doris, who was not allowed to join the choir. Instead she gave birth to two organists!

George Barber


As we approach the sixtieth anniversary of our queen’s coronation it is worth recalling that the choir assembled for this historic event included, for the first time, members from parish church choirs. St Peter’s was requested to provide a boy chorister and Barry Smith (who still lives locally – a cousin to Martin and Dorothy) was selected by choirmaster, Stanley Bragg, to go to Addington Palace, Croydon – then the home of the RSCM – for a month of hard work before the big day. Barry was one of just twenty choristers selected.

For the choristers Coronation Day began very early and by

6:30 a.m. they were robed and lined up in the cloisters at the Abbey. Each had been provided with a picnic to fit into their cassock pockets – Ovaltine and glucose tablets, barley sugar, bread and butter, an apple and a ¼ lb slab of chocolate, all of which was consumed before the service.

They were placed in the orchestra gallery which provided them with a wonderful view of the assembled congregation.

The music included works from the great choral tradition of British composers – Howells, Harris, Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Stanford and Walton. All of this in addition to the two pieces which have become fixtures in coronation ceremonies – Parry’s ‘I was glad’ and Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’ resounding through the Abbey with the power of a full orchestra, organ and military fanfares.

Afterwards the boys were released to devour a splendid buffet.

It was a very important move to allow parish church choristers to join the great Coronation Choir of cathedral choristers and a special honour for St Peter’s to be one of the few selected.

George Barber


Parkfield Carol Service held  in The Old Holy Trinity Church Ruins

December 2010 and December  2012

Attended by members of St Peter's Choir Yarm Rd Stockton on Tees

And Rev'd Philip Ashdown (Vicar of St Peter's)

Photographs taken by Roger Finney.

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On 22 November a small group of St Peter’s people enjoyed a memorable day trip to attendthe Memorial Service for our former vicar (1970-77) Bishop Tony Dumper in the magnificensetting of Worcester Cathedral.

It was a great occasion for St Peter’s with former curates David Hawtin (retired Bishop of Repton), who gave one of the addresses, Nigel Stock (Bishop of St Edmundsbury), who read the prayers, Canon Neil Heavisides, Charles Wickham-Jones, David and Jennifer Smith in attendance; and, of course, all of Tony’s and Sybille’s offspring: Nicholas and family, Michael and family, Hildegarde and Jason.

Those of us who remember Tony will know of his humility and social awareness, his respect and acceptance of other people’s views, even when they were diametrically opposed to his own, his regard for fairness and equity, and his innovative approaches to change within church and society.

Such qualities were wonderfully illustrated in Bishop David Hawtin’s address, when projects and developments within the parish of St Peter’s, Stockton, during the 1970s, came closely into focus: post-confirmation groups; Tuesday working party; ecumenical and inter-faith contacts; and the effective partnership with his beloved wife, Sybille, who is also remembered here with such affection.

St Peter’s, Stockton, was placed firmly on the map!

It was both interesting and surprising to hear further the extent of Tony’s involvement with so many other groups across Stockton, Teesside and Durham during his seven years at St Peter’s.

This was very much the case when he moved away to become Bishop of Dudley. He became very active in a large number of community groups, both inside and outside the church, and this continued long after he retired.

Two other addresses were given: firstly by Rev Dr Paul Oestreicher, formerly a Residentiary Canon of Coventry Cathedral, who spoke of Tony’s humility and social conscience – he mentioned that both had been conscientious objectors during the war, even though both their fathers had received military crosses in WW1– Tony’s father, a British cross, and his, a German one; secondly by his two grand-daughters, Lauren and Eleanor (Nicholas’ daughters) who spoke of the love they had for their grandfather and how he telephoned them every Sunday evening to keep up with their news.

Worcester Cathedral was full for the service with bishops and deans, clergy and lay-readers, a wide range of community representatives, relations from Germany, friends and family. The service was enriched by the music – a full cathedral choir singing Edgar Bainton’s ‘And I saw a New Heaven’ and Tippett’s arrangement of ‘Steal Away’ from his oratorio, ‘A Child of Our Time’.

It was indeed a memorable occasion which marked the life of a true Christian who held firmly to his beliefs and who applied, in every sense, the principles of his religion to his daily life.

George Barber


Members of the choir are always very busy at Christmas as demonstrated by the aboveprogramme; however, there are additional commitments.

When Mary Butterwick lost her husband, John, she set up a mini-hospice within her own home in Hartburn Lane and St Peter’s choirboys were invited to sing carols after their pre-Christmas Wednesday tea-time practice. Since then the tradition has continued to the present day progressing through the years to a larger home in Newtown, and on to the magnificent Butterwick Hospice complex in Hardwick.

The choir now visits the hospice for the non-residents’ party during the week before Christmas and returns at 7:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve to sing to the resident patients who are too poorly to return home…..time for a little bit of supper before the Midnight Eucharist later in the evening.

Our choir supports a Community Carol Service which has been taking place in recent years within the ruins of old Holy Trinity Church in Yarm Lane. The event embraces denominations and religions and is organised by the Local Residents’ Association and supported by Stockton Borough Council. The effective lighting and the open wintry skies create a quite unique atmosphere. The Salvation Army Band and St Cuthbert’s RC Primary School Choir join our own choir in providing a wide range of carols for all.

This year the event takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Monday 17 December. It would be good to see more people from St Peter’s in attendance especially if they have had a previous association with the old church (I recall being confirmed there in 1959). Wear a pair of boots for the approaches!

George Barber


‘Unsung’ heroes is hardly an expression to suit those who sing in choirs; however, St Peter’s choirmen are certainly heroes to me.

Their commitment and consistency to duty have always been evident to me over many years and particularly so when circumstances have prevented me from playing a full part in recent musical activities. Like Peter Kay’s sturdy Hobnob biscuits they pop up again and again when duty calls.

This year has produced attractions and distractions through the many sporting events of this memorable summer. Friday and Sunday evening sporting attractions could well have persuaded the less committed to say at home; but the choirmen of St Peter’s, though sport-crazy themselves, have supported their choir like committed Olympians.





As well as the traditional version of "Ding Dong Merrily on high". St Peter's choir over the years has sung a number of interesting arrangements by contemporary conposers/arrangers of the popular carol. On Sunday 18th December at the The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols yet another version by the American composer Mack Wilberg, will be sung

John Rutter carols will also feature as well as an ancient carol the The Coventry Carol--which has been sung here for decades.As usual there will be many carols for the congregation participation


St Peter’s Junior Choir continues to make good progress. Six young singers joined the choir at its inception in June and they’re still together, rehearsing each Friday evening and singing special songs and anthems at the Sunday morning Eucharist.

At such a young age their reading skills are limited (‘Immortal invisible…’ is a bit beyond them at the moment) so at rehearsals they are taught by rote.

They are preparing to sing Christmas carols/songs during the forthcoming seasonal period and it is hoped that on these occasions they will be able to attract more recruits.

Special thanks are extended to the choristers’ parents and grandparents  who have supported this venture so strongly. This is essential to the continuation and success of our new choir.

George Barber


The Festival of Nine Lesson an Carols will take place three Sundays later on 18 December (yes, Christmas Day is on a Sunday this year). Details of carols will be provided next month.

Whatever happened to.......?

It’s always interesting to discover where in the world we can find some of our ex-choristers. Recently two intriguing pieces of information came to light from across the Atlantic.

Jason Waddleton (a treble here between 1979 and 1982) is making big news in Boston, US, where he has opened ‘The Haven Restaurant’. The bar is named in homage to his beloved Stonehaven (where his family moved after leaving Teesside – and where Anne Finney’s mum still resides today) and he has introduced his Boston clientele to some of its famous features: Cullen Skink, Sassitch and Mash, Finnan Haddie, Tattie Scones, Lorne Sausage, Fireballing (a Stonehaven New Year tradition) and, of course, Haggis.

Jason is clearly an enterprising young man for as well as enjoying the success of this latter venture he also won the 2006 Best Bartender, the ‘Best Pie in Boston’ Competition with his Beef and Ale Pie, and recently gained acclaim for his record label ‘Pub Records’ and for his musical arrangements for the Brooklyn Pop Group, ‘Punchdrunk’.

During Len and Pauline’s recent world tour they visited New Zealand and met with Judith Bylett, a former member of our congregation. They discovered that Judith’s youngest son, Robert (a treble here between 1986 and 1994), now lives in New York and is making his name as a very popular disc jockey with one of the city’s principal radio stations.

His success in this role enabled him to be selected as the official disc jockey for the New York Marathon – providing ongoing music for the entertainment of crowds and competitors during the race.

I’m not sure that their years as young choristers in St Peter’s has had any influence on their recent achievements, but it’s really good to learn of such enterprising ventures. Good luck to them both.

George Barber


Latest News

Toddlers' Praise

in St Peter's Church, Yarm Rd Stockton on Tees

Mondays from 9.15am to 10.30am in term time. For Pre-school children with their parents or carers.

Come along and join us for a fun morning of singing, playing, Bible stories, chat, coffee and biscuits,

For further details contact 01642 611603