St Mary’s Music News - May 2023

The Choir and the Brass Group, supported by the increasingly frail and temperamental organ, have been very busy participating in worship during Lent and through to Easter, not only on Sunday mornings, but also in the evenings in 4 services of Choral Eucharist or Evensong, and a Devotional Offering. The music has ranged from the mid 1500s to the present day. We have sung Byrd, Arnerio, Purcell and Mozart, as well as Bob Chilcott’s 21st century St John Passion for our Good Friday Offering. This Passion, enhanced by brass, timpani and strings, with participation from the congregation, was by turns a rousing and mediative experience for musicians and audience alike.

Of course, behind the music enjoyed weekly in St Mary’s, ably led by Oli King as Director of Music and Jeremy Allen as Assistant Organist, there has to be an administrative underpinning, which culminates in the SMMA’s AGM held in March. This year Jeremy Trew thanked the SMMA particularly for the support it gives to young musicians. This starts with Lizzie Bennett’s Joyful Noise sessions for the very youngest, progresses to the Junior Choir whose social activities are organised by Alison Lawrence, and graduates with our accomplished Choral Scholars supported by Noel Starr, Ellie Beare and Lewis Colley. We are very grateful to all of them.

Serendipitously, in joyous spring news, Helen (soprano) and Matt (bass) have welcomed the arrival of Flora Isobel, the first choir baby in over a quarter of a century. Lizzie has already earmarked her for Joyful Noise.

On a sadder note we said goodbye on Easter Sunday to Yechan, the second Michael Swindlehurst Organ Scholar, who is now concentrating on his forthcoming exams. Although he was already an accomplished organist when he took up the scholarship in autumn 2021, he has developed and thrived as part of the SMMA musical team, and we wish him all the best for the future. Information about the next Scholarship will appear in due course.

The AGM started with a report from Hannah Razzell as Chair. She admitted this was the first she had written since her university dissertation, appropriately on Plato’s and Aristotle’s view of music. This year Mo Pullen stood down from both the Committee and the choir, following an amazing 35 years of involvement with music at St Mary’s. Nell Hardingham also leaves the Committee, but happily remains in the choir as a soprano. Replacing them are Bron Ferland, who returns after a one year “sabbatical”, during which she has nevertheless been working very hard as the choir administrator, aka the mother hen to whom everyone turns for advice and organisational memory, as well as new joiner Rosie Kennedy Cadell. Rosie is also the mother of one of our lively Junior choristers. The draft Minutes of the AGM, including a full list of Officers and members of the Committee, as well as tweaks to the Constitution, will be published shortly.

The SMMA’s new venture in 2023 has been the series of 3 Coffee (and cake) Concerts on Wednesday mornings. These have starred students from SWCHS, Gail Ford and Edward Dodge on oboe and piano respectively, and St Mary’s own Karin Fischer-Buder, accompanied by former Assistant Organist Stephen Penton on piano. This new format has been a great success and the events have raised more than £550, even before the addition of Gift Aid.

They will be followed by our popular summer lunchtime concerts, starting on 31 May with a performance by soprano Titika Maragoula and pianist Richard Carr. The concerts take place on Wednesdays until 19 July. They begin at 1.10pm and last for approximately 40 minutes. Refreshments are available from 12.30 pm.

Finally, as Hannah reminded us at the AGM, may we continue to live out Psalm 21:13 as we say: ‘Rise up, O Lord, in all Your power. With music and singing we will celebrate Your mighty acts.’

Ottilie Lefever