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St John's choir welcomes former Eton music director Ralph Allwood.

Volunteers from the music group: Liz Clapp, Sheila Kleyn and Yukie Paine
Members of the two St John’s choirs, with Ralph Allwood (top right)
Father Stephen Tucker, with Friends' vice-chairwoman Elizabeth Beesley

Published: 22 September 2011

HOW many churches can boast a professional choir with BBC singers and Eton’s former director of music at the helm?
The Parish Church of St John at Church Row in Hampstead threw a party on Sunday afternoon to raise funds for its prestigious music programme and to welcome Ralph Allwood, music director at Eton College for 26 years, as acting head of music while choirmaster Lee Ward is on sabbatical in Brazil.
Mr Allwood said St John’s eight-person professional choir was “a luxury” that was kept going by a congregation who loved music.
“Music in Anglican churches is one of this country’s best kept secrets,” he said. “Some people are put off by the other bits and bobs but they needn’t be. 
“There is a terrific richness of choral music in a beautiful setting.”
The church hosts a choral service on Sunday mornings and again in the evening.
Yukie Paine, a volunteer with the church’s fundraising arm, Friends of the Music, said congregations of 200 were not uncommon.

She said she had first attended the church 17 years ago when she was trying to get her daughter into its school, but had “got stuck” and become a regular.

Father Stephen Tucker, vicar at St John’s, applauded the ambitious music programme as “a way into church life”. Mr Ward, who is studying plainsong in a Benedictine monastery in Sao Paulo, is due to return at Christmas.


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