Thursday, 29 November 2018 11:59

One of Our Lions Is Missing!

The second instalment of the lion opera was performed at the Penge Congregational Church, on 17 November. It was a lovely family performance, followed by drinks and cake. All the children performed beautifully, and it was a lovely evening. We are very fortunate that the composer, James Olsen, travelled down from Cambridgeshire to play the piano for the performance, with John Webber directing the choirs.

A big thank you to all the children, and all the volunteering parents who helped out with costumes, lighting, directing, baking and marketing. Without your help, these performances would not be possible. 

Scroll down for the videos that James Olsen has published about the rehearsals for the Lion Opera, part 2.

Also, if anyone took pictures on the evening, we'd love to see them! Please email Kicki.

 A few words from John:

Our second opera with James Olsen was a HUGE success!  Well done to all the singers, especially those who were also acting as well.  Jenny and Karen did a great job in getting everyone to such a high standard and a lot of people used weekend afternoons attending special rehearsals for the acting.  Lots of other people helped “behind the scenes” and their hard work made a big difference  -  thank you all!

James’s music grew on us and we loved his very personal sense of fun.  I learned some Very Long Words from James’s script and I am sure that other people did, too!  Thanks to him for his time and boundless energy.



Wednesday, 14 November 2018 19:29

Rehearsal fever!

On a clear and beautiful Wednesday evening in Penge, rehearsals are well under way for the sequel to last year’s hit production, One of Our Brothers is a Lion! by James Olsen. The sequel is called One of our Lions Is Missing! 

This time, instead of bandits, the best friends Donkey and Lion encounter wild lions. There’s a kidnapping, and, of course, the best thing in the world (according to Lion): ham sandwiches.  No opera is complete without ham sandwiches.

Don’t miss the one and only performance of this splendid production for all the family, this Saturday at 7 pm at the Penge Congregational Church. 

Sunday, 22 July 2018 12:53

Happy Summer Holidays

It's been a great year with Beckenham Junior Choir and Youth Voices, with many amazing concerts.
Here are a few words from John and Niamh at the end of term. Scroll down for photos from the summer concert, kindly shared by Sue O'Neill.
Happy summer and we look forward to seeing you all again in September!

Dear All,
Well done to both our Choirs in the concert at St. John’s Church, East Dulwich!  We had our usual mix of songs, folk songs from various places, popular songs from different periods, more classical pieces and two excerpts from a specially written opera.  There was lots of enthusiasm from the singers and we had a good number of people who came especially to hear us and who were local to East Dulwich, not just Choir families.
It was lovely to see our newest members taking part, some for the first concert ever!  I heard several very positive comments from people who were excited and impressed.
We also raised £238 in the cake sale! Well done everyone!
I hope you have a lovely summer,

Dear Choir Members and Families,

As the end of term draws near, I’d like to say a heartfelt thanks for all the efforts you’ve put in to make our choirs such a success this year.
If you’re a singer, you’ve worked hard to learn your words or music, have performed at concerts, and made new choir members feel welcome.
If you’re a parent, carer or grandparent, you’ve supported us by ensuring your child is at rehearsals and concerts, knows their words, has their uniform. And many of you have offered your time on the Committee and /or organised rehearsals, put up posters, baked cakes ... even sung with our choirs!
So, a big ‘thank you’ from me!

This year Beckenham Junior Choir and Youth Voices have performed beautifully in Beckenham, Penge, Denmark Hill, East Dulwich, as well as at the Balgowan School fair, making us all very proud. We have welcomed many new members to both choirs, all of whom have worked hard to learn their words ready for the June concert. You all did really well.

A special thanks to Mark and Chris at Lancaster for their support behind the scenes with printing, publicity and guitar playing. Another special thank you to Stuart Kale for his continued support preparing our children for solos, and a big, big thank you to John Webber, our wonderful musical director. We have a fabulous committee and wider group of parent helpers. Thank you Jenny, Joanna, Kicki, Claire, Lorraine, Karen, Ali, Michaela. Your support is invaluable!
That’s all from me for now. I wish you and your family a restful summer and look forward to seeing you in September.

Here are some lovely photos from the June concert, kindly shared by Sue O'Neill.
If you have any photos or videos you would like to share, please email Kicki.
Saturday, 17 March 2018 15:48

Spring Concert Rehearsals

Who would have thought that we would manage to arrange both our spring concerts on snowy days this year!

Rehearsals are well underway for this evening’s concerts at Holy Trinity on Lennard Road. 

The light falling through the windows is spectacular and the choirs sound lovely. Come and listen this evening at 7 pm!

Saturday, 02 December 2017 15:56

Christmas Carols at Balgowan Primary School

BJC and BYV did a guest appearance at the Christmas Fair at Balgowan Primary School today. It was a lovely afternoon and a wonderfully busy fair. 

Looking forward to singing Christmas Carols at Sainsbury’s next!

A few words from Niamh:

Dear BJC and YV,

Thank you all so much for coming to Balgowan today. You sang beautifully and were a wonderful advert for our choirs.

Special thanks also to James and Jenny for their conducting and playing, to Nehara for her lovely accompanying, and Sabrina for her wonderful solo.

Keep up the good work, and see you all on Wednesday!

Wednesday, 12 July 2017 23:38

Lion Opera Photos from Broadstairs

Happy Summer everyone!

Before the holidays start for real, we've got some exciting footage from the performance of One of Our Brothers is a Lion! in Broadstairs. As always, if you have any photos you'd like to share, please get in touch!

First out, James Olsen has published his latest vlog entry, a fabulous synopsis of the Lion! opera, showing footage from both the concerts. Scroll down to the bottom to see it.

We've also got some great new photos by our photographer in residence, Nick Charles:

And a couple we posted last week, by Kicki Frisch:


New Youth Opera Performed in Broadstairs

03 July 2017

Beckenham Junior Choir and Beckenham Youth Voices, joined by the Junior Choir of St John’s Church East Dulwich, travelled to Broadstairs for their biennial concert to the seaside town. On Saturday 1st July, some 50 children aged 6 to 16 performed at Holy Trinity Church to an enthusiastic audience of family and friends, local residents and weekenders. They sang a medley of songs in the first half, including one composed by Carey Blyton (nephew to Enid), and then put on a children’s opera written especially for them by leading young British (Kent-born) composer James Olsen. Titled One of our Brothers is a Lion!, the opera was performed fully staged, complete with colourful masks, costumes and props, and made this year’s concert a very special one.

One long-time local resident Patricia (aged 84) was very impressed. She said: “You cannot imagine how much I enjoyed the event. It was very beautiful to see all these young people singing and acting together in such a wonderful show. I hardly ever go out in the evening and I am so glad I came.”

Musical Director and founder of the choirs, John Webber, said: “The choirs love coming to Broadstairs. Our visit every other year to this wonderful seaside town has become quite a feature in our musical calendar. It is very special to have an opera written for you and the young people all worked very hard. The audience was incredibly enthusiastic and it was a real pleasure to perform in Holy Trinity.” 

James Olsen’s new opera, commissioned by the choirs and generously funded by private patrons, including local businesses, tells the story of Saint Jerome and the lion, as recounted in the Golden Legend (c. AD 1260). Saint Jerome is said to have removed a thorn from a lion’s paw—a subject familiar to art lovers from numerous paintings of this subject. What these paintings do not show is that, after the thorn is removed, the lion joins the monastery, and is even given a job by Saint Jerome. Man and beast live in harmony until, one day, the monastery’s donkey goes missing, and the brothers blame the lion…

James, who grew up in Beckenham (Kent) was the first assistant director of the Beckenham Junior Choir as a teenager in the 1990s. His music has been widely performed by leading international artists in the UK and abroad.

James said: ‘My experiences with Beckenham Junior Choir fostered in me a love for making music with young people and amateurs which is still very much part of why I’m a composer today. There’s a special British tradition of composers writing for communities, following Benjamin Britten, of which I’m proud to be a part. It’s a great privilege to have composed for the Beckenham choirs and wonderful to bring the work to a new audience in Broadstairs.”

After the concert, the singers and their families all went onto the beach to enjoy the last rays of sunshine and a well-deserved supper of fish and chips. One of the joys of coming to Broadstairs!

A trailer for the opera can be viewed on YouTube here:

The choirs performed the opera on Saturday 1st July 2017 at 5pm in Holy Trinity Church, Nelson Place, Broadstairs, Kent CT10 1HQ.

Published in Press releases
Monday, 03 July 2017 20:43

Summer Concert & Lion Opera

We had a wonderful concert in Broadstairs on July 1st!  A terrific event again and everyone was fully involved.  It was good to see our newest and youngest singers giving their “all”!  There was some great acting and singing in James Olsen’s opera, “One of our brothers is a lion”.  Thanks also to the parents who helped so much behind the scenes.

Once more the weather was typical of Broadstairs.  It was especially good to have time on the beach afterwards, instead of rushing off.

We also had the chance to thank Elizabeth Beroud for her sterling leadership as Chair of the two Choirs over the last eight years, overseeing several important occasions, including marking 21 years of the Junior Choir in 2014.


A few words from web admin:

Don't forget that the annual picnic replaces rehearsals this week.

It's been a privilege to edit the web site this year. A big thank you and well done to everyone for a wonderful year 2016/2017! We're so proud of everyone who has made this year a great memory. The choirs live off the parent volunteers and member's fees, and you've all been wonderfully generous with your time and money this year, thank you so much. (In case anyone should be as forgetful as myself and hasn't paid the term fees yet - I hope it's only me - please contact Niamh.)

Scroll down for a few photos from the concert in Broadstairs. Nick's professional photos will appear on the web site at the end of the week, so stay tuned! If you have photos you'd like to share, as always please contact Kicki.

Happy Summer!

Photos from the performance in Broadstairs of One of Our Brothers is a Lion!

Copyright Kicki Frisch



Monday, 29 May 2017 08:19

Lion Opera! Premiere Photos

We've got some great photos from the premier of One of Our Brothers is a Lion! on May 20th. As usual, Nick Charles very kindly volunteered his time and skill as a professional photographer to document the reception and performance. There are also a few photos from the rehearsal in the afternoon and performance by Kicki Frisch. We hope you enjoy the photos.

If anyone else has photos you'd like to share with us, plese drop Kicki a line. We'd particularly like to see the Instagram pictures that the bandits took!

The following photos are from the reception and after party, copyright Nick Charles:

The following photos are from the performance, copyright Nick Charles:

 The following photos are from the rehearsals, and some from the performance, copyright Kicki Frisch:


Monday, 22 May 2017 22:05

All of Our Performers Were Great!

The concert and premiere of One of Our Brothers Is a Lion! on Saturday was a great success! The church was packed full, and we've had so many lovely comments from the spectators. Well done everyone who worked so hard to make this a great performance. Thank you also to everyone who donated beautiful cakes to the cake sale afterwards - and to everyone who helped eat them! We raised a considerable amoutn of money for the choir, a huge thank you for your generosity.

Scroll down for some photos from the afternoon rehearsals. We have some beautiful photos of the performance on their way to the web site - in the meantime, if anyone has any photos they would like to share, please contact Kicki.

A Few Words From John

Beckenham Junior Choir and Beckenham Youth Voices gave a terrific concert on Saturday to an audience of two hundred, some of whom had travelled a long way.

In part one, we opened with “Sweet Gingerbread man”, by Michel Legrand.  Both Choirs love this and it is one of their “signature tune” items nowadays!  Then we had “Songs of London Town,” by Mervyn Burtch, using soloists and the full Choir, with some children reciting short poems on the theme of London.  This music is not easy and the young people’s talents was a joy to watch. 

Then five members of the Junior Choir sang solos from “When we were Very Young” (Music by H Fraser-Simson), using words which many of those present will have remembered from their childhoods.  Finally in part one, we had “Take me up the Tyne”, by Eric Boswell (he of “Little Donkey” fame); this song is part of a collection of his “Songs of the North East”, which I dig out from time to time.

In part two, the Choirs made an excellent job of a newly written opera by James Olsen.  James assisted with running the Junior Choir in its (and his) early days in the 1990s and has since risen to dizzy heights as a composer.  The joint Choirs combined acting, speaking, movement and singing for this thirty-minute work, which combined several different types of music (plainsong, Mozart, rock ’n’ roll, J S Bach).  The script showed James’s great sense of humour and of the ridiculous, with even references to “Dad’s Army”, as well as to various types of social media which (as you can imagine) pass me by!     

We have so many soloists in our Choirs that I have deliberately not named anyone. 

A special “thank you” to our expert voice coach, Stuart Kale, who is very popular with our Choirs and helps the singers to reach a high standard and encourages the newest members. The number of adults involved behind the scenes was greater than ever and I am hugely grateful to those who shared the tasks so efficiently.  

We look forward to repeating the opera on Saturday, July 1st. at Holy Trinity, Broadstairs (with a different part one).

In the meantime, we have “Bring-a-Friend-to-Choir” day on Wednesday and it will be good to build up our quantity of younger singers, as Youth Voices is developing wonderfully.

Congratulations to you all!


A Few Words From James

Dear all,

Lovely email from Geoff Haskins below, my grandpa and one of our patrons. I’m thrilled he came. He’s now 90, but full of energy still.


"What an experience, James!  The opera was so well received and everyone concerned must be congratulated for what must have been an enormous task: composing, rehearsing, logistics, infrastructure, catering, and all the rest of the minutiae that contributed to such a splendid event."

At the other end of the generational spectrum, my cousin Faye brought her husband and two girls, aged 6 and 8, and a mutual friend of ours also came with her two children of the same age. They all enjoyed it a lot, I gather. Serena Aylward, my successor as pianist to the BJC back in the 90s, brought her son Sebastian, who’s 4, and it was his first grown-up concert. He loved it and stayed throughout.

Just a few of the many positive things which I’ve heard came out of Saturday, and I’m sure there are lots I don’t know about. That, for me, is why music is more than just sound—it’s about an event, about bringing a community together, about people doing thing they never thought they could do, about opening up possibilities for young and old alike, which is why I think what we are creating together is so valuable. Thank you again so much, because without you my work would just be words and notes on paper.

Excited now for Broadstairs!


Cake decoration in progress!

Photos courtesy of Maya Channing:


Very last dress rehearsals, literally hours before the performance starts.

Photos courtesy of Kicki Frisch:



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Get in touch

We would love to hear from families who would like their children to join in the choirs and sing with a lively and non-competitive group of young people.
Contact us and arrange to come along there are no auditions, anyone aged 6 - 17 can join our choirs.

Tel: 0208 650 9164

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We in Beckenham Junior Choir are committed to a protection policy. Staff and volunteers in this organisation accept and recognise our responsibilities to develop awareness of the issues which cause children harm.

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If you or a close relative, work for a company that offers matchfunding,
the choirs could benefit financially at no cost to yourself.
Please check this list of organisations to see the companies listed.