The choir

The musical tradition at All Saints is a very long one.  We know that some 200 years ago, the services were accompanied by a barrel organ from a gallery at the base of the tower.  There was probably a small group of instrumentalists and singers who would gather round the organ player and lead the singing from there – probably with more enthusiasm than musical skill!  (Read Thomas Hardy’s Under the Greenwood Tree for an affectionate portrayal of Victorian church musicians: their arguments, scheming and musical games.)

One of the results of the ‘Oxford Movement’ in the mid-1800s was that ordinary village churches copied cathedrals, and introduced robed choirs of boys and men.  All Saints must have done the same, and by 1897 the church had a fully-robed choir:Aston Choir in 1897 copy

The choir flourished right through the 20th century, inspiring tremendous loyalty amongst its singers and leaders, who often remained with the choir for many years.  (There were only 6 rectors at All Saints in the whole of the 20th century; we think there were even fewer choirmasters!)  This tradition continues: the present choirmaster has been in post since 1978; his predecessor still sings in the choir, and several of the present choir were there when he arrived!  There’s a real ‘family’ feel to the present choir: parents and children sing alongside one another as equals.

Three Choirs

There are, in fact, three choirs .  The Sunday Choir is the robed choir which leads the worship in the normal Sunday services.  Members of the Sunday Choir are expected to come to the weekly choir practice, and to sing in at least one service, every week.

Some singers cannot commit themselves to every Sunday, but still want to be part of the music at All Saints.  They can choose to join the Occasional Choir  which joins the Sunday Choir for specified services or festivals, such as the annual Carol Services.  Occasional Choir members are invited to ‘sign up’ for special events, and come to the practices immediately before them.  Some Occasional Choir members sing in other choirs; several travel some distance to sing at Aston.  There are no auditions for the Occasional Choir, but because rehearsal time is limited, singers are expected to be able to read music to a basic level.  The existence of the Occasional Choir explains why the choir stalls always seem so much fuller on special occasions!

And there is, of course, the Junior Choir.  Junior choristers have their own regular rehearsals.  Juniors follow a course of musical training called ‘Voice for Life’ run by the Royal School of Church Music, of which All Saints is a member.  Under the ‘VfL’ scheme, singers are graded according to their musical and leadership qualities.  You can tell which level the singers are on from the ribbon they wear.  Juniors are paid a small fee every time they attend, and a larger fee for singing at a wedding – no small enticement with 20 choir weddings this year!  Many of the juniors have gone on to sing in cathedral, college or university choirs – a sign of just how good the musical training is.

The choir is always on the lookout for new members.  People often say, “But I can’t sing!”  There’s a straightforward answer to that – that’s what choir practices are for!

“Only one person in 10,000 can’t sing.  The rest just think they can’t because they’ve never been shown how”