Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys excel at special concert in the Grand Temple
It could be anyone's list of most memorable announcements. Approaching the end of the magnificent first half of a choral concert featuring Purcell, Handel, Mozart and Haydn, the conductor turned to face
Having read our programmes attentively, we knew he was about to say: 'Ladies and gentlemen, we shall now sing you Stanford's Magnificat in A:
He said: 'Ladies and gentlemen, I'm afraid the organist has just informed me that the organ has gone phut'. The performers had already overcome enough hurdles for one day. This was a rather special concert: great classics of the church music repertoire sung on one rehearsal by 24 boys aged 8 to 13 (most had never met before), with men drafted in to sing the lower parts.
The boys are the holders of 24 non-Masonic choral bursaries funded by the Masonic Trust for Girls and
Boys at some of the great choir schools around
They had travelled to London from Chichester, Durham, Exeter, Gloucester, Hereford, Salisbury, Worcester, Wells and elsewhere for a Grand Choral celebration at Freemasons' Hall on the opening day of 'Freemasonry in
the Community' week.
With and without the organ, the concert provided the clearest possible demonstration of the professionalism that even
very young singers acquire in these establishments.
Certainly, all the pieces were core cathedral repertoire, but not all eight and nine-year-olds have had time to sing all of them yet. Some, especially the more modern pieces in the second half, which included works by Britten and Finzi as well as part of Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, are not entirely straightforward.
And, as any choral society member knows, suddenly losing your usual neighbours and singing next to strangers can put you off your stride and cause wobbles where none were before.
Under these pressures, the dynamics by which cathedral choirs run became visible before our eyes. There was the youngest newcomer being shepherded by an older boy from a different choir, here were alliances being struck for mutual help through difficult passages and didn't they have to watch the conductor!
It was a great show. Roger Sayer, organist of Rochester Cathedral, who kept all those boys on track, was a delight to watch and produced some magical moments - William Walton's Set Me As A Seal was a particular highlight.
The organ situation was rescued when a small portable electric organ was brought in from another temple in the building, though I fear Sean Farrell had a heartbreaking task trying to make something of Parry's I Was Glad on it.
Other highlights were organ-independent: the Chichester Psalms are scored for only brass and harp in addition to the choir, and the harpist, Jemima Phillips (another MTGB beneficiary), a young performer full of personality, gave a riveting solo performance of Legende by Henriette Renie.
The Locke Brass Consort needed no outside help to give us a good time. A Grand celebration indeed, and proof - if any were needed of the extraordinary quality
of church choral training
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