Music News – July 2018
The Junior Choir and the children from Joyful Noise together took part in an informal concert for family and friends on Sunday 20th May. This proved very enjoyable and was an opportunity for the youngsters to perform individual solos on a variety of instruments to a friendly and supportive audience. Later the same day the adult choir sang Evensong at Sewards End.
The first organ recital for this year was a great performance from Peter Crompton, Organist Emeritus at the Royal Hospital School, Holbrook.
On the first Sunday in June the Rector presented a number of awards to the Junior Choir. The Juniors take part in the Voice for Life training scheme devised by the Royal School for Church Music and they work their way through the syllabus for each level, trained by Oli and some adult helpers.
Three youngsters had gained their surplices: James, Hayden and Harry. The first of the ribbon awards is the Light Blue, and this had been achieved by Rowan, Isaac and Samira. Dark Blue ribbons were awarded to Tabitha, Noah, Eden, Peter and Charlotte. Well done to them all!
There are just three remaining lunchtime concerts this year:
4th July: Krassimira Jeliazkova (violin) & Elizabeth Mucha (piano)
11th July: St Mary's Brass Quartet
18th July: Diana Hoy (contralto) & Wendy Watts (piano)
From the organ loft
On being asked to write this article I immediately began to consider the similarities between me as assistant organist at St Mary’s and Tim Peake as an astronaut on the International Space Station. Obvious analogies are one’s being cocooned in a confined space high above the ground, surrounded by a bewildering array of controls and electrical equipment, and with a nagging feeling of being out of touch with what is going on far below. But on a personal level a better comparison would be with Wallace, in Wallace & Gromit’s A Grand Day Out: two-way communication with those on the ground is practically impossible, and the view of what is happening down there is restricted largely to what can be seen via black and white CCTV with only two fixed camera angles. Being responsible for playing such a large and loud musical instrument as the organ in St Mary’s is therefore not for the faint-hearted, and requires constant vigilance lest one drops one’s guard and commits a liturgical faux pas. (Moi?!)
Choral evensong on 13th May for me (and probably for many in the choir) built on the service at Guildford a fortnight or so previously. That had turned out to be a memorable occasion, with fine music in splendid surroundings, and on the Sunday after Ascension at St Mary’s repertoire fit for the day was offered in the form of Murrill’s energetic evening canticles in E, Finzi’s by turns triumphal and rhapsodic God is gone up, and as organ voluntary Messiaen’s ecstatic outburst, Transports de joie – a choice of music satisfying on several levels, not merely for liturgical suitability but in terms of related keys, of joy and thankfulness, and even proximity of composition date. In good voice was a choir of juniors, adults and choral scholars, including some guest singers deputising for regular members, and from the organ loft they made a superb and confident sound. Having come back to earth, the day for me was rounded off by a pleasant drive home on a perfect spring evening.
On Saturday 2nd June the SMMA presented ‘Come and sing Duruflé Requiem’, an opportunity to rehearse and sing through this challenging but rewarding work without the pressure of a formal performance. Around 40 singers, including many from the church choir, assembled for a relaxed afternoon’s study of a much-loved piece. Yet it was far more than a mere run-through as Oli skilfully paced the proceedings by interspersing the vocal study with commentaries about the work and the composer, thus deepening the participants’ appreciation of what they were singing. For me the piece has special associations with St Mary’s, dating from when I first performed it here with a visiting choral society in May 1986. Duruflé used Gregorian chants as the thematic basis for his setting; the synthesis of these ancient and evocative melodies with the composer’s atmospheric harmonies has since that day been inextricably bound up with the glorious building which is St Mary’s and the centuries of worship for which it stands. Lucky for me, then, that 28 years later I found myself in post here playing for the Duruflé on Good Friday 2014 and again four years later for ‘Come and sing’. There was a good feeling throughout the afternoon, culminating in a creditable performance: it is easy to take for granted how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to make music together informally in such surroundings. Soloists were our very own Peter De Vile and Diana Hoy, with Becky Dowson as cellist in the ‘Pie Jesu’. Special thanks also to Lorna Allen, who stared marital discord in the face as the organist’s page-turner.