CSI St. Thomas English Church is set amid sylvan surroundings, on busy Santhome High Road. The Church was built in 1842 by the British, to honour the memory of the Apostle St. Thomas, who walked the sands of Santhome in the first century A.D. Since then, this church has been a landmark in the coastline of Madras. With its small white spire, its pealing bell and the rushing sea breezes, it has stood as a beacon of hope down the ages. Fondly called STEC, this Church has literally been a second home to generations of Christians in and around Santhome.
MUSIC AT STEC:
Music has always been an integral part of the worship at STEC. The Church choir was formed and nurtured over the years by many notable musicians. From the 1930s, C.P. Daniels played a key role as organist at STEC for more than three decades. Special mention must be made of Uncle Seth Balasunder, who led the choir for almost three decades, from early 1960s. Singing was his passion in life, and he introduced us to beautiful choral music. With his vibrant tenor voice, Uncle held us spellbound as he treated us to many classical arias, as well as modern Gospel music. He also introduced the choir to contemporary cantatas, and we gave three performances a year – a special Choir Sunday in addition to the Carol service and the Passion recital – a tradition we still follow to this day. Balasunder Uncle also brought in famous conductors like Richard Singh, under whose baton STEC choir performed on special occasions.
Balasunder Uncle was ably supported by the then organist Ebenezer Noble, a whiz on the pipe organ. It was a treat to watch him play – his flying fingers and nimble footwork drew out amazing music. Other notable contributors to music at STEC include Crossley Ponniah, Doraipandian Raja, John D. Thamban, Alice George, M. Samuel Chandrakumar and Rajkumar Thangiah. Currently, the choir is being led by Anila Manoharan.
The choir at STEC has grown to include a large number of children, who actively participate in the worship service. We raised funds for a rural school at Tiruvallur in TamilNadu, by staging a children’s musical `Samson – the day God brought down the house’ in July 2006 at Museum Theatre, Chennai. It was an awesome performance by our children and was very well-received.
The face of the STEC choir keeps changing over the years. As our choristers leave Chennai, and move on to various places around the globe, they remember their good old church and send us lovely music, which we use on a regular basis.
Every Sunday morning, the congregation at STEC, not to be outdone, always raises their lusty voices in unison, joining the choristers in singing favourite hymns, to the accompanying rich tones of our beautiful pipe organ. A sophisticated electronic organ, further supplements our music, adding variety to the worship.