provision and maintenance of a choral ‘machine’*, albeit of
many highly individualized parts which, by its generation of
sonic energy, will effectively assist the worshipper in his
or her spiritual labours during the services of The
Church. By manipulating the devotional atmosphere in
such a manner, the maximization of a God-centred emotional
and spiritual offering by the congregation should be
Expansion of individual and group potential.
Establishment of group cohesion.
Establishment of confidence at both individual and group
Constant improvement in general excellence.
bed-rock of future growth in these areas is a training
structure analogous to the recommendations of The Royal
School of Church Music. Where there exists, however,
areas of hyper-fluidity in the R.S.C.M. programme, these
should be replaced by specific objectives with observable
learning outcomes - the current norm on today’s educational
structure, then, provides milestones of achievement which
are evident to each chorister, ensuring maximum motivation
both by the abbreviated time-scale in the initial stages and
by provision of more exacting electives in the later stages
of a chorister’s career - a career which must be meaningful
to the individual and which meets the requirements of the
Susan Leach - Head
Chorister at St. Mary's
who continued to do a
B.Mus at Lancaster University.
should be tailored to the requirements of the Objective
Tests for admission to the various grades of singer and are
the singing voice - breathing,
tone quality, range & pronunciation.
notation - staff, ledger
lines, the great stave, clefs, sharps/flats & key
signatures, notes & rests, grouping of notes, bar, bar
line, double bar line, time signatures, slurs, phrase marks,
phrases, sentences, tie, use of sol-fa, two part singing,
treble, alto, tenor, bass.
repertoire - versicles & responses, chanting of
psalms & canticles, hymns, settings of the Eucharist,
settings of the canticles for Mattins & Evensong,
seasonal carols & anthems.
music - major, melodic &
harmonic minor scales, chromatic scale, triads & chords
(major & minor), diatonic, arpeggio, roulade, anacrusis,
legato, staccato, marcato, repeat signs, DC, al fine.
form - binary and ternary
form, sequence, imitation, canon, choral fugue, rhythmic
extension & contraction, recitative, aria, chorus (the
oratorio - Handel), Choral Symphony finale - Beethoven),
opera (pilgrims' chorus - Wagner), bitonality, polytonality,
Competence in the singing of psalms, hymns &
canticles of Mattins and Evensong.
in the singing of anthems &
settings of the Eucharist.
church services -
Eucharist, Mattins, Evensong, Marriage Service & Funeral
history of church music - time-line of main composers of settings of
canticles, Eucharist, anthems and development of music
through - plainchant, monody, similar & contrary motion,
polyphony, the motet (Palestrina, Tallis & Byrd),
harmony (chorale, cantata - Bach - visit to organ console
& chamber), the mass (Mozart), the anthem (Mendelssohn),
requiem (Brahms & Faure), English Church composers -
Elgar, Stanford, Harwood, Vaughan Williams, Walton, Britten,
vestments - cassock, surplice,
cope, chasuble, alb, amis, stole, cotta, cincture, maniple.
altar objects - paten, chalice,
pall, chalie veil, burse, purificator, ciborium, corporal,
lavabo bowl and towel, thurible, incense boat, wine, hosts.
minutiae of church architecture
- baptistry, nave, transept, chancel, sanctury, retro-choir,
altar rail, altar, tabernacle, lectern, pulpit, font, rood
screen, choir stalls, clergy stalls, rose window, gothic
arch, romanesque arch, pillars, fan tracery, boss..
found that an intensive week's study and examination during
school holidays every year is a very worthwhile exercise
which is enjoyable for the choristers, is a bonding exercise
and motivates each to a higher degree of interest and
mentioned more exacting electives for older and more
experienced choristers. Possibilities are serving at
the altar at Eucharists which are non-choral and librarian
work for the choir. There are usually a number of
choristers who are talented musicians - pianists, string,
woodwind or brass players and who would like to bring their
talents into the church. What comes to mind is the
chorister who is a competent oboe player and can be
entrusted with the obligato part in "Jesu, joy of man's
desiring" or the trumpet specialist who can cope with the
solo part in "The trumpet shall sound", "Let the bright
seraphim", or "Sound an alarm". Should a choir
be able to boast a complete string quartet, this could be
used during minor Evensongs and in recitals when an organ
concerto or string quartet is being performed. To such
a group may be added a visiting clarinetist, flautist
or pianist to deliver a quintet.
more important elective is the chorister who wishes to
become an organ scholar. Here is a rewarding position
which can, via free organ lessons, evolve into an assistant
organist's post, playing for full services and choral
recitals while the Director of Music conducts. This
also ensures a supply of future church organists of an
experienced calibre into a diocese.
own youth all practices were held after school. Being
a modest Scottish city, Dundee Cathedral had but one Choral
Evenson midweek, not a daily service, but whatsoever extra
special or Festival Evensongs as were required on Saints'
days. Our regime was as follows:-
we had Fridays all to our little selves but, from the age of
11, I had the additional task of playing the Cathedral organ
for the combined Sunday Schools from, 2.30 to 3.30 p.m.
Mary's Episcopal Church, Broughty Ferry, Dundee
Simon my assistant
organist on the right gave his first performance at the age
entire choral recital which was shared by Hindu singers and
musicians - a first
for Scotland. He did not choose a musical career,
but is now a
consultant ophthalmic surgeon. C'est la vie!
Marian on the left
is now an anaesthetist.
Mel (seated) with
some treble choristers
and probationers at
Perth Cathedral 1981
the case of the church musician, this ‘machine’ becomes the
organ. The aim, however, is the same - the output of
sonic energy which will be the trigger for the emotional
siphoning of the worshippers. A sound source which can
actually vibrate the air is essential that such sonation
impinges upon the ear of the individual. For this
reason the spread of sound in the air from a pipe organ is
more effective than the condensed output from the speakers
of an electronic instrument.
course of choir training I have had, of necessity, to
eradicate various tonal faults and imperfect breathing
techniques but what is far more difficult is the correction
of flawed pronunciation. In the forefront of my memory
is the ‘pretty’ pronunciation of Church Latin which may be
ecclesiastical but is, nevertheless, NOT Latin.
we are faced, for example, with the the bad pronunciation in
“Ave verum” - the second word being delivered as “ve”
with the ‘e’ (as in ‘met’) and the “r” given a soft English
obscure sound. All very 'twee' BUT the Latin ‘e’ is a
long 'ay' sound and the ‘r’ is rolled. Other subtle
differences are an absolute pest as where the ‘voiceless
plosive alveolar’ consonant ‘t’ is different in Latin
- the tongue being placed behind the top teeth and not
on the ridge at the front of the hard palate. Any
Italian speaker will corroborate this and, of course, Church
Latin adopts Italian disciplines.
incident I must recount here as it completely ‘threw’ the
choir. Having been involved professionally for a good
number of years in Scottish Parish and Congregational
churches where the Magnificat is never sung, on arrival at
the first choir practice at a new Anglican post, the
canticles for Evensong came to be rehearsed.
Here my long term memory of my days as a cathedral chorister
in the 1940s ‘kicked in’ swiftly when the name Abraham was sung.
We had always pronounced it with an open ‘a’ – “Ah – vra –
ham”, whereas choirs to this day adopt the American
transmogrification of vowels and pronounced it “Ay – bra –
ham” . I stopped in my tracks and halted the vocal
may be downloaded here.)
immediately asked the gathering of choristers, children,
adults and the vicar to boot, why they pronounced the
Patriarch’s name as if they had been reared in the Bronx and
explained my misgivings. The vicar gave the excuse
that it had always been sung that way. I replied "Oh
no, not in my chorister experience in the 1940s and
early 50s!" That is when I resorted to some visual
aids and used the choir vestry blackboard, immediately
writing the name in Hebrew, spelt aleph a beyt b resh r he h and mem m (all right to left m h r b a), pointing out that aleph
has the broad open 'ah' sound as in 'far' and is vocalise
with a glottal stop as in the English "a - a".
further salt to their wounds I gave them another snippet of
information - the 'b' should be pronounced as a 'v', as the
(shaped like an upstanding rectangle with the left side
missing) is so pronounced unless it has a point (a dagesh) in its
centre when it is pronounced as a 'b' BUT Abraham's 'beyt' has NO
dagesh! Therefore the name must be vocalised as "Ah -
vra - ham". Quod
(I did not, however, make them try to say the Hebrew
'v' with both lips touching. not as the English 'v' with
lower lip touching the upper teeth.)
Here is a beyt
with no dagesh: ב and here,
a beyt with a
Even if Abraham was treated with English
rules (e.g. where 'at' has a short 'a' but 'ate' has a
long 'a' because the consonant following the 'a' is itself
followed by the soft vowel 'e'), the first 'A' of the
patriarch's name is followed by a DOUBLE consonant, these
followed by the HARD vowel 'a' - TWO reasons why the 'A'
is pronounced 'ah'!
those who are unaware of these rules (but certainly not
proficiently correct Italian speakers) there are two SOFT
vowels 'a' & 'e', the remaining three, 'a', 'o' &
'u' being HARD.
inverse snobs who revelled in their ignorance, the general
consensus was that the Ay-braham should remain - encouraging
me to refer to him thereafter as Abe (as in
Lincoln). When American pronunciation permeates
even the cloisters of Anglicanism, methinks something is
grossly amiss as our language is being mutated and under
© Mel Young 1995
all rights reserved
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