Every year, the Choral Evensong in June is a Festal Evensong, during which we celebrate the formation of the St Mary’s Music Association (SMMA), give thanks for the musical tradition that has been built up at St Mary’s, and seek blessing upon all of us who make music to enhance the worship within our Church. Traditionally we also invite as guest preacher either a previous member of the clergy team or someone who has had a strong connection with our music.
This year at the SMMA Festal Evensong, we celebrated 25 years since the SMMA was formed and our guest preacher was the Revd Phillip Tarris, now the Rector of Thaxted and its associated village parishes.
The present choir was formed by Andrew Malcolm in 1985 when the Rector was the Revd Peter Harlow. As the Choir grew and music making developed, Andrew, as Director of Music (DoM), started building up a heavy load of administration in addition to his primary role as DoM. Gordon Smith, when he joined the choir, quickly recognized that ad hoc assistance was inadequate and set up the SMMA in 1992 to support the DoM by providing administrative and financial support for the music at St Mary’s. All adult musicians in the Church are automatically members, but membership is also open to other members of our congregation. The Association and the support it gives is admired by many and other church choirs have asked for information on how we operate.
The Evensong this year was led by the Rector, and the music conducted by Oli King, our current DoM who has been in post for almost 7 years. We sang the Ayleward Responses, and the canticles were the Harwood setting in Ab. These are pieces that we shall sing again in July when the Choir acts as Choir in Residence at Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff. The anthem was ‘The Heavens are Telling’ from the Haydn ‘Creation’ and the soloists were Karin Fischer-Buder (Soprano), Steve Cass (Tenor) and Peter De Vile (Bass). The first lesson was read by our founding Chairman, Gordon Smith, and the second lesson was read by Margaret Jacobs, a founder member of the Choir. The final organ voluntary, played by our Assistant Organist Jeremy Allen, was the Prelude in Eb, BWV 552i, by J S Bach.
All the previous SMMA Chairs were at the service: Gordon Smith, Phillip Tarris, Caroline Goulder, Lesley Green and the current Chairman, Bron Ferland. And in church were six founder members of the Choir from when it was formed in 1985: David and Diana Hoy, Margaret Jacobs, Lesley Green, Noel Starr and – Phillip Tarris!
Music in June – July
The lunchtime recital series is now drawing to a close, with only two more recitals to go, on 12th (Andrew Smith, clarinet, and Peter Arnold, piano) and 19th July (Diana Hoy, contralto, and Wendy Watts, piano). The recitals this year have featured a wide range of music and have been very well received. Thanks go to the recitalists – and also to the makers and servers of coffee, sandwiches and cakes! Besides drawing an audience of supporters and music enthusiasts both locally and from further afield, these recitals help raise money for the SMMA, for the purchase of music among many things.
An organ – trumpet recital took place on Saturday 15th July with Kate Goatman on the trumpet and Oli King on the organ.
Meanwhile the choirs have had a busy time. Much of the music we have been rehearsing through June and July has been practised in preparation for Llandaff, where the Adult Choir, with Choral Scholars, will be Choir in Residence at the end of July. The music at Llandaff will be anthems and canticles by English and Irish composers – with the exception of Fauré’s “Cantique de Racine” and Mendelssohn’s “Hear my Prayer”. Howells, Wood and Morley will feature prominently in the repertoire, and there will also be items by Stanford (“Justorum animae”), Harwood (Canticles in Ab) and Tallis (“O Nata Lux”). All of this music is already known to the congregation at St Mary’s as it has featured in the services over the past few weeks.
The singers in the Junior Choir have had their own busy schedule, which at this time of the year is to be expected, what with exams and end-of-school year events such as plays, sports days, outings and award-giving ceremonies. Besides singing alongside the adults and Choral Scholars at a number of services, the Junior Choir have sung at weddings, of which there seem to be a lot at this time of year. And then of course there has been the combined Joyful Noise–Junior Choir concert in celebration of junior music making at St Mary’s.
Joyful Noise – Junior Choir concert, 1st July 2017
Every summer we have an afternoon concert where children can inspire us all with their virtuosity and braveness of spirit. This year’s concert, on Saturday 1st July, included four pianists, a trumpeter, a clarinet as well as some vocal soloists. The music they chose ranged from a sailor’s hornpipe and a folk music medley to more modern pieces such as “Where is Love,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean”, and even included a rendition of a pop song called “Hopeless”. The concert started and ended with worship songs sung by the joint choirs and then everyone tucked into cakes.
It takes thousands of hours of teaching and practice to make an accomplished musician and there has been some controversy in the media recently about schools not being able to afford to pay for regular and sustained professional teaching time for music. Parents have to pay for instrumental lessons in schools, which over the course of a lifetime amounts to thousands of pounds for the few who can afford it. This makes it all the more encouraging to see the amount of time and resources that those at our church are prepared to devote to training up youngsters. The Clergy and PCC, Oli, Kate and Jeremy, Bron and the SMMA, the parents and the pupils themselves, and of course their instrument tutors, all work together seamlessly to produce such a happy and talented bunch of children. We are very blessed and very grateful.
Another opportunity to sing at St Mary’s
Following the success of the pop-up choir last summer while the regular choir were on holiday, there will be another opportunity to sing as part of an ad hoc group at a St Mary’s service in August this year. If you are interested, and available to sing at 10.00a.m. on Sunday 13th August 2017, why not join us? All voice parts and levels of experience will be welcome. Further details will be announced in the Grapevine and on St Mary’s website closer to the date.