The Surrey Hills Singing School was established in 2005 by Debbie Walton to encourage and foster singing for people of all ages and abilities within the Surrey Hills area in Surrey, UK.
From small beginnings in the village of Ewhurst, it expanded to include several different types of choir, mixed, ladies, and children, with singers from all over the Guildford, Godalming, Cranleigh, Dorking and Farnham areas. Although the younger choirs, Surrey Hills Young Voices and Surrey Hills Training Choir, have not been in operation since the Covid pandemic, the adult choirs are back to their full strength and vigour.
To find out more about who we are, what we do and how to join us, please read on...
The Surrey Hills Chamber Choir
We sing everything from Monteverdi to the Eurythmics, in languages from Latin to Latvian...and even English! Our repertoire changes constantly.
We're a small ensemble where every voice is valued. Our un-conducted a cappella performances rely on each singer contributing equally, knowing every nuance, articulation, dynamic and emotion of the music and delivering it without being prompted, and there are also opportunities to sing short solos, or even whole solo pieces in some concerts.
Repertoire and Standards
As well as our local concerts in and around the Surrey Hills we love to travel and to compete, from Manchester and Harrogate to Barcelona and Vienna.
Amongst a variety of accolades both big and small, we were named BBC Adult Choir of the Year in 2012, we won the Cheltenham Amateur Choral Festival in 2019, were runners-up in the Manchester Amateur Choral Competition (MACC) in 2020, winners of the Sacred Music Award at the Cardiff International Choral Festival in 2022, and in 2023 we're recently returned from the Llangollen International Eisteddfod.
The performance schedule is discussed and agreed by choir members at a pace suitable for the choir in order to achieve these high standards. The choir receives training on good singing technique, how to communicate the song to the audience, and good presentation, as a good performance is all about the whole “package”. Although targeted at experienced singers, sight-reading is not absolutely essential, as audio files are also provided to assist with learning.
Wednesdays from 7.30pm–10.00pm in central Guildford, usually at the United Reformed Church GU2 4BS. One or two extra rehearsals are normally scheduled prior to a performance. We work hard, but very much in a friendly, supportive atmosphere where input from the choir is encouraged.
Choir numbers vary but we usually have around 25 members, up to a maximum of 30. We usually have one or two spaces available in each part for the right person.
If, after a four-week trial period, you enjoy the choir and want to join, you can ask for an audition. This is low-key and informal, consisting of some vocal exercises and a performance, along with a small group of choir members, of one of the songs in the current repertoire, to establish your good intonation, a timbre suitable for blending in a choir and confident part-singing ability.
The Surrey Hills Singers
The Surrey Hills Singers has a wide repertoire from medieval motets to popular songs. We are a friendly group who love to sing all styles of music.
In the past we have also enjoyed great competition success including winning the Daykin Cup at the Godalming Music Festival (2012) and the Grace Whitney Memorial Trophy at Croydon Music Festival (2011).
The Surrey Hills Singers are also in demand to perform for local organisations.
An Inclusive Singing Environment
The Surrey Hills Singers was formed as a daytime choir for women who wanted to sing at a convenient time while children are at nursery or school, providing some child-free time to concentrate on something that you enjoy. Our rehearsals provide an ideal environment for women to get back into singing after a long break, such as those who have not sung since school, or since having a family.
Whatever your experience, come along and try a rehearsal without obligation. Rehearsals are usually on Monday mornings 10.30am–12.30pm at Ewhurst Baptist Church GU6 7QA, but start and finish times are flexible to give you time to collect children punctually. Singing is fun, healthy, rewarding and a great way to meet new people. Try it and you won’t look back!
By the way... those with babies and pre-school children are very welcome to bring them along to rehearsals!
Debbie Walton - Musical Director
Debbie studied music at Kingston University and graduated in 1997 with a First Class Honours degree. In 2009 she completed an MA in Choral Education at Roehampton University.
Debbie is an absolute perfectionist with an acute ear for detail. But it is not just technical excellence that Debbie strives for. It is story telling through song – often unconducted and always without music scores – which means the choir truly connects with its audiences.
As well as running the Surrey Hills choirs, Debbie has also directed the Glebelands in Harmony choir at Glebelands School, Cranleigh, by the invitation of the Head. Until 2013, she was a founder member and Musical Director of the award-winning ladies choir Impromptu. During their 21 years together she led them to many successful wins, including being finalists in Choir of the Year in 2008 and 2000.
Grace Notes - For Your Occasion
Grace Notes is a smaller, more informal group of singers, mainly from the Chamber Choir, who occasionally come together to perform at Weddings, Dinners and other functions where a musical interlude is required. For weddings there are normally 12 singers but this number can be adjusted up or down to match the available space, the size of the occasion and the music requested.
For weddings we can lead the audience in the hymns as well as singing selected choral pieces of your choice (e.g. during the signing of the register).
We are always open to your own ideas about how and where a choir would suit your occasion.
We can offer a wide range of pieces to suit your occasion, and never be afraid to make suggestions of your own.
Here is just a small sample of the kind of things we do:-
This Marriage - Eric Whitacre
If Ye Love Me - Tomas Tallis
O Radiant Dawn - James McMillan
All You Need is Love - Lennon & McCartney
and if you have an organist:-
Panis Angelicus - Cesar Franck
Ave Verum Corpus - W A Mozart
Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring - J S Bach