Church Choir

I joined the church choir when I was 7. My first rehearsal was on my 7th birthday and I couldn’t wait. There were 24 choristers, 12 Decani and 12 Cantoris. There was a minimum of 2 to a part ATB. It was an expectation that if you were in the choir you attended all rehearsals and services unless you had a good excuse!
Tuesday was an hour of Trebles choir practise. This was taken by the Director of Music and during it the organist / assistant would take the trebles out one or two at a time to work on chorister training with them. The trebles worked through the RSCM training scheme, working towards different awards. This training covered the basics of being a chorister, such as how to sit and stand in the choir stalls, how to process and the importance of looking smart with black polished shoes and brushed hair. It progressed through musical skills and aspects of the liturgy of the service.
The trebles were split into 4 teams with a ‘team leader’ for each one, and were assigned ‘jobs’ such as keeping the shelves tidy, setting out music before a service and so on. There were also two ‘head choristers’ and two ‘deputy head choristers’. Children were given ‘points’ for doing jobs well (including the Head Choristers), and points for attending services and rehearsals.
Friday rehearsals started with half an hour of just trebles, then a brief break before an hour of rehearsing with the adults. The junior trebles went home then, leaving the senior trebles and adults to complete another half an hour (or hour if there was a big event coming up) of practise.
On Sundays there would be a half hour rehearsal before both the morning and evening services. If behaviour was poor, you could lose points (equally if you did something particularly good, you could earn extra points). These points led to monthly pay. If you were a probationer you were given about 1p per point, through to being a ‘red medal’ at about 5p per point. Weddings were paid for separately, with the adults being paid a small amount too.
There was a ‘core’ bank of books which were used – chant and psalm books, canticles and hymn books were required every week, then either music from your box or one of the church anthem books were used. Rehearsals always began with running through one or two of the hymns for the coming Sunday, followed by looking at the psalm (with its chant) and singing antiphonally, and finally the anthems for each service were rehearsed. If there was time at the end of the rehearsal, other music coming up was sung through.
As well as the paid Director of Music and Assistant Organist, a team of volunteers helped the choir to run smoothly. Someone was in charge of robes, another person in charge of music and keeping a library of music, another person assisted with organising the trebles, their training and rotas. There were regular social occasions, including ‘social events’ for the trebles.
There were regular cathedral visits, to sing Evensong or a weekend of services. Most people went together on the coach, with whole families coming along for a ‘day trip’.
How things change.
Now there are a few trebles again, having not been any for a few years. There is a single rehearsal night – just for an hour, where there is usually an abundance of basses, a couple of altos and tenors, and often only one soprano. One service on a Sunday is sometimes sung at, with half an hour of rehearsal beforehand to ensure all parts know the notes of the anthem being sung. Similar numbers per part are present as with rehearsal, with individuals often having to sing a different part to balance the sound out a bit.
Music is usually from photocopied sheets.
There is one Organist and Director of Music who, if necessary, conducts from the organ while playing. One volunteer keeps the music library organised, and tries to sort out robes for anyone needing them.

2 thoughts on “Church Choir

  1. That sounds very much like our choir from long ago. And you are right, times change. Now people turn up if they feel like it, and you can’t make any demands on the kids (or the adults) in case they stop enjoying it and leave! Consequently, we can’t do much demanding music, as nobody gets round to learning much.
    What is the world coming to, eh?

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