The Association of Cathedral Voluntary Choirs National Festival
Ten members of the Voluntary Choir took part in the 11th National Festival on 1st and 2nd March at Derby Cathedral. It is the second time the festival has been hosted by Derby Cathedral Voluntary Choir and again it was a well-organised happy gathering.
All Saints has its roots in the 12th century with a 16th century tower but the interior is of Georgian construction (architect, James Gibbs), wide, light, with beautiful ironwork and good acoustics. Until 1927 it was a parish church and as such is sometimes under rated. Together with voluntary choirs from Worcester, Guildford, Rochester, Chelmsford, Exeter, Lichfield, Hereford and one gentleman from Carlisle, there was a choir of 95 singers for evensong. Worcester, the only CVC with trebles, have attended every national gathering but do not stay overnight.
We were welcomed on arrival by their new Precentor and a team was dispensing coffee and tea before the afternoon rehearsal. The organ playing and directing were shared by Tom Corfield, Music Director of Derby CVC and Lay Canon Peter Gould both of whom were good-humoured and made the very best use of the relatively short time available to cover the music. As their contribution the Chapter gave us a delicious and plentiful afternoon tea prepared by their cathedral restaurant which was much appreciated as many of us had not had time for much, if any, lunch.
Being St David’s day, the festal evensong (at 5.15 pm as in Wells) included an unaccompanied six-part introit dedicated to the saint by Paul Mealor. The canticles were by Philip Moore and the anthem What are these that glow from afar by Alan Gray (words by Christina Rossetti). The service concluded with the Naylor Festal Responses.
After the celebration dinner we were delightfully entertained by Canon David Perkins, the outgoing Precentor who has recently taken up a position at Endensor, which includes Chatsworth. He began by singing to his guitar – encouraging audience participation and then went on to give us an amusing and self-deprecating history of his career which was an example of how you can reach your goals if you persist! He left school at sixteen with no qualifications and went to work for the Gas Board where he rose through the ranks. He married young and had a family before deciding to go into the church. When he joined ordinands from Oxford and Cambridge he wasn’t fazed, having the confidence of his convictions!
On Sunday morning we robed across the road from the Cathedral in readiness for procession through the West End doors. It wasn’t quite raining but the wind was blowing and we will hold a gleeful memory of us all crossing the road, robes fluttering, with the traffic halted by the stern authority of a Cathedral Verger! Eucharist featured the Missa Octava by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612). We had not sung the work before but a number of us would like to do it again. The five-part anthem In splendenti nube was by Peter Philips (1561-1628). At coffee afterwards, the congregation shared with the singers a huge iced cake made in celebration of the event.
Some readers may be interested to know that Elisabeth Thompson, who was Curate of Dinder in 2006/7 and sang with the Voluntary Choir, was being installed as Canon Missioner at Derby Cathedral that afternoon.
At the ACVC representatives’ concluding meeting it was agreed that the Association would meet at Lichfield in May 2015 before returning to Wells on 29th/30th October 2016 for the anniversary of the Association’s founding here in 1996.