Thameside Clarinet Choir


The Choir evolved from a course in Clarinet Playing taught by Christopher Hooker at the Kingston Adult Education Centre in 1972, and was formed in September 1973. Its first concert was given on 15th May 1976 at the Church of St John the Divine, New Malden, having changed its name the previous year from the Kingston Adult Education Centre Clarinet Choir to the Thameside Clarinet Choir. In 1975 and subsequent years the Choir successfully entered several classes in the Richmond upon Thames Music Festival.

The following year the Choir held the first of many residential playing weekends at Little Benslow Hills, the home of the Rural Music Schools Association at Hitchin, now the Benslow Music Trust. These continued on a regular basis for several years, occasionally running jointly with the Goldsmith's College Clarinet Choir directed by Liz Lock.

Following a major change in work commitments in 1980, Christopher left the Choir which continued as an evening class for one more year, directed by Walter Wurzburger. During this year rehearsals began to be held at the home of Jo Ward, one of the members, and were conducted by Gill Porter, the leader of the Choir. These players were known as the 'Thursday Group'.

Gill moved to Devon in 1983 and Peter Morris took over. In 1985, Peter introduced the Playing Days, a tradition which continues to the present time. Throughout the 80's and 90's, Martin and Jenny Goodman produced countless arrangements for us. We are also indebted to Michael Bryant for providing us with so many interesting compositions from all over the world.

Jo moved house and the group began to meet at Ann Varah's house in Surbiton. Tragically, Ann Varah died in 1997, but her husband, David, wished the group to continue playing there, which it did up until it moved to to the Malden Centre in September 1999.

In 1991 the choir was joined by John Ainsworth and when, later that year, Martin and Jenny Goodman needed time to cope with Martin's failing eyesight, John took over the administration of the choir, and the playdays, and continued to do this until 1999. In 1997 the playday venue at Southlands College, Wimbledon, was re-developed and John and Peter Morris negotiated the change to the Gateway Studios in Kingston University. In 1999 the administration of the choir was taken over by Sophie McLoughlin, Liz Pope and Barbara Haynes.

In December 1998, after a long and rewarding time with the Choir, Peter Morris left. Now began the Choir's relationship with Kneller Hall as the next three conductors were all student bandmasters. The first, Simon Haw, became conductor in January 1999.

The next Kneller Hall musician to conduct the Choir was Stewart (Doc) Halliday who took over in January 2000 until, like Simon, a new posting forced his retirement. Greg Machin, another Kneller colleague succeeded him and remained until December 2002.

Christopher Hooker, who had rejoined the choir as a player two years previously, was then invited to conduct, and took up the appointment in January 2003. Over the next four years he produced many new arrangements for the Choir.

In September 2003 the Choir moved its rehearsal venue from the Malden Centre to St John's Church in Kingston Road, New Malden. In 2006, it started giving public concerts and has performed in St James's Church, Hampton Hill, and the YMCA Hawker Centre in Ham. Chris Hooker retired from the Choir in December 2007 to concentrate more on playing and performing.

Martin Hinckley, who joined the choir as a player in 2005, succeeded Chris in 2007. The rehearsal venue was moved to Christ Church New Malden C of E Primary School in New Malden, Surrey and the venue for the playdays was moved to King George's Hall, Esher, both in 2010. Around that time the Choir started entertaining the pensioners at the Royal Star & Garter Home in Richmond by performing afternoon concerts and also put on regular charity concerts for the Greenwood Centre, Hampton Hill. Find out about these on the page Concerts and about the continuing Playdays on the page Playdays. Photos from many of these concerts and playdays from this time can be found on the Gallery. Martin added several new compositions and arrangements to the TCC's growing repertoire and the Choir grew in numbers and standard of playing.

Martin retired from being the Musical Director at the end of 2014 but continued playing in the group on a variety of instruments. Starting a new venture in 2015, Victor Kee and Jake Muffet, already performing members, started sharing the position but could not continue this for a variety of reasons. Consequently in September 2016, Martin took up the reins again.