They hatched a plan to surprise musical director Thom Meredith with a reward for his 25 years at the helm of their choir.

Then the members of the Colne Valley Male Voice Choir, aided and abetted by Thom’s wife Lynn, leaped into clandestine action. It took them a few weeks to arrange, but by last month they were ready to reveal their conspiracy.

The result? One extremely surprised conductor presented with tickets for an all-expenses-paid trip with Lynn to see the hit musical Miss Saigon in London’s West End.

It was, says 48-year-old Thom, who was entirely unaware of the subterfuge, “completely unexpected and very moving. Although possibly worrying that I could be duped so easily.”

After quarter of a century with the choir Thom has certainly made his mark.

As choir chairman Roger Fielding said at the presentation: “We all know we wouldn’t have been able to perform to the standards of excellence we sometimes reach, had Thom not been around to show us the way; help us reach our best.”

But his contribution to the musical life of Kirklees stretches far beyond the Colne Valley.

Colne Valley Male Voice Choir on tour in 2012. Pictured with music director Thom Meredith in Cornwall
Colne Valley Male Voice Choir on tour in 2012. Pictured with music director Thom Meredith in Cornwall
 

As well as directing the CVMVC, Thom is also principal of Kirklees Music School, the conductor of Kirklees Youth Orchestra and leader of the Colne Valley Boys Choir. But it’s true to say that it was the Colne Valley men who first brought him to this area.

Back in 1989, when he was appointed musical director for the CVMVC, Thom was living in Leeds.

Two years later he was appointed Head of Music at the Colne Valley High School and the family made the decision to relocate to Huddersfield.

He explained: “It just seemed that Huddersfield was such a musical place and we wanted our son (Harry, who was then a baby) to grow up in this environment.”

Harry is now a professional musician and half of the duo The Switch, performing on cruise ships and in hotels world-wide.

Thom, who was born in Australia to British parents, was himself raised in a musical family.

His mum and dad met at their local Gilbert and Sullivan Society and Thom and his four siblings (three of them adopted) were encouraged to play musical instruments. “We all had two different instrument lessons each, I don’t know how my mum and dad managed to timetable it all,” he says.

His elder brother is now head of music at a girls’ school in Wakefield.

Thom, who came back to England at the age of four, started off by learning the violin and piano, later taking up the tuba.

He also sang and admits that after gaining a place to study music and play the violin at Oxford University he found himself gravitating towards voice lessons and ended up singing at the Guild Hall in London, where he met the now-famous Welsh opera star Bryn Terfel.

His years spent in the gods at Leeds Grand listening to opera – and performing as a 12-year-old in Tosca with Opera North – certainly weren’t wasted. Although Thom became a musical high flyer, he wasn’t always as committed. And that’s where he believes an encouraging parent – or teacher – is invaluable.

Forget-Me-Not Trust Christmas Concert at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Birchencliffe. Thom Meredith conducting the Kirklees Music School Staff Orchestra. from 2012
Forget-Me-Not Trust Christmas Concert at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Birchencliffe. Thom Meredith conducting the Kirklees Music School Staff Orchestra. from 2012
 

He explained: “I got fed up with my violin and wanted to give up after grade four, but my mum said ‘you can give up after grade eight if you want to’ but not now.

“I think it’s important to recognise that sometimes you need to work at something and strive for it to be as good as it possibly can be.

“There’s a general feeling that people can try something and give it up and try something else, but that’s not necessarily the best way.”

Understandably, Thom, whose wife is also a choir leader, is a firm believer in the now well-documented health and social benefits of choral singing and is delighted that the ‘Gareth Malone factor’ has caused a resurgence of interest in choirs.

“It is the most satisfying activity,” he says. But he is also keen to stress the importance of keeping music alive in schools. Children benefit from music in so many ways,” he added, “in a orchestra, for example, there’s social mixing, listening to other people, being part of a team.”

  • The Colne Valley Male Voice Choir is performing at Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield, at 2.30pm on Sunday, with Budleigh Salterton Male Voice Choir from Devon, accompanied by the Dewsbury/ Mirfield Music Centre Swing Band.