John was appointed as the Director of Music at St Mary’s in January. John was born in Surrey in Jan 1978 and became interested in all things musical from a very early age, particularly the organ. All he can remember wanting to do as a child was to learn to play the organ, but was told that first he had to be big enough to reach the pedals and also be proficient at the piano, so he set about piano lessons.
Not being the tallest person on the planet (or the fastest grower!) proved a source of irritation but, finally, at the age of eleven he had his first organ lesson and there was no turning back. He went for lessons at the Junior Guildhall and the Royal College of Music where he spent a year studying the organ.
Whilst there he was the organ scholar at All Saint’s Church, Margaret Street, W1, and developed a great love for the choral repertoire which he took with him to Keble College, Oxford, where he was the organ scholar and read music. He had a wonderful three years in Oxford and was lucky enough to work with a talented group of singers.
After two years in Cambridge, firstly completing a teacher training course and then working at a school in Saffron Walden, he moved to London to take up my present position of Assistant Director of Music at Latymer Upper School. He has been Director of Music at St Margaret’s Putney for the last two-and-a-half years.
In his free time he plays the piano for musical theatre groups and also play the theatre organ. He very much enjoys cooking, motor racing and following Chelsea Football Club!
Few parishes can boast concert pianists and opera singers among their congregation, but is is not just the professional talent that we have at our disposal as much as the enthusiasm and dedication of many individuals who work together to produce an exceptional standard of music for the parish.
It began with the reopening of the All Saints’ Church. The then curate approached Merry to ask how music could be introduced into the services. Merry was teaching at All Saints’ School at the time, so children seemed to provide the obvious answer. During the Easter Service, the Junior Singers sang for the first time. What began with a dozen children now involves some 50-60 young voices and many performances. The children rehearse each week and sing twice a month in All Saints’ Church. They also do a couple of concerts each year and, of course, the annual busk in Putney Exchange.
Four years after the Junior Singers’ first performance the Singers made their debut with a performance of Stainer’s Crucifixion. Also led by Merry, the Singers perform around four concerts a year. However, unlike the Junior Singers, they just rehearse during the four weeks prior to any performance. Somewhat nerve-rackingly for Merry, she never has her full complement of singers until the night of the performance. According to Merry, singing is the “most energising occupation there is” and she welcomes anyone who wishes to rehearse for a performance.
Having established regular performances for the Singers, Merry and Peter dreamed up the idea of chamber concerts. During a chance meeting with John, Merry discovered that he kept his concert grand piano at All Saints’ Fulham. It was immediately suggested that he move it to Putney and the first chamber concert was given.
The range of music performed is always varied and with a concert hall such as All Saints’ the atmosphere is always special. “The building is our biggest asset,” says John, “it feels as if it is on our side before we even start.”