Tag Archives: Frances Whewell

News from St George’s Choir

On 18th May Ian Church, Vice-Chairman of the Royal School of Church Music, paid us the compliment of coming to our choir practice.  He told us that we have a great responsibility; we are ‘ministers of music’, and our singing should reveal ‘a glimpse of God.’   The motto of the School is: ‘I will sing with the spirit and with the understanding also’.

Ian took the second half of the practice, showing us how to ‘sing with the spirit’, and bring glory to God with ‘energy’. He thinks it’s essential to start with a ‘warm up’. Our voices are our own personal instruments, and need exercising as much as athletes, dancers and footballers exercise their bodies.  The warm up creates an opportunity to say hello to each other.

So we stood up and did a lot of fun stretching exercises – standing on one leg and shaking the other, arms out and shaking the shoulders, singing The Grand Old Duke of York – clapping on the ‘ups’ and stamping on the ‘downs’, tongue twisters…you get the picture.  Then Ian handed us giant playing cards, and as he played the piano and sang a number, we held aloft the appropriate card.  Hilarious for all, especially the children, and quite a test of co-ordination for all of us.

To make sure we were completely uninhibited, Ian asked us to sing a line or two of ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’, and really ‘let rip’.  Quite a cacophony!  And then Ian led us in the Peruvian Gloria, with Margaret on drum.  The energy levels by then were extremely high!

Ian gave us all sort of advice on singing technique, such as first singing new hymns to ‘la’ while looking at the notes.  He said that every choir member must learn to read music.  Ian is Music Director of St John’s, West Byfleet, with a children’s and an adult choir.  He invited us to attend his choir practice at any time.

Since joining the choir just before Christmas,  William (Bill) Thomas has fulfilled many of the things Ian taught us.  On Trinity Sunday, Bill was presented with his certificate for completing the first ‘Singer’s workbook’ in the ‘Voice for Life’ scheme, making him a full member of St George’s Choir.  He also received ‘The Choristers’s Companion’ in recognition of his enormous enthusiasm, humour and commitment to the choir.

Ian continues to encourage us with suggestions by email, and it’s very nice to be called ‘a lovely group’!

Frances Whewell

Organ Recital to raise money for Emily

St Mark’s Church in Hale has a much loved Edwardian organ, named after her benefactor – Emily Mangles – who raised the funds for the organ in the early 20th century.

This two manual organ looks beautiful with an English Oak case, and has the potential to sound beautiful as well. But Emily has received little renovation in the last 100 years. Without becoming too technical, the leatherwork is perishing, the reservoir is leaking, and so sounds noisy, and the electrical components are faulty and unsafe. The task before us it to have Emily rebuilt, rather than just restored.

We have received a lot of advice from the organ builder, and the asbestos has already been removed from the blower. £21,000 is still needed for the general clean and overhaul. A ‘Sponsor a Pipe’ scheme is in place, but this needs bolstering by other fund-raising initiatives. The Arts Council will look far more favourably on appeals for funds if St Mark’s can prove that Emily is widely used, both in services, but also as a musical outreach to the community at large.

To this end, an Organ Recital will be given by Frances Whewell on Thursday 2nd June at 2pm, St Mark’s, with an interlude by Bob and Lesley Shatwell on violin and double bass. There will be a few surprises – not least the unpredictability of Emily – hence the need for financial help! The event is being hosted by the group ‘Teacakes’, and tea will be served in the church as the music is played.

All are very welcome. Please come and support this unique piece of our musical heritage. There will be a collection for Emily at the end.

St George’s Choir

In the last year St George’s choir has grown from three members to eight. (I include myself). At the choir’s request we now practise weekly instead of fortnightly, and so we can be a little more adventurous, tackling some simple anthems as well as hymns for Sunday. We are following the first ‘Voice for Life’ singer’s workbook, experienced singers and newcomers all learning and revising together.

I’ve never led a choir before, and I find it exhilarating to build it up and try out new music which will enhance the worship on Sundays by making ‘a joyful noise unto the Lord’, we hope! The new hymn books provide an opportunity to discover contemporary songs and new ways of singing the liturgy. But we have to tease out the musical tastes of all comers, so that faith is nurtured by the music, and nothing jars. Singing Taizé chants in Latin is not everyone’s cup of tea!

When inviting me to be organist in the parish Lesley and Alan didn’t enquire into the state of my soul! One of my main aims in life is to play the organ, and organs just happen to be in churches! Faith comes to me through the music, especially when it’s going well, and the music suits the service, and people are kind and encouraging, even when I’ve made mistakes. The Royal School of Church Music calls music ‘a sacramental language which ministers to us’. That’s how I see it.

Another quote from the RSCM magazine: “Singing does more than keep our spirits up: it joins us in the celestial harmony of faithful pilgrimage.’ That is our mission, to engender harmony in the relationships as well as the music of the church. Church music is the soundtrack to people’s lives – baptisms, weddings, and funerals all require this great gift of God to sooth, to calm, and to bring lasting joy.

Frances Whewell

A change of hands on the Keyboards

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.

Frances Whewell