Music at St. Mary's

Our Director of Music and Organist is Canon Claire Tillotson.  Contact her at

The Parish Church of St. Mary, Shortlands aims to offer a variety of styles of worship, intended to meet the needs of the worshipping community of Shortlands and beyond. In response to this, we also encourage a diverse range of music to suit the style of worship each service provides.

Our Choir provides support for the congregation and clergy by leading the sung and spoken parts of our 10.30 am service. They also provide more elaborate music for our monthly Choral Evensongs and special services and Christmas and Easter. For full details about our choir and how to join, as well as a full list of choral services, please see below.

Our instrumental and vocal Music Group provide leadership of worship songs at some less formal services such as our monthly Parade Service for uniformed organisations and our Evening Praise services. We take the best hymns and songs by contemporary writers and encourage all who are interested in using their musical talents as players and singers to express them in modern forms of worship. If you are interested in joining our music group, please contact the Parish Office at

If you are interested in the church organ at St. Mary’s and particularly if you have any memories of the instrument being purchased, installed or worked upon at St. Mary’s, please see below.

The Choir

St Mary’s Shortlands has supported a robed choir for as long as records survive. The Choir has been affiliated to The Royal School of Church Music since October 1955. Our Choir is an enthusiastic and cheerful mixed group of children and adults who rehearse on a Thursday evening. We offer membership for our young people from the age of seven as part of our Choir Club under the leadership of Canon Claire Tillotson. Choir Club meets from 7.00 pm to 8.00 pm.

The choir sings at the Eucharist on a Sunday at 10.30 am and there is a choral evensong once a month (normally on the 3rd Sunday). They also provide music for special services and festivals.

The Church Choir at St. Mary’s enjoys the financial support of the church P.C.C. and The Friends of St. Mary’s. The considerable generosity of The Friends recently enabled the Choir to completely replace their old robes with new cassocks and surplices. 

We are always pleased to welcome new members to our choir, both adults (including students and sixth formers) and juniors. If you would like further information about joining the choir contact the Director of Music, Canon Claire Tillotson


Choir Club


If you have a child in year 2 (7 years of age) or above with good reading ability and who enjoys singing, we have a great opportunity for them at St. Mary's Church as a member of our Choir Club.

Members attend weekly practices on Thursday evenings from 7.00 p.m. to 8.00 p.m. and sing at our Sunday morning Communion at 10.30 am. There is also a Choral Evensong once a month at 6.30 pm and services at Christmas and Easter. All practices are properly supervised at all times.

The many benefits of membership include:

    • A unique theoretical and practical musical education, complementing and enhancing your child's compulsory National Curriculum studies using the Royal School of Church Music’s “Voice for Life” scheme;

    • Valuable experience at an early age of working as part of a "team", focusing upon specific goals, a standard of excellence and developing performance skills;

    • Choir Club membership encourages respectful behaviour and self-discipline. As a church-based organisation, promotion and growth of a child's spiritual awareness is also a priority;

    • The choir's affiliation to the Royal School of Church Music grants access to a nation-wide network of training courses, choral groups and awards by external examination. A variety of Diocesan training and singing days are also available to members, some held in Rochester Cathedral;

    • At the end of each term, Choir Club members and all choristers up to the age of 18 receive a financial gift from the church, based upon attendance and seniority, and an award is made annually by the Friends of St. Mary's for greatest individual achievement.

For further information about joining as a Junior or Adult member, please contact Canon Claire Tillotson at

Choral Services

Part of the range of services offered at St. Mary’s is our monthly Choral Evensong, usually on the third Sunday of each month at 6.30 p.m. We also offer a devotional service for the commencement of Holy week on Palm Sunday as well as an Advent Carol Service on Advent Sunday evening and the traditional Service of Nine Lessons and Carols on the Sunday before Christmas, all at 6.30 p.m. Anthems and other special music are also provided for other services throughout the year.



The Organ: History

The history of the organ at St. Mary's Shortlands is shrouded in mystery. As with many churches forced to re-build after the second world war, all available funds were required for construction of the fabric of the building and little was left for the provision of an organ. The parish of Shortlands was unable to afford a new instrument, the old “Father” Willis organ having been completely destroyed along with the church building itself. Therefore, they were forced to purchase second-hand pipe work and action, and to construct a suitable instrument as best they could using the limited funds available.

Unfortunately, no records survive locally from the period which might tell us about the origins of the instrument. Observation and hearsay would lead us to conclude that the prime motivation for purchase and installation of the instrument was provided by the then Vicar of Shortlands, the Reverend A. N. B. Sugden, who was also the incumbent when the new church building which was consecrated in 1955. We have learned that the pipe work and action was derived from two redundant instruments taken from the Princess Street and Milton Congregational Churches in Gravesend. Some of the pipe work was clearly taken from an ornately decorated instrument of the Victorian age, as the decoration remains intact, although these pipes are now only visible from within the organ chamber. We also know that they were organs with different compasses, as some ranks have had extra pipes added to complete the current 56 note compass of manuals. Having found out which churches the organ was derived from, we are now attempting to trace the history of both the instruments concerned.

The three manual console was new when installed in St. Mary's and was of a stop tab design which was later converted to draw-stop. There are plaques on the console commemorating work by Percy Daniel & Co., Clevedon which we now know was the original installation in 1956. There was also a major overhaul carried out in 1987, we believe by Notormanns of Aylesbury.

The instrument was opened in 1956 at a recital given by Dr Thomas Armstrong D.Mus on 22nd July.


The Organ: Specification

The Great Organ The Swell Organ
16’ Double Diapason 8’ Open Diapason 
8’ Open Diapason I 8’ Salicional
8’ Open Diapason II 8’ Celeste
8’ Claribel Flute 8’ Lieblich Gedeckt
4’ Principal 4’ Principal
4’ Lieblich Flöte III Mixture
2/3 Twelfth 16’ Double Trumpet
2’ Fifteenth 8’ Trumpet
III Cornet 8’ Oboe
8’ Tromba *    

Swell to Great

Choir to Great Sub-Octave
  Unison Off

The Choir Organ (enclosed)

The Pedal Organ
8’ Gedeckt 32’ Contra Bourdon
8’ Dulciana 16’ Bourdon
4’ Nason Flute 16’ Echo Bourdon
2’ Block Flute 16’ Open Diapason
II Sext 8’ Bass Flute
4’ Krummhorn (to tenor C) 8’  Octave
8’ Tromba * (unenclosed) 16’  Trombone *

Swell to Choir

Great to Pedal
Octave Swell to Pedal
Sub-Octave Choir to Pedal
Unison Off  

Four thumb combination pistons to Great
Four thumb and toe combination pistons to Swell
Four thumb combination pistons to Choir
Reversible Swell to Great thumb and toe pistons
Reversible Great to Pedal thumb and toe pistons
Great to Pedal Combinations off

Detached Console, electro-pneumatic action throughout. Original builder(s) unknown, installer Percy Daniel & Co., Clevedon. A major re-build was undertaken in 1987, possibly by Notormanns of Aylesbury. Further maintenance work to replace the voltage regulators, clean the contacts and regulate the reeds was undertaken in 2005. The instrument is tuned and maintained by Mr Martin Cross of Grays, Essex.