14th November 2015 - "Sing the Gospel" with Bill Tamblyn.
Gospel is a style of music that I’ve always found very appealing but have never had the opportunity or bravery to sing. I’ve put it in the box of “you can only really sing it meaningfully if you’ve grown up with it”. I hadn’t, so I felt I wasn’t qualified. “Sing the Gospel!”, a workshop led by Bill Tamblyn (http://www.billtamblyn.co.uk) at Christ the King, Bedford, (organised by the Northampton Diocesan Liturgy Commission, Music Section) was a great opportunity for me to challenge my assumptions as well as to try something new.
Bill launched straight into a couple of warm-ups in the Gospel style and what became very clear from the start was that the notes on the page were not important! Singing from the heart was the key rather than singing from the page. We started to tackle some great songs including “John the Revelator” and “The New Buryin’ Ground” (both Bill’s arrangements), and “Glory Bound” (by Christopher Walker). Simpler songs included “Soon and Very Soon” and the more famous “Precious Lord” (sung by Elvis Presley himself!) arranged by Thomas A Dorsey which was beautiful and easier to pick up.
One of the more energetic songs was “The Storm Is Passing Over” by Charles Albert Tindley (arranged Barbara W. Baker) which was probably the most rhythmically challenging and very exciting to sing. There is no doubt that by the end of the day we had gained hugely in confidence.
“Don’t look at the music!” and “Make it up!” were frequent exclamations from Bill. He was after an authentic performance that emanated from the heart rather than from the notes. It is true that memorising a song is a necessity if we want to take ownership of what we’re singing. In this way, songs become more a part of us as they are recalled during every day activities. They also start to reflect our lives and as a result gain greater personal meaning so that, when we come together to sing at Mass, singing truly becomes a realisation of the unity that we seek in the Mass itself. In this way, the act of singing is given greater authenticity as it is more a reflection of the prayer of the heart.
Father Patrick and the parishioners of Christ the King were very welcoming and we were blessed to have the support of some members of their own Gospel Choir. Lunch was a generous bring-and-share event with, quite literally, enough left over to fill twelve baskets! We ended the day with a short sung liturgy to pray especially for those killed in the Parisian attacks that same weekend.
It was also a great opportunity to talk to other musicians from across the diocese and as far afield as Portsmouth. In all, this was an excellent event and a wonderful opportunity. Thanks must go to Bill for his time and for sharing his expertise with us.
15th November 2014 - ‘Our life in Worship and the World’ - A Music Day with Marty Haugen
Marty Haugen started his week-long autumn tour in this country at St Gregory’s School , Northampton, where over 60 people from across the diocese and beyond had gathered to learn from his experience and sing his music.
The question of our life in worship being informed by our life in the world was followed by a tour through the liturgical seasons of the year, beautifully illustrated in both music and powerpoint images.
A prolific composer, Marty very modestly recounted the stories of his songs, both new and familiar. ‘All are welcome’, one of his most well known songs, was apparently not always welcome when it was first written. If a congregation was unable to sing the words “All are welcome in this place” then perhaps there was a need for songs that say how things should be, even if they are not so at the time. Hopefully times have changed since then!
We also sang songs from Marty’s latest collection ‘Sing for Peace’, and responsorial psalms from ‘The Lyric Psalter’, a collection of the three year cycle of psalms, co-written with Tony Alonso.
Singers and instrumentalists sightread a vast amount of music during the day, and were inspired by the spirituality of the composer as well as his music.
It was also a valuable day for networking with other musicians. St Augustine’s in Milton Keynes had the greatest number of attendees, due to their parish subsidising half of the cost for each person. No doubt the benefits of 13 enthusiastic musicians returning to their parish made it a worthwhile investment.
Stephen Dean of Decani Music supplied a bookshop of liturgical music, and information & resources were provided by Teresa Brown of Devine Music. Photos by Antony Denman
Friday 24th October 2014 - Faith Sharing Concert
Concerts with stories and prayer are an ideal way for musicians to share their faith and encourage the audience to do the same over refreshments afterwards.
Teresa Brown’s In Search of Peace faith concerts of her violin music are an opportunity for people to bring a friend who may not often come to church, to enjoy an hour of music and stories, and to pray for peace in the world.
There was a Faith Concert on Friday 24th October, at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Ranelagh Road, Wellingborough NN8 1JA - an hour of Music, Stories and Prayer followed by refreshments. More information from www.devinemusic.org.uk
An attender sent this message to Teresa:
“Thank you so much for last night’s event in Wellingborough. It touched me deeply. For some time I have felt overwhelmed by the tragedy we hear each day on the new; ISIS, Ebola, Gaza, Syria, child exploitation, national separatism, poverty, problems in the NHS, the list seems endless. The stories are too painful to bear. Your gathering last night was balm. It provided time to be soothed, to reflect and get things into proportion. Thank you. Let’s have more opportunities like that.”
28th July to 1st August 2014 - Society of St Gregory Summer School
The Society of Saint Gregory (SSG) hosted its annual summer school at the Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick. Aimed at Christians of any denomination who are either involved or interested in different aspects of liturgy, it included participants from this diocese, along with others from all over the UK, of varied ages.
With a packed programme of talks, workshops and liturgies it lived up to the description of “a retreat at a hundred miles an hour!” but with freedom to discern how much to participate and plenty of social and relaxation opportunities.
The theme for the week, “A sure compass by which to take our bearings” (St. Pope John Paul II) a reference to the Second Vatican Council, was explored by keynote speaker Monsignor Kevin McGinnell and the opportunities to hear and share lived experiences of the changes to the liturgy in the 1960s were both informative and thought provoking.
The traditional summer school concert on the final evening highlighted the talent, inclusive atmosphere and good humour, which made the week a most enjoyable and valuable experience.
Report - Frances Hooper Photos (c) Society of St Gregory 2014
"Inside the Psalms" - with Andrew Reid - 20th May 2014
‘Inside the Psalms’ was organised jointly by the Music Section of the Diocesan Liturgy Commission and the local RSCM Area Committee,m at St Gregory's Church, Northampton. The speaker was Andrew Reid, an Anglican and former Director of Music at Peterborough Cathedral, who had also previously worked as Assistant Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral. Andrew’s insight into the psalms and the different ways of singing them was based on a wide range of experience and a deep love of their beauty and significance. In a couple of hours, part lecture, part workshop, we were guided through many different psalms . Some were familiar, e.g. a selection of settings of Ps 23, and Bernadette Farrell’s O God you search me, based on Ps 139. Others, such as Pitoni’s Laudate Dominum (Ps 149) and Colin Mawby’s Praise God in his holy place (Ps 130) resounded with the help of our proficient visitors, whose confidence and experience of singing in four-part harmony was extremely useful! Read a fuller report here.
(The photo shows Andrew Reid in action on another occasion)
"Sing a New Song" - a day with Christopher Walker, 26th April 2014
Christopher Walker is an internationally known Catholic composer, lecturer and choirmaster - and an extraordinarily entertaining speaker. Dozens of singers and musicians from our Diocese and beyond (there was a large party from Kenton in NW London) filled the central space of St Teresa's in Beaconsfield for a joyful and uplifting day of song. Your reporter was in some trepidation about the day as he has never sung four-part harmony and feared it would all be beyond him - but no-one need have worried, Christopher involved everyone of all abilities, and by copying the other tenors, even this old croaker had the thrill of "making a beautiful sound to the Lord".
We were challenged to strive for the highest quality in all church music ("there is no new or old church music, only good and bad - it was all new once") as what we do may be the one thing on one day that touches someone's heart with beauty. A strong point of Christopher's approach is to dwell on the spiritual aspects of being a musician. All choirs should be praying communities, and a choirleader should be a spiritual as well as a musical director.
The day was also attended by Stephen Dean of Decani Music with a wealth of recorded and printed music, by Martin Foster of the Bishops' Conference Liturgy Office, and other composers including Anne Ward and our own Teresa Brown and Philip Allsop.
Many thanks to St Teresa's Parish for hospitality (we'll pass over the problems with the ladies' loo....)
If you are remotely interested in church music and get the chance to see Christopher Walker - go ! You won't regret it !