The Choir of All Saints Church Staplehurst
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A Year in the Life of the Choir at All Saints Staplehurst
The choir at All Saints is one of the busiest local choirs in the Canterbury Diocese. The 15 strong membership, on a good day, has over the past year has moved 'up a gear' and taken on some new and exciting musical pieces during 2010. I suppose the general expectation amongst those who aren't regular church going people is that a Parish Choir only sings at services on Sunday, at Weddings and occasionally at Funerals. But, not at All Saints!
As the newly appointed Choir Director, I've set the choir some challenges throughout this year. Firstly, in February I introduced a musical evening for couples getting married during the summer. It was an opportunity for them to come and hear a sample of the variety of music they could choose for their wedding service; it's not as easy as it seems choosing the music for your special day particularly if you don't know what's available or even what you like. The choir had a super time getting to know the couples during the break over drinks and nibbles, making it a worthwhile event for all. During the year the choir has sung at 6 weddings and 2 services of blessing; and we anticipate our last wedding of the year on the 18 December. The favourite hymn this year was Jerusalem. Our repertoire during the signing of the register has ranged from Moon River, The Lord is my Shepherd, the theme tune to The Vicar of Dibley, a number of pieces by the composer John Rutter and our challenging, but the most beautiful piece O Magum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen.
On Good Friday Service the choir sang Faure's Requiem. This is a challenging piece at the best of times for professional choirs, but they performed it magnificently well given that this was the first time some of them had sung it. Of course, we had some dramas during our rehearsal time on the way as you do with an unfamiliar piece of music, but the choir came out on top showing that they could tackle anything; well within reason! The choir was privileged to participate in the Service of Remembrance and Dedication for the Airmen who operated out of Staplehurst during the 1943-1944. Whilst the Canadian and American National Anthem's were familiar to choir members, we had never sung them before; it proved to be a very uplifting and moving service for all who attended.
One of our choir members and organist, Steve Bennett was ordained as a Deacon in Canterbury on the first Saturday in July. We knew that the celebratory service at All Saints the following day would be full of wonderful and uplifting music. The choir was tasked by Steve to sing a number of unfamiliar songs during communion - we still continue to use these pieces during our services. Another choir member, Kevin Fulcher was licensed as a Reader in Canterbury in mid July and he tasked us to sing one of his favourite anthems; if the trend continues other choir members beware as you may be the next one to be called to a different Ministry in All Saints.
During the summer months, the Church offers Cream Teas once month on a Sunday afternoon. In August the choir was asked to sing some well known material as well as some secular pieces. The genre of music was wide ranging. The choir and some of our soloists sang music ranging from Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring by Bach to songs from the musicals Chess and Jesus Christ Superstar. We included a piece with an amusing set of words sung to the tune of the hymn 'Immortal Invisible God only Wise'. The piece takes a look at the funny side of being in a choir; we need some light relief sometimes!
In September the choir was invited to sing Evensong in the small village Ivychurch where we experienced a very different church community life to our own. Hot on the heels of that service was the All Saints Church Gift Day, where Gill asked us to sing during the afternoon. Again we were able to offer a wide repertoire of music for people to listen too.
November was a very busy month for the choir - in addition to the Sunday Services the choir sang at another event nearly every week. It started in early in the month when the choir sang a couple of Rutter pieces at the Service of Blessing for our Curate Lusa and his wife Mirjam - that was certainly another celebration to remember. The annual Remembrance Day Service, albeit a sombre occasion, reminds us that we are here to serve the wider village community in a rather different way. A few days later found us sharing in another musical evening for wedding couples. We were able to welcome around 20 people considering what music they might have for their 2011 wedding.
With only a few weeks' notice, on 22 November some members of the choir found themselves singing in The Great American Songbook. For those of you who came along to the packed church, it was a wonderful musical evening all arranged by local resident Stevie Higgins with three stars from the West End singing some very familiar music from the shows. In the second half of the programme the choir had an opportunity to sing 'Moon River' from the film Breakfast at Tiffany's, and supported the soloists in 'It Ain't Necessarily So' from Porgy & Bess, culminating with the show tune “You'll Never Walk Alone” from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel. We ended the month with the Advent Carol Service; a very reflective but forward looking service.
As I write this article, the choir are busy preparing for the Christmas Services - a busy season for any church choir. We are looking at some different music to sing at the Nine Lessons and Carols Service which we are very much looking forward to sharing with those who come along.
I want to express my own personal thanks to the choir who have worked so hard this year and achieved so much. They really are a great bunch of people to work with, challenging at times, but we have fun and a laugh along the way too! I look forward to 2011 when I hope we will continue to build on what we have achieved during 2010. Thank you team.
And finally ............... if anyone would like to come along and sing with the Parish Church Choir, then I would be delighted to hear from you. Choir Practice is on Friday's in the Church at 7pm. I look forward to hearing from you.
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In services we sing introits, anthems, psalms, sacred songs, traditional chants, Taizé chants and of course a good range of hymns. Hymns are chosen either from Hymns Ancient & Modern revised, Mission Praise or Sing Glory. When we have the opportunity to sing music for Choral Evensong services, we also enjoy the challenge of more complex service settings. Simple choruses and familiar hymns are used for the Family Service on the first Sunday morning of the month and the choir is not used for this service.
During special times during the year the choir offers special events and performances of sacred music. For Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Eve, Easter Day, Ascension Day and also to celebrate particular festivals and to mark special days in the church's calendar, we offer something special to match.
Sometimes, opportunities arise to offer solos to individuals in the choir, or other singers from the local area are used as 'guest' soloists. Also, from time to time, the choir seeks to work on larger scale works. Our recent venture included singing the Fauré Requiem Mass using soloists from our own choir.
In the last three years with have sung:
Weddings are an important part of the choir's work and we are particularly keen to ensure that those couples who are seeking a musical wedding are able to approach their preparation for their service in partnership with the choir, if they so wish. Couples are encouraged to come along to one of the two wedding music evenings the choir specifically sets aside each year to help couples choose suitable music that they want to hear and that their families and friends will want to sing. Couples are strongly recommended to seek the advice of the Music Director in order that their requirements can be discussed. If you want to know more then do please download the Wedding Music Leaflet
The aim of the choir is to “be with God through music”, and to make music to the glory of God. We aim to inspire others through the medium of music, to lead the congregation in the singing of hymns and sacred songs, and also to support the said parts of the services - always working to the highest standards.
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