Saint Thomas Choir School

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Coordinates: 40°45′58″N 73°58′48″W / 40.76616°N 73.98013°W / 40.76616; -73.98013

Saint Thomas Choir School
Saint Thomas Choir School logo.png
202 West 58th Street
New York City, New York
United States
Type Private, church-affiliated boarding school
Motto Cantate Domino
(Sing unto the Lord)
Religious affiliation(s) Episcopalian
Established 1919 (1919)
Headmaster Charles Wallace
Faculty 15
Enrollment 30 boys
Campus Urban
Tuition $15,000(as of 2015[1])
St Thomas Choir School W58 St jeh.jpg
Part of the school's facade.

Saint Thomas Choir School is a church-affiliated boarding choir school in Manhattan, New York. It was founded in 1919 and is supported by the nearby Saint Thomas Church, an Episcopal church continuing the Anglican tradition of all-male choral ensembles. Other than Westminster Abbey Choir School in the U.K. and Escolania de Montserrat in Spain, it is the only Choir School which exclusively educates boy trebles of the choir and where all boys are required to board at the school.[citation needed]

The students, boys ranging from ages 8 to 14, reside and study at the Choir School, located in a 14-story building at 202 West 58th Street in midtown Manhattan, between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, one block from Central Park South. Since 2005, the school has also offered a summer residential Girl Chorister Course.[2]

Student life[edit]

Students simultaneously participate in both a rigorous liturgical music program at Saint Thomas Church and a full range of academic subjects including English, science, history, mathematics, Latin, French, music theory, and theology. The school also engages in an athletic program, competing against local private schools in soccer, basketball, and track.

Students are admitted on a rolling basis. The school schedules auditions three times a year for boys entering the third, fourth, and fifth grade. Third grade students must live within a proximity to New York that permits them to return home each weekend and return on Sunday evening; this restriction is eliminated for fourth and fifth graders.[3]

Tuition for the 2015 school year is $15,000, with over 85% of the student's families receiving financial aid.[1]


Headmasters of the Choir School[4]
  • Clarence Jack Smith, 1919
  • Raymond Wallace Gauger, 1920-1922
  • Herbert H. Hannan, 1923-1925
  • Clair J. Smith, 1926-1927
  • Charles Mead Benham, 1928-1942
  • The Rev. James O. Carson Jr., 1943-1944
  • Leon D. Phillips, 1945-1949
  • Henry B. Roney Jr., 1950-1955
  • Robert Porter, 1955-1966
  • Gordon H. Clem, 1967-1995
  • Murray Lawrence, (Acting) 1995-1997
  • Gordon Roland-Adams, 1997-2004

Appointed in 2004, the current headmaster is Charles Wallace. The school has had six Organists during its history:

Organists and Choirmasters[5]
Organists and Directors of Music[6]


The Choir School was founded in 1919 by T. Tertius Noble,[citation needed] an English born organist and composer, who had been appointed as the organist of Saint Thomas Church in 1913. It was formerly located in a four-story building at 123 West 55th Street;[7] the school sold that building to Fisher Brothers, who combined it with other acquisitions and sold it to Harry B. Macklowe, the developer of the Avenue of the Americas Plaza at 125 West 55th Street.[8]

In 1985, the Elysee Theater, which had been a television studio for ABC Entertainment since 1955,[9] was closed and demolished to make way for the school's new building. Prior to its use as a broadcast studio, the Elysee had been a theatre or a cinema since 1926, under various names that included the Golden Theatre, Cort's 58th Street Theatre, the Filmarte, the Fine Arts, and the Concert Theatre.[9] By September 1987, the new Choir School building, designed by architects Buttrick White & Burtis, opened its doors.[7] The $18 million, 55,000-square-foot (5,100 m2) building was built on a lot about 75 feet (23 m) wide, using red bricks with trim in limestone and gray-brick, and rising six stories "before stepping back in a tower with a gabled roof that houses the chapel."[7] When it first opened, it housed 26 students, with tuition of $4,800 a year, though the majority of students attended on scholarship.[7]

The Choir[edit]

The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys is considered by many to be the leading ensemble in the Anglican choral tradition in the United States. Directed from 2004 to 2015 by John Scott, formerly Organist and Director of Music at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the choir performs regularly with the period instrument ensemble, Concert Royal, or with the Orchestra of St. Luke's as part of its own concert series. Its primary raison d'être, however, is to provide music for five choral services each week. Live webcasts of all choral services and further information including recordings of the choir may be found at

Supplementing its choral services and concert series over the past three decades, the choir has toured throughout the U.S. and Europe with performances at Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral in London, Kings College, Cambridge, Windsor, Edinburgh, St. Albans and the Aldeburgh Festival. In 2004, the choir toured Italy, and performed for a Papal Mass at the Vatican. During 2007, the choir performed Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion for the opening concert of the Mexico Festival in Mexico City as well as at Saint Thomas Church. In February 2012, the Boys of the choir traveled to Dresden to give the premiere of Lera Auerbach's Dresden Requiem with the Dresden Staatskapelle in the Frauenkirche and Semper Oper. Later in 2012, the choir was invited to perform in the Thomaskirche at the Bachfest Leipzig, a highlight of their June 2012 tour to Germany and Copenhagen.

In addition to the annual performances of Handel’s Messiah, concerts at Saint Thomas have included Requiems by Fauré, Brahms, Mozart, Duruflé and Howells; Bach’s Passions and Mass in B Minor; the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610; a Henry Purcell anniversary concert; Rachmaninoff Vespers; the U.S. premiere of John Tavener’s Mass; a concert of American composers featuring works by Bernstein and Copland and a composition by Saint Thomas chorister, Daniel Castellanos; the world premiere of Scott Eyerly’s Spires and a concert of music by Benjamin Britten.

The Men of the Saint Thomas Choir are professional singers; the Boy choristers attend Saint Thomas Choir School. Founded in 1919, it is the only church related boarding choir school in the United States, and one of only a few choir schools remaining in the world. The Choir School offers a challenging prepreparatory curriculum, interscholastic sports, and musical training for boys in grades three through eight. The Choir School is committed to training and educating talented musicians without regard to religious, economic, or social background. Choristers are sought from all regions of the country.[10]

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions". Saint Thomas Choir School. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  2. ^ "About the Girl Chorister Course". Saint Thomas Choir School. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  3. ^ "About the Choir School". Saint Thomas Choir School. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  4. ^ Wright, J. Robert (2001). Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue. Grand Rapids, Michigan, Cambridge, UK and New York,: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company and Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue. p. 302. ISBN 0-8028-3912-6. 
  5. ^ Wright, J. Robert (2001). Saint Thomas Fifth Avenue. Grand Rapids, Michigan; Cambridge, UK, and New York: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company and Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue. p. 302. ISBN 0-8028-3912-6. 
  6. ^ The organist's title changed in 2005 to reflect the changes among other American and English cathedrals[citation needed]
  7. ^ a b c d Joseph Giovannini (September 17, 1987). "Young Voices Soar at the New St. Thomas Choir School". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  8. ^ Thomas L. Waite (March 13, 1988). "Choir School Site; Offices by Macklowe". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  9. ^ a b "Elysee Theatre, 202 West 58th Street, New York, NY". Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  10. ^ "The Choir" (PDF). Saint Thomas Church. Retrieved 2015-03-28. 

External links[edit]