Thames Philharmonic Choir (TPC) will kick off its Golden Jubilee season with a performance of the Messiah, which in 1964 featured in the first performances of the two choirs that subsequently merged to form TPC under the baton of Artistic Director John Bate. The Choir, many of whose members are drawn from the Boroughs of Richmond, Kingston and Wandsworth, returns to the newly refurbished All Saints’ Kingston for the first of its Golden Jubilee concerts on 6 December.
The Choir’s formation and development is synonymous with John Bate who was founder, in 1964, of both the Putney Bach Choir and the Richmond Choral Society. In 1975, the two choirs merged and subsequently became well-known in South-West London as the John Bate Choir – described as a provisional name. It took another 20 years for the Choir to agree on a permanent name: Thames Philharmonic Choir was finally adopted in 1995.
Looking back on the last 50 years, John Bate says:
“Thames Philharmonic Choir, under its various names, has been a constant thread throughout most of my adult life and professional musical career. Choirs, orchestras and opera work, together with my teaching in schools and universities, have come and gone over the last half-century, while the Choir has progressed from its beginnings as a pair of local authority evening classes to a position where it is recognised as one of the finest around. I am very proud of what the Choir has achieved and delighted that so many members have remained for many years.”
The Choir twice won the National Choral Competition held at the Royal Albert Hall, and subsequently embarked on an annual series of appearances in the South Bank Queen Elizabeth Hall. Short tours abroad became a regular feature of Choir life, and in the 1980s a performing partnership with the Symphonic Choir of the historic City of Konstanz on the German-Swiss border was established – and continues to thrive to this day. In the 1990s, regular summer cathedral residencies began, and in the last few years Cadogan Hall has become the Choir’s central London venue of choice.
Reviewing the Choir’s most recent concert at St Andrew’s Surbiton in June 2014, Kingston-based composer Kevin Jones wrote:
“As it approaches its fiftieth anniversary season next year, John Bate and the Thames Philharmonic Choir can justifiably take great pride in the outstanding contribution they have made and continue to make to the cultural life of South West London and beyond.”