Lancaster Priory Choir Association
Origin: For some time the Priory Music Trust has been advocating an association for past and present choir members. A small group of current choristers has taken on the task and has begun the process of gathering members.
Purpose: Its purpose will be (a) to reconnect with former members of the choir and (b) develop continuity of interest in, connection with and fellowship between choir members both past and present.
Qualification: Simply to have been a member of the choir at some time.
What will the association do? We’re hoping to produce an annual or bi-annual newsletter which might include articles about the work of the choir today, about past members informing us of their time in the choir and/or their lives since leaving plus news, views and member’s observations. Lots of ideas have been floated concerning activities but these are for the future, we must start by recruiting members.
Fees? Membership will be free. The association won’t be a fund raising body. We will need some funds for everyday running costs of course so any donations will be gratefully accepted!
First priority: to gather members. There must be hundreds of choristers who have sung with the choir over the years, many of whom will still be alive. Finding them all would be an impossible task but we’re aiming to make contact with as many as we can. To do this we will have this link on the Priory website, a Facebook page and details displayed at the back of church. If you know of anyone who would qualify please tell them about the association and get them to join.
Memories: Its always good to share people’s memories and choristers usually have tales to tell which we’d love to hear. There is some space on the application form for you to share some if you would like to. We would also like to know which were your favourite pieces, choir activities and those with whom you remember singing.
How do I join? Application forms are available online (LPCA membership form 2016) or at the back of church. If you’re joining via the web you will need to download the form, complete it then send back it by e-mail to the address below. You can of course print, sign and return by post to the Priory office.
I remember it well. It was 2006 and we could scarcely believe the good news that Paul Baxter had decided to retire to Morecambe and was going to rejoin the Priory Choir. The untimely death of Michael Orr in the previous year had left a significant gap in the tenor section and had wounded the morale of the whole choir. Through his immense talent as a choral singer and his sparkling personality, Paul was to play an absolutely fundamental role in steering us through this difficult and dark period.
Paul was a legendary figure in the choir. When I joined in 1959, he had just left although, as his father Jim was Head Verger, he was still on the scene, and of course his photo as Head Boy adorned the wall of the choir vestry. He cut something of a hero figure to us fledgling choir boys. His reputation as a fine treble still lingered but what impressed us rather more was his ‘cool’ appearance and his willingness to challenge authority. After all he had had the nerve to drop toothpaste onto a senior choirman’s bald pate on the choir holiday to Rossall School – for which misdemeanour he had been invited to take early retirement from the choir.
Paul was very much one of our own, although like so many others he was an incomer and a Yorkshireman, arriving in Lancaster when he was 11. He came from a very musical family but it was at the Priory that he discovered and nurtured his love of church music and, under the choir director of the time – Henry Walmsley – Paul could not have found a finer teacher. Great though the choir now undoubtedly is, we may just pause to remember that in those days it broadcast Choral Evensong regularly on BBC Radio, Paul himself taking part in many of those broadcasts. Paul’s ability was recognised beyond the Priory. In 1957 he won the treble section of the then famous Morecambe Music Festival – an achievement of which he was justifiably very proud as the adjudicator was Herbert Howells, the doyen of English church music.
His was a romantic soul and it was this that ultimately led to his departure from Lancaster. He had first met Sylvia, who was to be the love of his life, when she was on holiday in Yorkshire. Faithfully keeping up a pen-friend relationship down the years and meeting up in the holidays, Paul eventually decided that this separation was too much to bear and sought a permanent transfer to Edinburgh so as to be near her. They eventually married and settled down in Helensburgh.
Throughout his life in Helensburgh, Paul’s passion for church music remained unabated. Though first and foremost a singer, he was also a talented organist. He sang in the choir at Paisley Abbey which he joined to support his son Martin as he embarked upon his musical journey. He was, at different times, organist and choir master at Holy Trinity, Paisley, the Clyde Submarine Base, and St Michael and All Angels Church, Helensburgh. Upon his return to Morecambe, Paul threw himself with great verve into the local musical scene. Besides the Priory Choir, he joined the St Lawrence Singers and Cumbria Baroque, and deputised on the organ in many local churches, most of all at St Oswald’s, Warton and St Michael and All Angels, Beetham. He was delighted when he was able to make a CD with Margaret Pattinson, director of St Lawrence Singers, and Ian Pattinson, our own Priory organist, and we are delighted that we have a permanent record of his astonishing talent.
Paul was a fine musician. He was naturally musical. His purity and clarity of tone as a tenor were complemented with accuracy, timing and phrasing. Nowhere was this better illustrated than in his beautiful rendition of the solo in the Nunc Dimittis of Howells’ Evening Service: Coll Reg. It was spine-tingling. He was an outstanding chorister and embodied the spirit of the Priory Choir. Behind the scenes, he was full of fun, always ready with a witty ‘one-liner’. He was kind, supportive and encouraging – a quality noted by newcomers and younger members especially. In the vestry and in church he led by example, aiming for high standards, but making no big deal when we fell short. He was a ‘safe pair of hands’ – as steadfast, reliable and true in his singing as he was in his dealings with us all.
Paul had a great zest for life. Besides his many musical activities, he enjoyed riding his motor cycle (a life-long passion), swimming and walking his dog. His illness was a cruel blow, but the courage he showed throughout was an inspiration to us all. Paul was essentially a family man, devoted to his wife Sylvia, his son Martin and daughter Lesley, and his grandson Ethan. To them all we extend our love and sympathy at this time.
A pleasant time was had at our “end of term” picnic held in the church yard on Sunday 23rd July following morning service. Various treats were shared amongst those attending to complement what they had already brought. As the dark clouds gathered everything was rushed inside before the deluge fell – excellent timing!
Martin challenges anyone to do the Steady Hands competition / Mr T shows how it should be done / Nobody went home hungry!
ATB Curry Night at the Bombay Balti attended by association members
Jeremy Truslove: a tribute from the choir
Jeremy Truslove retires from his post as Director of Music on 16th October, after two spells, spanning 30 years.
Over this period he has developed the choirs (men, boys and girls) to the excellent ensemble they are today. To do this he has encouraged, inspired and cajoled to achieve his very high standards. He has given the very young choir members their first experience of choral singing, often patiently giving them time to adjust and to tune in to what must be a rather daunting experience. With the older members of the choir he has made sure that we never slip into complacency, and that we must always be aware that however well one performance might have gone there is no guarantee of future success without continued hard work.
The work of a church choir director is very different from that of the conductor of a choral society. The latter works on pieces over a period leading up to the culmination in a concert. The church director however, is conducting a regular series of events, week after week, sometimes repeating regular repertoire, sometimes introducing new pieces. Jeremy has carefully blended the familiar with the new, making sure that the choirs always have pieces to challenge them, while keeping the regular repertoire fresh.
And what a repertoire he has grown over the years. It ranges from the great pieces of 16th and 17th century counterpoint (Tallis: O salutaris hostia, the Byrd masses), through monumental nineteenth century anthems (Wesley: Ascribe unto the Lord), to modern masterpieces (Dove’s Missa brevis). Communion settings include works by Haydn, Mozart and Howells, together with Jeremy’s own excellent Lancaster Mass. New evensong settings have included those by Howells for King’s College, Cambridge, and for Gloucester and St Paul’s Cathedrals. In addition to singing in the regular English and Latin, he has introduced texts in French, German and even Hebrew, not to mention a short passage in Malagasy!
All choir members, young and old, are immensely indebted to Jeremy for taking us on these many musical journeys. He will be greatly missed.
Celebration Presentation to mark the retirement of Mr Jeremy Truslove
To mark Mr Truslove’s retirement we felt that we should host a celebration presentation and farewell for the choir family separately from the Parish presentation made following Evensong on the 16th October, Mr T’s last Sunday. The choir presentation was made after morning service. It was preceded by a choir photo on the chancel steps with Mr.T in his rightful place in the middle! We then adjourned to Dolphinholme Village Hall for a Jacob’s Join and made our presentation to Jeremy.
Retirement of Mr Rodney Webb after 65 years of service
The 25th September saw the last service at which Rodney Webb sang in the choir after more than 65 years of service, a remarkable record. Rodney joined as a boy eventually rising to be Head Boy and then going on to sing on the alto line until now. He was a most talented person playing both football and cricket for the town, a regular performer in amateur dramatics and sang with his friends in the barber’s shop quartet which often entertained at Priory functions. Rodney’s skills as a joiner were often put to good use around the church as well but it was his commitment to the choir for which we are the most grateful. A presentation organised by the Choir Association was made to Rodney on behalf of the whole choir after morning service on his last day, attended by friends and family along with members of the congregation.
Memories from former colleagues:
Walter Whipp, one of the oldest surviving choristers, writes to us.
The Whipps were a stalwart Priory family. His father Bert sang as a bass on Cantoris until illness prevented him from singing. On his death Bert left money to pay for the reading desks in the choir stalls. Walter joined the choir in the autumn of 1935 and left at the start of the war in 1939. He remembers the names of several choristers with whom he sang including Teddy Mashiter who became his lifelong friend. Along with Teddy were Geoff and Francis Coward, Gerald Battersby and Stewart Cross who became Bishop of Blackburn. Four others he refers to by surname: Slinger, Crosby, Duddington and Grayston. Walter became a naval architect living and retiring in Bath. Sadly Walter died just before Christmas 2016. He was a founder member of the Association and we will remember him with great fondness
Lancaster Priory Choir 1946
Colin Whiteside has written to us about this photograph and tells us that at the time he was the Head Boy (on the left of the back row of boys). Alan Stephenson was the Organist and Choirmaster. Alan came to the Priory in 1941 having been Organist and Choirmaster at Coventry Cathedral. Tragically Coventry Cathedral was destroyed in the air raids which flattened the city in 1941hence he was available to fill the vacancy for a new organist and choirmaster at the Priory following the death of Paul Rochard. Alan died in the 1950s so never saw the newly built cathedral in Coventry. Interestingly, Alan always maintained his title of Organist and Choirmaster of Coventry Cathedral. (Some of the congregation may remember a trip by train organised by the Priory to see the new cathedral shortly after its dedication. Ed).
Colin writes,” Throughout the war years the choir was a very close knit group and friendships have lasted to this day. We sang Choral Evensong a number of times through the war live on the BBC Forces Broadcasting Service and it is possible that the photograph was taken at the rehearsal before our last broadcast in the series.”
Thanks to Colin for this. If you recognise yourself on the photograph please get in touch with us.
This September we are delighted to welcome Katie Schad who joins the Priory family as our 'Young People's Officer'.Read More...
The Revd Dr Rebecca Aechtner officiated at her first Eucharist mass on Sunday 2nd July at Lancaster Priory.Read More...