Thomas Meddings

(1922 - 2004)


photo1~5-sm.jpg (11900 bytes)The performance of this piece (As Pants the Hart) is however of a high order. The boy soloist (Tom Meddings) has a voice of lovely quality, not in the least emotional, and it possesses that slightly tentative quality which is much more endearing than the assured ease of some treble soloists one has heard. The singing of the choir is well-balanced and - O res mirabilis - the words can be heard. For this, and the beautifully discreet accompaniment, we have to thank that fine musician Mr. Thalben-Ball. The recording is excellent ...Gramophone, November 1935 (Alec Robertson?)

Thomas Meddings was a prominent soloist of the Temple Church during the mid-thirties. Born in Walthamstow in 1922, Tom was ten when he was auditioned by the choirmaster George Thalben-Ball.  ‘From the probationers’ mid-church stall I pieced together as best I could what the work of the choir was about, and in due time became a full chorister, singing on Decani side. Before long, a few beginners’ solos came my way, and in due course I sang most of the traditional treble solo repertoire.  My favourite was the Benedictus from Mozart’s Requiem, but the supreme musical experience was a choral one - the Gratias Agimus Tibi from Bach’s Mass in B minor.’

‘Dr Ball’s practices were always enjoyable.   He was never stuffy, effortlessly commanding total attention; and he taught as much by example as by precept using his own fine voice to illustrate points.’  Tom took part in a schools’ radio programme with the conductor Ernest Read, who had asked for I know that my Redeemer liveth to be prepared.   ‘I rehearsed this with Dr Ball and then with Mr Read on the morning of the broadcast which was to take place in the afternoon.   Returning to Broadcasting House after lunch, I found that Read had changed his mind and, recruiting a trumpeter, now wished to substitute Let the Bright Seraphim, which I had never sung.   After a cursory run-through, the broadcast proceeded smoothly with brass obbligato, much to the surprise of Dr Ball who heard the transmission elsewhere.’

‘The choir with Meddings as Head Boy is promising,’ David Lewer wrote at the time and so it proved to be and it is surprising that no records were made during this period.   Meddings had recorded Spohr’s  Lord God of Heaven and Earth in 1933 as a duet with Dennys Lake and he remembers that Lake’s rich contralto voice on the record was unmistakable.   ‘When the disc was published he invited me to spend a Saturday at his home in Hampstead to celebrate, at one point transmitting the recording to a friend via the telephone.   Lake by this time was an experienced soloist and at the Aldershot Tattoo of 1934 tens of thousands had heard his recording of a verse of Abide with me.   At the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, Tom was one of the ‘First Twelve’ Temple boys to sing at Westminster Abbey but, the following spring, when he was sixteen, he had to leave the choir.   ‘Like all trebles, it was frustrating to be deprived of my voice just as my musical understanding was growing and I recall a Hear Ye, Israel just before the end which satisfied me more than anything I had done.’

After war service, including a tour of duty in Burma and French Indo-China, Tom Meddings studied architecture and, as a senior architect with the Corporation of the City of London, was responsible for the design of the new City of London School.  He died just before Christmas 2004 a few weeks after approving his entry in the draft of Stephen Beet's Book 'The Better Land'.
 

This updated account of Thomas Meddings' career as a chorister is taken from Stephen Beet's forthcoming book, The Better Land - in Search of the Lost Boy Sopranos, and is used with permission of the author.

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