History of the Choir

The Choir’s formation and development is synonymous with John Bate who was founder, in 1964, of both the Putney Bach Choir and the Richmond Choral Society. In 1975, the two choirs merged and subsequently became well-known in South West London as the John Bate Choir. In 1995, it adopted the name Thames Philharmonic Choir.


The Choir has given more than 200 performances in the Boroughs of Kingston, Richmond and Wandsworth. It has also performed at central London venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Cadogan Hall. The Choir twice won the National Choral Competition held at the Royal Albert Hall. In 1995, the Choir was one of twelve from all over the UK invited to take part in the VE Day 50th Anniversary celebrations in Hyde Park; this involved a performance with conductor Sir David Willcocks in front of HM The Queen and some 40 Heads of State. Short tours abroad became a regular feature of Choir life, and in the 1980s a performing partnership with the Symphonic Choir of the historic City of Konstanz on the German-Swiss border was established. In the 1990s, regular summer cathedral residencies began, and in recent years Cadogan Hall has become the Choir’s central London venue of choice.  

John Bate, Founder and honorary Vice President


John Bate was a cathedral chorister, conservatoire scholar and professor of Trinity College of Music. He has directed a wide variety of performing groups, including Thames Festival Orchestra, and has given many concerts in London and elsewhere in the UK. He has chorus-mastered the Philharmonia Chorus, the Royal Choral Society and the All-London 1977 Silver Jubilee Choir.


From 1978 to 2001 he was Director of Music Performance at Kingston University, where he was responsible for the performing groups and activities for which Kingston at that time became famous in the academic world.

Looking back on the Choir's first 50 years, John Bate said: “Thames Philharmonic Choir, under its various names, has been a constant thread throughout most of my adult life and professional musical career. Choirs, orchestras and opera work, together with my teaching in schools and universities, have come and gone over the last half-century, while the Choir has progressed from its beginnings as a pair of local authority evening classes to a position where it is recognised as one of the finest around. I am very proud of what the Choir has achieved and delighted that so many members have remained for many years.”