St. Bartholomew's Polyphony Choir


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The Choir

The choir was founded in 1969 to provide four-part choral singing at a monthly high Mass on a Sunday at St. Bartholomew's Roman Catholic Church. It also sings on the major feasts and solemnities of the Church's liturgical year. In addition to these duties it also generally (but not always!) performs two choral concerts each year, one of which is (always!) the annual Christmas Carol Concert.

Its repertoire spans a period from 15th century polyphony to the output of living composers, with a very special affection for the English sacred music of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

The Choir has sung in both St. Peter's Basilica and the church of St. Ignatius in Rome, Florence Cathedral, St. George's Cathedral Southwark, Southwark Cathedral, Arundel Castle, and a number of churches in southern England.

The current membership of around 30 is mostly drawn from the surrounding south London Boroughs of Lambeth, Croydon and Merton.

The Polyphony Choir is a completely amateur choir, with singers joining without audition

The church is situated on the Norbury / Streatham border. Ample on-street parking is available around the church which is halfway between Norbury and Streatham Common stations. Buses 50, 109, 250, 255 and G1 stop nearby. See How to find us for more details.

Rehearsals take place every Tuesday evening (apart from during the school summer holidays) in the church from 20:00 to 21:30.

There are currently no auditions, no subscription fees, and music is loaned free of charge. It welcomes members from mid-teens upwards to Freedom Pass holders! GCSE and A Level music students are able to gain formal accreditation for Group Music Making. The choir welcomes anyone of any religious denomination, or none, with a love of sacred choral music.

In addition to its music, the choir enjoys a very happy social life.

Frequently asked questions

How do I join the choir? Just turn up on any Tuesday evening just before 20:00 and you'll receive a warm welcome! Access to the Choir Gallery is from the double doors facing onto Ellison Road.

How many members do you have? We currently have around 35 members.

Will I have to wear anything special? No, we do not have choir gowns or anything like it. Just normal everyday clothing is fine.

Do you hold auditions? You are not required to audition for the choir, just have a love of singing. If you would feel more confident about joining by knowing more about your vocal range and capabilities then, by all means, do contact Tony Price for a chat.

Which voice will I be asked to sing? We generally sing in four parts. Ladies with higher voices sing soprano, those with lower voices sing contralto. Gentlemen with higher voices sing tenor, those with lower voices sing bass. You will soon discover the voice with which you are most comfortable.

How often would I be asked to sing? We practise every Tuesday evening from 20:00 to 21:30pm, running through to 21:45 if necessary. We generally sing at the 11:30 Mass on the first Sunday of each month, and also at Christmas Midnight Mass, on Maundy Thursday, at the Good Friday Solemnity, at the Easter Vigil and on the great feast of Christ the King.

What is the annual subscription rate? Membership of the Polyphony Choir is entirely free.

How old do I have to be to join the choir? We prefer to encourage people to join us from mid/late teens onwards, when their adult voices have settled down.

Am I too old to join the choir? There is no upper age limit to our membership.

Is the music difficult? The majority of of our music is extremely approachable, and of modest difficulty only. It is loaned to members free of charge.

What kind of music do you sing? We have a huge repertoire of music from 15th century polyphony as written by Palestrina and Victoria, through baroque music such as that by Bach and Handel, music by Mozart, Franck and Fauré, right through to the modern styles of John Rutter, Bob Chilcott and others. We also have music that has been recently commissioned by us from Nicholas Wilton. Our archive contains music from a great number of other composers. We are especially fond of the music of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, particularly that of the popular Catholic composers of the time such as Charles Kitson and Joseph Turner OSB.

Do I need to be a Roman Catholic to join the choir? No: the choir extends a very warm welcome to anyone of any religious denomination, or none.

Do I need to live in the parish to join the choir? No: the choir currently draws its membership from a wide area, particularly the London Boroughs of Lambeth, Croydon and Merton.

Do I need a sense of humour? This is extremely desirable! We like to have fun whilst we are making music!!

Will there be an opportunity to play the organ? Yes, there are possible opportunities to play the organ, and people with confident keyboard skills and a reasonable sight-reading ability will be encouraged in this direction.

What else does the choir do besides singing at Mass? The choir has an annual Christmas Carol Concert, and sometimes sings as a guest choir in another church. In addition, we are asked to sing at weddings occasionally. We have a bit of easy-going fun fund-raising from time to time, to ensure continuing investment in new music, and to retain our subscription-free status. Once a year we have a Mass of Thanksgiving, a Choir party and an outing to somewhere of interest. Currently published details may be found on our Choir Diary page.

The Church

Is there a Hearing Loop System in the church? Yes, a Loop System (AFIL) is in place.

Is there disabled access? St. Bartholomew's does it's utmost to accommodate the needs of those with disabilities. Whilst the church is accessible to people with mobility disabilities, the choir gallery is, unfortunately, both approached by stairs and the seating is then stepped by design. The Choir has an open membership policy, and is always happy to meet individual needs as far as it is reasonably able to.

How do I ask a different question? Just drop Tony Price a line from our Contacts page

Click HERE for brief details of the other choirs at St. Bartholomew's