Life in the choir at St Mary's

A personal view of my experience of a week in the choir

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The Choir at St Albans

Last Update

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 2:39 PM

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My family all robed

The choir at St Mary's

Moving the piano

Quite a few people ask me - what is it like in the choir? To give you an idea I suppose I can best tell you about a typical week. All my family are in the choir. Both boys singing treble, and my wife attempting to be an Alto and myself joining the other 2 or sometime 3 tenors, adding yet another Tenor part. The tenors always endeavour to sing up ( sometimes there are only two of us and there are lots of trebles/sopranos) so we have to do our part.

The week usually starts on Friday evening just before 7:00. We arrive for the choir practice and rush to the vestry to find the books and sheet music that is required for the practice session. The trebles start first, having a warm up session followed by practicing some of their parts. Between 7:30 and 7:45 the adults arrive and then Simon takes us through each of the anthems, Psalms and other music, piece by piece.

Much of the music is in parts and this means each part of the choir, the Basses, Tenors, Altos and Trebles, singing different tunes.Many of the choir are excellent at sight reading and getting the tune right. I need far more help and often I have to go through my part several times before Simon is reasonably happy with it. Once the practice is over we get the church ready for the Sunday service, if there is no wedding, which usually involves moving the piano. Even if there is a Wedding we still have to move the piano! The worse job is when we need the piano at the back of the church - it is exceedingly heavy and its a very long way. Only once have we had to carry the piano back to the front of the church during the service ( since it was needed at the front later in the service).

After practice at home on the Friday evening and on the Saturday, I play the music we practiced in the rehearsals again and again to try and learn all the tunes and especially my parts. The rest of my family have less problems learning than I do. I play the organ - play at it is a better description. I can occasionally do the right hand, the left is terrible ( playing at a different speed to the right ) and the pedals are all over the place, but it does help us to get the tune. I am much better on the computer and midi files for practice.

On the Sunday morning we arrive at the vestry just before 9:00, put on our robes and quickly run through the morning Psalm and the Anthem. Then we put up the Hymn boards that the trebles prepared on the Friday evening. Most are still too short to reach.

We then sing our best in the service, trying to remember all the things that Simon has taught us. Then after the service we help the Verger get the church ready for the evening service. Some of the choir work on their medals with Simon.

After a Sunday lunch I try to go through the music for the evening. I try to get the computer to play midi files of all the music I need to sing. For a Choral evensong the choir get together, fully robed in the choir stalls for 5pm to go through all the anthems, canticles and psalms for later on. Then some time after six we get ready for the service and try our best to remember all we have been taught.

On some special weeks we get another service midweek.

We find being in the choir good fun. We learn lots of challenging music. Since joining the choir, the boys now sing hymns and anthems around the house. We have all performed in the Messiah, which we immensely enjoyed. So much so that we volunteered to help sing in another Messiah performance.

We all get chances to sing solos, my first was a bit scary for me. I spent all week practising, and all Saturday, ready for the morning service, but it went well. When one of my sons did his first solo, the Rector acknowledged it, which was a great boost to him.

We put a lot into being in the choir, but we have got out far more. We have met with some really helpful people in the choir and have become a real part of the life at St Mary's.

The choir rehearsing at St Albans Cathedral and Abbey Church

Practicing in St Albans Song School

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Web website www.stmaryshemel.org.uk

Philip