It was a huge surprise in January when Lesley suddenly asked me if I would like to step into Barry’s organ shoes from early summer. I had to think about it for a while, as I was then singing in the choir at St Andrew’s in Farnham, and occasionally playing the organ there.
But I was drawn to the idea of helping with the music at all three churches in the Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale – it seemed like riches galore! It is a great honour to take up this post, and very exciting to help Lesley and Alan explore new musical ideas for worship. I hope to help Pamela in a small way with the St John’s choir, and learn about voice production in the ‘Voice for Life’ scheme for choral musicians. Perhaps we’ll be able to sing some simple anthems before long.
Musical traditions are being exchanged at St Mark’s – Bob Shatwell with his ‘folk fiddle’ is teaching me to ‘vamp the chords’ on the piano to accompany him in ‘All God’s creatures got a place in the choir’! I’ve yet to perfect this technique! In turn I’m helping Bob with some classical music, and at Easter we played some peaceful Bach after Communion, and joyful Bach at the end of the service.
The project to fundraise for St Mark’s Edwardian organ, ‘Emily’, is only just beginning. When her lovely mellow tone is restored, she can be used for the grander hymns, and so the music will be more diverse.
In April Barry invited me to the fortnightly Band practice at St George’s, and I was very impressed with the young people’s great enthusiasm in playing violins, flute, clarinet, and drums, with Barry on treble recorder. Margaret conducts from the piano with verve and humour which is infectious. I enjoyed choir practice there too. As I left Barry put the recorder under my arm saying, “you can play this now”! Never having played one before, we’ll see what happens in two weeks time!
My first task has been to choose the hymns for all three churches. They have individual styles of worship, and so the hymns have to be appropriate, and suit the theme of each service. We hope to enlarge the repertoire with modern hymns whose tunes are pleasing to all ears, if possible! Debates over hymns can become heated, but I hope we can all achieve harmony with our voices and our opinions, and together make ‘ a joyful noise unto the Lord’. Church music should create the right mood; it can be balm to the soul, it can break through depression, it can ‘call us back to life’.
There may also be a modern organ voluntary at the end of services sometimes. I hope you will allow that! I’m grateful for the support of my fellow organists at St John’s, and for all the encouragement from Lesley, Alan, Pamela and Barry. Thank you, everyone, for this great opportunity.