Final concert before the move to Salisbury

The last singers' concert for The School of Singing in Tunbridge Wells was held in July 2016 at All Saints, Tudeley. It was a beautiful occasion, singers performed their latest pieces, and we had a few tearful goodbyes amid the laughter and camaraderie. Some students stayed with me in a reduced teaching practice, as I made the journey from Salisbury to Tunbridge Wells ten weeks each term for a further academic year. Others have gone on to new singing teachers. I wish every one of you well!

Our move to Salisbury in September marked a significant change for us as a family: Andrew commutes to London three days a week to keep up his commitments at Edition Peters, and I continue to look to build a new teaching practice and find work in schools and colleges. The biggest change, however, was probably for our children who moved to a new school – and they love it! You can hear them here (below) in their new school choir, performed in Salisbury Cathedral as part of the school's carol concert on 14 December 2016.

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We continue to miss the Tunbridge Wells singers and their families and often reflect just how much a part of our lives you all have been. The 12 years of teaching here were a major and formative part of both my professional and personal life – and I learnt from every one of you. Thank you! Please keep in touch and let me know your news from time to time. I will always be delighted to hear from you!

In the meantime, we wish you a very merry Christmas, with ginger and spice, fun and giggles, a lot of sparkle – and heaps of singing! May 2017 be a great year for you all!

With love always

Sara, Andrew, Elizabeth and Edward xxx

December 2016

ABRSM Exam Results

Summer 2016

Congratulations to:

Anna Bayley Grade 5 (Distinction)

Elizabeth Evans Grade 5 (Merit)

Portia Halsall Grade 8 (Distinction)

Perdy Hirst Grade 2 (Pass)

Jemima Kinley Grade 4 (Distinction)

Alice Leigh Grade 1 (Merit)

Emily Thompson Grade 7 (Distinction)

Harriet Wadey Grade 6 (Merit)

Joe Wheeler Grade 3 (Merit)

Nicola Williamson Grade 2 (Pass)

AESS Junior Competition success 2015 

Josie Hawthorn, age 15, gained third prize in the AESS Junior Competion, held at the Purcell School of Music in November. This is the second time Josie has claimed third place, the first time being in 2013. First prize was received by a student of Veronica Veysey Campbell at the RCM, and second place to a student of Janice Thompson. Josie's programme included Haydn's The Mermaid, Holst's Persephone and Vaughan Williams' Orpheus and his Lute. A big thank you goes to pianist Joan Taylor for her support and fabulous playing.

Congratulations to:

Former student Josie Hawthorn, who has gained a scholarship to study singing at the Royal College of Music's main college, beginning in September 2018. Congratulations to Veronica Veysey Campbell for helping her secure this.

Kavan Satish and Jack Maltby for gaining choristerships at Salisbury Cathedral/Salisbury Cathedral School

Lily Merrick for gaining a distinction in her grade 1 and Elizabeth Hanley for a merit in grade 3 singing.

Ollie Morrell, who has gained a distinction in his grade 8 singing, and took a lead role in Les Misérables in St Olave's Grammar School production (March 2017). Ollie takes up a place as tenor choral scholar at Gloucester Cathedral in September 2017.

Harriet Wadey for gaining her grade 7 singing.

Rowena Ashby, who took the lead role of Titania in Durham University's student production of Benjamin Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream (March 2017).

Jemima Kinley for successfully auditioning and gaining the lead role of Laurey in Oklahoma at Bennett Memorial School's production (to be performed in the summer term 2017).

Joe Zerpa for singing the lead role of Aladdin in Aladdin with Talentz Musical Theatre Company in Tunbridge Wells (Jan 2017).

Portia Halsall and Josie Hawthorn (age 16 and 17 years respectively) who have both been offered much sought after places to study at the junior colleges of the Guildhall School of Music and drama, the Royal College of Music and at Trinity Laban. They have both opted to study for two years at the Royal College of Music, in preparation for entering the conservatoires at undergraduate level. (I am reliably told that this is the first time the college has taken two students from the same teacher in the same year!) It’s good news that Josie and Portia will be there together as friends – and likely as colleagues in years to come. Watch out for them at the Royal Opera House in ten years or so! Portia has been studying with Sara for five years and Josie for nine years. They will both be sorely missed.

Rowena Ashby, who has recently returned for lessons as a student of Durham University, has auditioned and been accepted on the prestigious Samling Academy programme, which is based at The Sage in Gateshead. Rowena is now aiming for a career as a professional classical singer, and is already well on the way. 

We wish them all huge luck and personal success!

ABRSM exam results

Spring 2016

Congratulations to:

Emily Ballara Grade 2 (Pass)

Alexander Evans Grade 1 (Distinction)

Josie Hawthorn Grade 8 (Distinction)

Eloise Holland  Grade 8 (Distinction)

Thanks go to Andrew Hanley for his piano playing and his support throughout the exam period.

ABRSM exam results 

Autumn 2015

Anna Ballara Grade 6 (Distinction)

Portia Halsall Grade 6 (Distinction)

Aiofe McAteer Grade 5 (Merit)

Bethany Peddar Grade 6 (Merit)

Max Persad Grade 3 (Merit)

Emily Thompson Grade 6 (Merit)

Catherine Weaver Gade 4 (Merit)

Huge congratulations to all – and thanks to pianist Andrew Hanley for all his hard work! 

ABRSM exam results

Summer 2015 

Congratulations to:

Esme Thomas Grade 5 (Distinction)

Sissy Ellse Grade 3 (Distinction)

Autumn 2014 

Congratulations to all students who took part in the last swathe of exams. The examiner, a pianist, gave the following results:

Anna Ballara Grade 5 (Pass)

Sissy Ellse Grade 2 (Distinction)

Elizabeth Evans Grade 4 (Merit)

Aoife McAteer Grade 4 (Merit)

Bethany Pedder Grade 5 (Merit)

Alexandra Thackray Grade 8 (Merit)

Catherine Weaver Grade 3 (Merit)

Masterclass with Veronica Veysey Campbell

Students took part in masterclasses with teacher at the Royal College of Music and St Paul's Cathedral Veronica Veysey Campbell in June 2015 and in July 2014 at All Saints, Tudeley, near Tonbridge in Kent. All students responded well to the expert guidance and encouragement from Veronica. Thank you, Veronica! 

Summer 2014 Congratulations

Jack Truman for being chosen from 100 boys to be awarded the Singing cup as he leaves his school The New Beacon.

Esme Thomas for being awarded the music prize at Mascalls School in Tonbridge.

Nandini Magoon and Katie Wheeler for passing the audition to sing with the award-winning Motet choir at Tonbridge Grammar for Girls.

Saying Farewell...

We say fond farewells and wish the very best to:

Alex Thackray as she moves to study singing in Washington DC after taking her A levels. 

Rowena Ashby, who is now a student at Durham University working towards a degree in music.


Song recital at Tonbridge School

A song recital was shared by three students (above) in the Recital Room of Tonbridge School on 26 January (3pm) 2014. Rowena Ashby, Portia Halsall and Alexandra Thackray presented material in preparation for A level performance and grade exams. Sadly, Josie Hawthorn was unable to sing due to illness. However, look out for other performances by all four singers later in the year! 

A highlight of 2012

Josie Hawthorn, age 13, sang for Queen Elizabeth as part of the Diamond Choir for the special Jubilee Service at St Paul's Cathedral. Only 41 young singers were chosen from nationwide auditions held in cathedrals across the UK to sing Will Todd's new commission The Call to Wisdom
To watch and listen to the work, click here:

See links below for media coverage.

BBC South East Today: (begins at 1 minute 10 seconds)

BBC News Online:

Kent and Sussex Courier:

Radio Kent (with kind permission - interview with Jo Burn):

Interview with Radio Kent.mp3

Singing student Portia Halsall (above), age 14, in TWODS' recent production (2013) of The Sound of Music at the Assembly Halls in Tunbridge Wells 

Summer exams 2013

The current ABRSM results received so far are:

Anna Ballara grade 3 (merit)

Portia Halsall grade 4 (distinction)

Sara Harris grade 5 (merit)

Izzie Hawthorn grade 2 (merit)

Nandini Magoon grade 4 (merit)

Bethany Pedder grade 4 (merit)

Bridget Rankin grade 4 (distinction) 

Harriet Wadey grade 5 (merit)

Megan Weller grade 4 (pass)

Joe Wheeler grade 1 (merit)

Katie Wheeler grade 5 (distinction)

Well done all! 

AESS competition success 2014

Congratulations to Rowena Ashby who gained third place in the Association of English Singers and Speakers (AESS) Junior Competition on 15 November 2014. First and second prizes plus the Speaker's Prize were awarded to students of the Purcell School. Rowena's recital programme, entitled 'Life's Journey', comprised Rodney Bennett's 'Song of the Wanderer', Armstrong Gibbs' The Wanderer, Holst's Journey's End and Rautavaara's Shall I compare thee. The finals were held at the Purcell School of Music.

Masterclass experiences

Josie Hawthorn (15) and Portia  Halsall (15) worked with the international teacher of singing teachers Meribeth Dayme at the July 2014 AOTOS conference in July at Warwick University. Josie sang 'Can't help lovin' dat man' and Portia presented 'Who's got the last laugh now'.

Max Persad (13) more recently presented his folk song 'Football Crazy' at the November 2014 AOTOS conference, St Paul's Girls School, working with ABRSM examiner and singing teacher Eileen Field. 

Well done, all three!


Summer 2014 
ABRSM exam results

Well done to the singers below – with super congratulations to Max and Esme each for gaining full marks in one of their songs!
Jasmine Andine Grade 4 (Merit)
Anna Ballara Grade 4 (Distinction)
Isabella Carraher Grade 2 (Merit)
Isabella Ellse Grade 1 (Distinction)
Elizabeth Evans Grade 3 (Distinction)
Amber Grinstead Grade 1 (Merit)
Portia Halsall Grade 5 (Distinction)
Max Persad Grade 1 (Distinction)
Esme Thomas Grade 4 (Distinction)  


AOTOS Masterclass Winchester

Three students sang for Anne-Marie Speed of the Estill Model and a theatre full of singing teachers at an AOTOS development day on 3 May 2014. Rowena Ashby sang Rodney Bennett's 'Song of the Wanderer', Josie Hawthorn sang I wandered lonely as a cloud by Eric Thiman, and Isabel Hills performed 'Green Finch and Linnet Bird' from Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. We all learned much from the masterclass. 


Tunbridge Wells Arts
Festival 2014

Well done to all who gave performances at the TWAF festival. There were many high marks reflecting good performances. In addition, placings were given in the following classes:
Own choice (11 years and under):
Sissy Ellse (1st)
Junior Vocal Recital:
Portia Halsall (1st)
Intermediate Vocal Recital
Alexandra Thackray (1st)
Folk Song (age 12-14):
Anna Ballara (1st)
Esme Thomas (2nd)
Songs from the Shows (age 15-17):
Alexandra Thackray (2nd)
Versatility (grades 4 and 5):
Portia Halsall (1st)

Congratulations to:

Josie Hawthorn for gaining third place n the 2013 AESS Junior Competition held at the Royal College of Music. First prize was awarded to a student of the Purcell School and second prize to a student at the Royal College of Music's Junior College. Josie also successfully auditioned for a newly-created role in 'strock-opera' The Dreamers by the group Virgin Soldiers. It will be premiered in June at the Assembly Rooms in Tunbridge Wells.

Portia Halsall for successfully auditioning for the role of Bet in the TWODS production of Oliver, which will be performed at the Assembly Rooms in Tunbridge Wells.

Harriet Wadey for receiving a choral scholarship at Mayfield School. 

Alex Thackray for achieving a distinction in grade 5 singing.

Rowena Ashby for singing solo on Radio 3 Breakfast Show in the morning service. Congratulations, too, on taking up a place to study music at Durham University.

Jack Truman for gaining the part of Charley Bates in his school production of Oliver.