Music News October 2020

Back to school, back to the office, shops and cafes, but best of all, back to the choir! Zoom practices began again at the beginning of September with a lengthy programme of music, some familiar and some new. An outdoor rehearsal is planned for the adult choir at the end of September, suitably distanced and weather permitting. The Junior Choir will be the first group to start indoor practices in mid-September, and it is hoped that they will be leading the singing in Family Services. It will be strange for all of us to see other choristers in real life, and to remember that they are three dimensional entities with legs and feet!

Of course the choir has not been idle over the summer. On 26 July Jeremy Allen’s new anthem Song of Hope, based on words written in her diary by the teenage Anne Frank while she was in hiding in Amsterdam during World War II, was given its world premiere as a recording in the online services as reflective music. The first verse was performed largely by the Junior Choir, with the full choir joining in as the music developed.

At the end of term rehearsal we celebrated Oli King’s 10 years as Director of Music at St Mary’s with a surprise gift delivery, including a Royal College of Organists Fellowship hood. Oli has not only strengthened the Junior Choir, but has also established the missing link between the Juniors and adults with the very successful introduction of the new role of Choral Scholars. This year may have been his greatest challenge yet, after the initial audition of course. We are all very grateful for the hard work and ingenuity he has put in to keeping the musical life of the church going during the pandemic.

In mid-August Patrick Li and Oli masterminded a Plainsong Workshop, as a precursor to a moving online service of Compline which many of the choir and congregation attended. Further plainsong works are scheduled for the autumn.

Meanwhile, the choir has made a recording of Stanford’s Magnificat in G, which is due to be played during St Mary’s Patronal Festival and other services on Sunday 13 September. Once again, enormous thanks are due to Peter De Vile who undertook the difficult task of meshing all the individual recordings into one harmonious whole.

Img 6855-crop-800
Elliott, Sophie and James at their last service

The new academic year marks some departures. Sophie Ollerenshaw, James Marsh and Elliott Randall are all moving on. Sophie and James have been members of the choir since they were junior trebles, rising to become senior Choral Scholars, and frequent soloists in services. As their swan song, they will be 2 of the 4 choristers at the Patronal Festival. Elliott, our first Organ Scholar of recent times, has somehow crammed 4 or 5 years of learning into just 2, under the generally benevolent guidance of Oli and Jeremy. All 3 scholars will leave significant gaps to be filled, not only in terms of musical and social contributions, but also in acting as role models for today’s Juniors. We hope that they will, like many before them, return from time to time to enhance the musical life of the church.

Finally, at this time of uncertainty and change, here are the words from Anne Frank’s Diary which Jeremy set to music in Song of Hope:

Think of all the beauty still left around you, and be happy.
Where there’s hope there’s life.
It fills us with fresh courage
And makes us strong again.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Ottilie Lefever