St Robert’s has a traditional robed choir which has been affiliated to the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) since 1981. At present it has an adult and children membership. The children work towards gaining their awards in the RSCM ‘Voice for Life’ training scheme.
The Choir plays a full part in leading the worship at the 9.15am services (except for the All-Age service); we also sing Choral Evensong on the second Sunday each month, and, usually, a joint benefice Choral Service when there is a fifth Sunday in the month. The late night Office of Compline is sung at 9.00pm on the third Thursday of the month after choir practice.
We also sing for other Festival and occasional services – Advent and Christmas carol services, Candlemas Service of Light, Christmas midnight Mass, Holy Week Compline, Harvest Festival and other services. Once or twice a year, the Choir also joins with other choirs in the Harrogate Deanery to sing choral services at special times. From time to time, we give concerts at St Robert’s – at the Flower Festivals and on other fund-raising occasions – sometimes joining forces with Pannal Primary School choir. Once a year we perform a major choral work as a devotional offering on Palm Sunday or Good Friday. Fauré’s ‘Requiem’, Stainer’s ‘Crucifixion’, Maunder’s ‘Olivet to Calvary’ and Thiman’s ‘The Last Supper’ have all been performed, as well as other works. We sang Rutter’s ‘Requiem’ on Good Friday, 2018, along with other seasonal items by the same composer and on Palm Sunday, 2019 we presented ‘The way of the Cross’ a choral devotional sequence for Passiontide.(see picture)
Several of the choir currently sing with the RSCM Northern Cathedral Singers; and we have provided singers for this choir – both children and adults – over many years.
The choir rehearses weekly on a Thursday evening, except at Half-term and during the Summer holidays; children from 7.00 to 7.50pm and adults from 7.30 to 8.45pm – frequently followed (voluntarily) by a visit to the Black Swan to lubricate tired vocal chords!
The Choir has an active social life and members regularly get together for a meal, drink or perhaps a visit to a show or other performance. Following the Christmas Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, an evening party, hosted by choir members, has become a most enjoyable tradition. Every two years, the Choir organises a Mid-summer Barbecue for church members, their families, friends and neighbours in aid of church funds……always a successful and fun occasion.
If you are interested in you and/or your child(ren) joining the Choir, or would simply like to find out more about their activity, please contact the Director of Music, Kevin Paynes; 01423 872651 email@example.com or Sarah Paynes; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Choir member, Peter Stretton recently commissioned a new motet for the choir, in memory of his wife Lis, from musician and composer Kieran Fitzsimons. Lis was particularly fond of settings of the Ave Verum – a 14th century communion hymn for the Feast of Corpus Christi, and Peter asked Kieran for a setting of this text. The delightful result for four part choir and organ was given its premiere at the Parish Communion on Pentecost 2019 followed ten days later by a performance at the choral eucharist on the Feast of Corpus Christi. Here is this performance, given by St Robert’s choir.
Our activity has been severely disrupted by the effects of the Covid-19 lock-downs and restrictions. Thankfully, we now seem to be on the road back to a more normal pattern of service and have a full Autumn programme of special services ahead including Harvest Festival Choral Evensong, a special service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving for All Souls’, services of remembrance for Remembrance Sunday, a Joint Benefice Service of Light on Advent Sunday, our traditional Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols and a full array of Festal Christmas services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
We are now back to singing a Choral Evensong on the second Sunday of every month (unless circumstances prevent this), and in months with a fifth Sunday there is usually a ‘Joint Benefice’ choral evening service, alternating between St Robert’s and St Michael’s, and we also sing joint services at other significant times. We have also restarted the singing of Compline every month on the third Thursday of the month at 9.00pm after choir practice – all are welcome to come and join in this contemplative service.
Before lock-down in mid-March 2020, these were some of the preceding highlights for the choir:
On Ash Wednesday (February 26th, 2020) there was a special Choral Eucharist with Imposition of the Ashes. As in 2019, we used the Missa Brevis setting – ‘Forty Days and Forty Nights’, written for Lent by Nicholas Hare in 2019. It is a ‘parody’ Mass based on the Lent hymn of the same name (to the old German Chorale tune ‘Auf der Teife’) and in a late-sixteenth century style reminiscent of William Byrd, whose Agnus Dei from the ‘Mass in Four voices’ is explicitly quoted.
In the previous year, our Passiontide Choral devotion on Palm Sunday, April 14th, 2019, took the form of the sequence ‘The Way of the Cross’ which included readings and seasonal hymns for the congregation.
On February 2nd, 2020, we sang a special Joint Benefice Choral service for Candlemas at St Michael’s. In 2019 we sang joint services at Epiphany (January 5th at St Robert’s), Candlemas (February 3rd at St Robert’s), Michaelmas (September 29th at St Michael’s – their Patronal Festival) and Advent Sunday (December 1st at St Robert’s)
NORTHERN CATHEDRAL SINGERS (NCS)
If you enjoy attending Choral Evensong….or listening to it on Wednesdays/Sundays on Radio 3….you might like to know that the NCS have a programme of Choral Evensong visits to Cathedrals and |Greater Churches throughout the North of England. Currently, four members of St Robert’s Choir are members of this group: Lyndsey Durant & Christine Ward-Campbell (sopranos), Sarah Paynes (alto) and Iain Ward-Campbell (bass)
To give you an idea of the venues attended, here was the planned NCS programme for the first half of 2020 – unfortunately abandoned due to Covid-19.
|NCS 2020 - programme of visits|
|February 15, 2020||Durham Cathedral||5.15|
|March 28, 2020||Wakefield Cathedral||3.30|
|April 25, 2020||Hull Minster||4.30|
May 25, 2020
|July 18, 2020||Blackburn Cathedral||3.30|
What better present for a music-loving friend or family member, could there be than THE CHOIR’S CD?! Tracks drawn from your favourites – take a look. They are on sale now at only £5 – just speak to Sarah Paynes….or give her a ring on 01423 872651. If it’s for a present, you can get one or more already beautifully gift wrapped and ready to be presented to the lucky recipient.