Yule feel festive as concerts fill St Mary’s Church with joy

Two choirs are to bring the joys of the season to St Mary’s Church in Swanage, Dorset with concerts of festive music.

St Mary’s Church Choir is going to perform its first concert since before Covid, led by renowned broadcaster, composer and arranger Simon Lole, with a short programme of Advent music at the church on Saturday 2nd December 2023.


The Belvedere Singers will be back at St Mary’s Church, Swanage, for a festive concert

Concert title taken from a festive madrigal

The following week, distinguished composer Clive Watkiss will lead Swanage based choir the Belvedere Singers in their annual Christmas concert at St Mary’s, on Saturday 9th December 2023.

Between them, the two concerts will showcase the town’s musical talents with a standard usually experienced in major cities and are set to put everyone in the mood for Christmas celebrations.

The Belvedere Singers’ concert, Hey! Ding-a-ding, is a mix of traditional and carols and Christmas songs with the concert title taken from Throw Open Your Shutters, a festive madigral which is part of a move to widen the choir’s repertoire.

Music director Clive Watkiss at rehearsals with The Belvedere Singers

“I do try to stretch the choir”

Music director of The Belvedere Singers, Clive Watkiss, who is music teacher at the leading independent school of St Swithun’s in Winchester, said:

“We try to have a wide and varied programme so as not to be pigeon holed. We do pieces from the great American song book, we have done some Lloyd Webber before, and we sing some of the Christmas classics.

“But we’ve also tackled a composition by Estonian Arvo Part, as I do try to stretch the choir. People don’t have to audition before joining, so it’s not an elitist choir, but we try to reach the same high standards.

“We have learned to sing some quite complex pieces with changes of time signatures. I’m really pleased with the way things are going and especially pleased with the sound they make – and when they make a good sound, everyone feels good!”

Clive Watkiss uses humour and expertise to get the best out of his choir

Isabelle Butler, accompanist for The Belvedere Singers since 2000, at the keyboard with Beryl Hardy

Music from every century since 1500

Clive Watkiss added:

“We make the rehearsals fun where possible – it’s not dreadfully serious, because what is most important is that they enjoy their time here. I do have my own agenda of trying to stretch them as far as I can, but in the nicest possible way!

“We have covered music from every century since about the 1500s right up to the modern day during the years I have been teaching them.

“The only tradition I have created is to always sing We Wish You A Merry Christmas at the end of the concert, otherwise we try to mix things up so that we have popular favourites like White Christmas alongside less familiar pieces – like a 16th Century Spanish carol in Spanish!”


St Mary’s Choir make a long awaited public return on Saturday 2nd December 2023

First concert in many years

Music director for St Mary’s Choir, Simon Lole, who has been both arranger and musical director for such artists as Aled Jones, Laura Wright and Celeste, said:

“St Mary’s Choir is going to perform its first concert in many years at the start of December, and the centrepiece will be J.S. Bach’s wonderful Advent cantata Wachet Auf.

“We shall be joined by the Cleynert String Quartet and some woodwind musicians, all members of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra who will accompany the choir and who will also play William Boyce’s Symphony no 4.

“The programme will also include many Advent favourites, including Come Thou, Redeemer of the Earth by Praetorius, This is the Truth sent from Above by Vaughan Williams and Hymn to the Virgin by our very own David Fawcett.”


St Mary’s Church Choir Musical Director Simon Lole is a regular conductor, arranger and organist for the BBC’s Songs Of Praise

St Mary’s Church Choir Advent Concert

  • Saturday 2nd December 2023, 6.30 pm at St Mary’s Church
  • Advent favourites including music by Palestrina, Poston, Praetorius and David Fawcett
  • Admission on the door is £10

Weekly practise for The Belvedere Singers is at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Swanage

The Belvedere Singers present Hey! Ding-a-ding

  • Saturday 9th December 2023, 7.30pm at St Mary’s Church
  • Programme includes The Sussex Carol, Winter Wonderland, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
  • Admission on the door is £7 with under 18s free
  • There will be a retiring collection for the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance

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