Choral singing is now more popular in UK than playing football. According to the first Big Choral Census, 2.1 million people sing in choirs while only 1.8 million play football. The number of UK choirs has grown substantially and now stands at around 40,000. Recent TV programmes have demonstrated how singing can be enjoyed on many levels, and people with little or no experience can produce a decent - or even good - sound. 

The photos on this page were taken Easter 2023 and show the choir in high spirits following Easter Sunday choral evensong.

Junior Church Choir

The Junior Choristers normally join from 8 years old upwards and can stay until school leaving age but they are also welcomed into the adult choir in their late teens if they wish to make the move.

Some join with the adults at special services. Practices take place in church, on average, fortnightly from 18.30 - 19.30. The choir sings at the 10.00 All Age Family Worship Service on the 1st Sunday of the month and at the 10.00 Family Communion Service on the 4th Sunday, also at weddings, at the service of 9 Lessons and Carols before Christmas and at the 4 children’s carol services on Christmas Eve.

New members - probationers - are given instruction on the basics of church choir membership. After passing a few tests they become full members. They can then progress through the Royal School of Church Music’s ‘Voice for Life’ training scheme, learning to read music and how to use the singing voice in the best way.

At present the choir includes a number of really good young singers and this enables us to try doing more and more ambitious music. There are vacancies in the Junior Choir from time to time and we are always happy to discuss the possibilities for membership with parents

Senior Church Choir

This has around 20 members, some of whom have many years experience and read music well, whilst others are relatively new to singing. The choir rehearses from 19.45 to 21.00 every Friday, also at 17.55 on Sunday and sings at 2 services on Sunday plus occasional weddings and funerals.

The primary purpose of a church choir is to lead the singing at services and we spend much time rehearsing for that, but we also aim to sing an anthem every week and also sing a full choral evensong at festivals.

Advent and Christmas carol services and a larger work on Good Friday also give us plenty to do. The repertoire includes some of the best of Anglican church music; for example, at a recent Patronal and Harvest festivals the music included two settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by Charles Villiers Stanford, ‘Hear my Prayer’ by Mendelssohn and ‘O how Amiable’ by Vaughan Williams.

To anyone thinking of joining us this may sound a bit daunting. However, being alongside more experienced singers makes singing much easier; all the choir members are very welcoming and always happy to help newcomers. The choir has an unusual and rather special relaxed approach to working really hard! Those who are interested in swelling the ranks are very welcome to come and try singing at a couple of rehearsals or even just watch what happens for an evening or two.

Music at Services

St. Giles is one of only a handful of churches in the area that continues to offer a regular evening service.  Despite significant changes in the make up of the congregation over the years we have still managed to retain a faithful congregation who enjoy attending this service and we continue to attract new people as well. 


Ralph Barlow - Choirmaster

Ralph was brought up near here, in Orpington and developed much of his love for music under the inspirational Stephen Davies at St Olave’s.

While at University in Bristol reading mathematics he directed a number of vocal and instrumental groups and sang occasionally as a Lay Clerk at the Cathedral there. 

After teaching in a large Bristol comprehensive school, he moved to Gloucester’s cathedral school where, among more conventional musical pursuits, he directed the first ever performance of Jesus Christ Superstar in a cathedral.  
Following a family move back to Orpington, with work in London on various educational projects, Ralph is delighted to work with the St Giles choirs

Clive Brearley - Organist

Clive’s interest in music began while at Taunton School. There he started to learn the organ and joined the school choir. He thought his interest in church music might die down when he left school and started on a hotel management course - the hours in the Hotel Industry don’t mix well with church music – but things did not work out that way.

Within weeks of leaving school he
became assistant organist at a local church and started organ lessons in London with David Sanger, who was unknown at the time but became a World class organ recitalist - and a great friend.
He soon became a church organist and choirmaster; career just had to fit around it. Holidays were often spent on musical
pursuits such as madrigal singing or going to courses on musical
interpretation and conducting where he made many friends for life.