Music News - June 2021

YouTube30 May 2021On 30 April the SMMA held its first AGM with Rector Jeremy Trew as its new President. He may have been somewhat surprised to learn that he had acquired this role in addition to all his parish, team and Deanery responsibilities, but of course rose impeccably to the situation. The AGM was attended by 26 devices (what a strange world we live in now!), equating to around 30 participants, which was quite an increase on the 24 people physically present at the AGM in 2020. It will be interesting to see whether, sometimes perhaps, meeting remotely is easier for some people than physically attending, and whether we should in future consider some sort of hybrid event.

Following the departure from the Committee of Gill Gibson and Karen Goddard, as reported in the previous Newsletter, Maureen Pullen and Francoise Mouchet-Davis were elected as new members. Peter De Vile, whose 3 year term had expired was re-elected. Peter of course has been tending to the organ for many years, and more recently has been stitching together the choir’s home recordings. No doubt, based on my own experience as a relatively recent joiner of the SMMA Committee, Mo and Francoise will find themselves with new roles shortly! Meanwhile Anne Cass has stood down from successfully running Joyful Noise, the group for our youngest musicians, and the Brass Group has been in abeyance during lockdowns, so the SMMA will be looking to renew, rebuild and revive as the country moves forward.

Steve Cass, as Treasurer, reported a relatively quiet year in terms of both income and expenditure. The SMMA was unable of course to run any fundraising events in 2020, but ended its financial year on 31 December 2020 in a slightly better position than at the end of 2019 due to some generous legacies and retiring collections from funeral services of former choristers, and the receipts from David Hoy’s annual stamp sale. However, church music cannot run for ever on fresh air, so the SMMA is beginning to consider fundraising events for 2021, subject to the continued easing of lockdown.

The SMMA is also planning to recruit a new Michael Swindlehurst Organ Scholar to commence in the autumn. The closing date for applications is 1 July 2021, with auditions and interviews on 11 July. The scholarship is worth £752 plus lessons. If you know of anyone who might be interested, further details can be obtained from Oli King, email . Elliot, who was our first scholar, progressed from beginner level to being awarded a place to study at the Royal College of Music Junior Department in just 2 years. Here is how he described his experience:

“Overall the scholarship was amazing and I learned a great deal about not only organ playing, but how the church runs and how the music can support the service. I think the amount of organ lessons was great and after each lesson I actually felt like I had learned lots! The extra-organ things like the conducting and singing were great and I really enjoyed doing them, it also forced me to be bit more confident in leading the choir and be able to make decisions about how I wanted the piece to be played which was really fun! When I first started, I found the Wendens Ambo services quite hard but once I had learned how to play hymns and lead a bit more, the services became much easier.”

Normally this Newsletter would be reporting on a surge of music for the Easter period. This year has been very different. The choir’s main contributions were the Daily Reflections of Words and Music for each day from Palm Sunday to Easter Day, reported on in last month’s Newsletter, and the continuation of the provision of cantor(s) for each service. But from 25th April 6 members of the choir have been permitted to sing at each service for the first time this year. I was privileged to be in the first group. 5 of us had not sung in church since December, and without exception we were all very nervous. I now appreciate the work done by those who have been singing solo or in pairs even more than I did before. Happily, with the continuing progress along the lockdown roadmap, it seems likely that choir numbers will be increasing gradually to 8, 10 and more, and that even real life practices may be possible shortly. We may be rehearsing in our very smart new “public speaking” masks, sourced by the Hoys, and we may be shivering outdoors in the cold winds of an English summer, but we shall get there.

Why do we do this? Because, as Jeremy Trew reminded us at the end of the AGM, music has powers to move us in ways that the spoken word just cannot. He spoke of his experience as a young treble in his small village church choir, which, like the neighbouring parish choirs was given music by their diocese to rehearse for choral evensong. The day came when all the choirs met to sing together in the cathedral combining in a congregation of what seemed to a small boy to be around 1000 people. For 2 bars it was magical – till the conductor made everyone stop and start again. But it is such experiences which keep us all making music, through lockdown and beyond.

We want all of us at St Mary’s to share the joy set out in 3 verses from Psalm 98 which Oli King quoted at the end of his Music Report: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn – shout for joy before the Lord, the King”.

Ottilie Lefever