July 2017: The Llandaff visit
I felt very privileged to be present at Llandaff in late July. The arrangements made by Oli and Bron were faultless. We stayed in student accommodation which was well fit for the purpose, except for some days when it was without hot water (although the manager compensated us by not charging for car parking)! The halls of residence allowed us to meet socially in our flat kitchens/living rooms and in the reception building. The village around the Cathedral had lovely cafés and pubs like Jaspers and The Maltsters.
The music sung by the Choir was sublime – a treat to be appreciated – and all our soloists, such as in the Mendelssohn “Hear my prayer”, were wonderful. We were also proud that Peter, inconspicuously, was able to repair the organ when it packed up. Sadly the cathedral clergy and congregation were sparse, but Oli and Jeremy, with the choir, were able to help the new curate work through his first choral evensong. The unexpected erection of scaffolding in the nave of the cathedral affected both the appearance and the acoustics.
Cardiff, as a city, was most impressive. For time off, we went to the St Fagan’s Folk Museum and Cardiff Bay. We viewed it from all angles – boat to the barrage, from waterfront cafés and the Bristol Channel and Somerset from the Big Wheel. And we were very happy to see again two of our past Choral Scholars: Ellie Flicos (née Harpum), in the city for her graduation from Cardiff University, and Sian (née Newman) with her brand new baby.
I now eagerly await the CD of the Llandaff music.
August 2017: Pop-up choir
Having taken part in the Pop-up Choir event at St Mary’s last summer, when I noticed that there was another opportunity to be a part of the musical element of worship on Sunday 13th August this year I jumped at the chance! This year, I took with me my son James (who has recently joined the Junior Choir). We arrived at church to find we were joining forces with twelve others who fancied stepping in the shoes of the Church Choir for the day! The sopranos rather outweighed the other vocal parts, but we managed to have every part covered. Under the encouraging and expert direction of Oli King and Simon Potter, we had fun rehearsing the hymns for the service (“All creatures of our God and King”, “I heard the voice of Jesus say”, “Lord Jesus Christ”, “Be still, for the presence of the Lord”, and “Go forth and tell!”) and learned Schubert’s “Holy, Holy, Holy”, and “Be still, my soul”, set to the tune of “Finlandia” by Sibelius. Considering the fact this was the first time that this particular group had come together to sing, I think we were all rather pleasantly surprised with the result (we even managed dynamics)! It was, once again, wonderful to come together and provide music for the service. For anyone who is wondering whether they might like to take part in the next such event, not everyone who joined in sings regularly with a choir. So it is not a daunting experience. How joyous it was to come together as members of the congregation and be singing beautiful music together. It certainly made our return from holiday eminently more palatable!
September 2017: Congratulations and Farewell
This is the time of the year when we say goodbye to four of our Choral Scholars as they move on to university and new adventures. This year we’re bidding farewell to Lewis Colley who is going to study Computer Science at the University of Essex, to Alexander Prevost who will be studying English at Lancaster University and to Rebecca Prevost who will be studying Spanish and Economics at Warwick University. We are particularly pleased to report that the fourth leaver, Liam Goddard, was awarded a Choral Scholarship to Clare College, Cambridge, so will obviously be continuing with his singing, as well as studying Mathematics there! They will all be sadly missed but we’re hoping that they, like other ex-Scholars, will return on occasion to sing with us. (Just to illustrate, four ex-Choral Scholars came with the choir to Llandaff this year: Alison Lawrence, a regular choir member, and Ellie Beare, Hannah Harpum and Matthew Maasdorp.) So we’re not saying goodbye but au revoir.
Meanwhile, two Juniors, Eleanor and Helena, and a Junior Blue, tenor George, have moved up to become probationary Choral Scholars. New surplices have been awarded to two of our younger Juniors, Isobel and Patricia, and Eleanor has gained her red ribbon. Finally, congratulations go to Noah, for being appointed head chorister of the Junior Choir.
Sadly, the new year for the choir began earlier than planned with the funeral service for Michael Swindlehurst. It was a great privilege to sing and say farewell to one of the most faithful supporters of music at St Mary’s throughout his time in Saffron Walden. Michael always wrote in appreciation of special services and almost always accompanied us on the various non-residential cathedral visits, including last year’s visit to Southwark. Many will not be aware that for many years Michael almost single handedly delivered all our concert fliers to the various businesses in the town, considering it a fine opportunity for pastoral visiting! This continued until earlier this year. The whole congregation will miss him, but so will we as a Music Association.
Bron Ferland & Karin Fischer-Buder