Sunday, October 1, 2023

Old Palmerians Choir

In keeping with the proud choral tradition of Palmer’s School, there will be a splendid addition to the annual Founder’s Day service this year.

The Rector of St Peter’s and St Paul’s Parish Church, Grays, The Reverend Darren Barlow has given his blessing for an ad-hoc choir comprising Old Palmerians to sing at the service on Sunday, November 1 – four days before the school’s founding date.

Palmer’s which exists today in the form of the Sixth Form College at Chadwell St Mary and Grays was founded and endowed 303 years ago by William Palmer, an East London merchant. It provided an elite education for boys and girls from Thurrock and surrounding areas since its inception, firstly for boys, just twelve initially. In the late 1800s, both the Girls’ and Boys’ Schools were housed, in the fine building, now long gone, at the top of Palmer’s Avenue. In 1931, the girls’ school relocated when their new school was built on what is now the expanded College, the culmination of the special relationship between the Palmer’s Trust and Grays Parish Church.

The idea of a choir this year stemmed from a conversation after the 2006 300th anniversary service between three Old Palmerians, Margaret Nathan, Norman Harper and Richard Wade.

Margaret says: “ I went to the Founder’s Day service in 2006 and was surprised that there was no choir or special singing as we had always had special music for Founder’s Day. The idea of a special choir came after discussion with organist Norman Harper and conductor Richard Wade.”

There has been no shortage of volunteers of both sexes who will perform the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimitis, both arranged by Stanford. This after just one rehearsal on the Sunday afternoon before the service at 4.00pm. Mark Vinall, Principal of Palmer’s Sixth Form College, will read the first lesson.

The occasion will b a truly Old Palmerians’ event. In addition to the Old Palmerians, conductor Richard Wade and organist, Norman Harper, the address will be given by Mgr George Stokes, Director of Education for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brentwood, himself an old boy of the school.

Margaret Nathan comes from a Palmer’s family. She studied singing with a teacher from the Guildhall School of Music in London and was also a founder member of the CDOT .

Norman Harper left Palmer’s in 1970 having won an organ scholarship to Caius College, Cambridge where he gained a music degree and has continued to perform as a choral conductor and organ soloist at concerts in St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, King’s College, Cambridge and the National Cathedral, Washington DC as well as on BBC Radio 3. He is Director of the Girls’ Choir and Assistant Organist at St George’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Southwark.

Richard Wade was a member of the school choir and took part in various stage productions, among them as a wonderful Harry Paddington in The Beggar’s Opera at Palmer’s Girls’ School and was organist for school assemblies. From 1977 to 1990 he was Musical Director of Thurrock Choral Society, conducting a repertoire ranging from Messiah and Bach’s St.John Passion to the Verdi Requiem, The Dream of Gerontius and the Vaughan Williams Five Mystical Songs. Since 1999 he has been Musical Director of Thurrock Operatic Society.

If there are any late volunteers or for more information, Margaret Nathan is the choir’s contact person for the November service at:”

The Old Palmerians Association website is:


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