The choral tradition at our Church is maintained by our excellent choir, under the supervision of our Director of Music, Gary Sieling MA, BMus., FRCO, who has been in post since 2014.
The choir sings on Sunday mornings at the 9.30am Eucharist service and, on the third Sunday of every month, at Choral Evensong, with extra services for all the major Church Festivals. At each service the choir sings an anthem, and a choral setting of the Canticles at Evensong. The choir’s repertoire is extensive, ranging from the Renaissance to the present day.
St Mary’s choir also visits other major churches, cathedrals and abbeys to sing from time to time. The choir takes part in both the Oxford Annual Choir Festival and Henley Churches Festival. In August 2015 the choir will sing for High Mass in Brussels Cathedral.
The Choir currently has approximately 25 members, both juniors and seniors.
New junior choristers begin with a probationary period of about 12 weeks, during which they take part in Thursday rehearsals from 7.15pm to 8.30pm, when they learn the basics of vocal technique and choral singing. After a few weeks new choristers join the Choir at Sundays services, and full admission usually takes place a few weeks later.
The junior choristers are involved in the Royal School of Church Music ’Voice for Life’ training scheme. Assessed at various stages, each singer is given music training, focusing on a wide variety of different musical skills.
Junior choristers are taught how to read music, how to get the best out of their voices and how to integrate with the group by becoming part of a team. By working through coloured progress workbooks, children take a keen interest in their own development and eagerly anticipate the completion of each attainment level, of which there are here are four stages – Light Blue, Dark Blue, Red and Yellow.
EXAMS AND PAYMENT
For seniors and experienced juniors there are externally examined awards of Bronze, Silver and Gold worn on green, purple and maroon ribbons respectively, as well as opportunities to attend singing courses and workshops.
All choristers receive a payment at the end of each term based on their level of attendance at services and rehearsals. Occasionally they may be invited to sing at weddings, either at St Mary’s or at St Nicholas’, Remenham, for which they are also paid.
BENEFITS OF CHOIR LIFE
The choir holds various social events during the year, and in 2014 the juniors enjoyed a visit to Thorpe Park Resort, in Surrey.
Singing in a church choir brings many benefits to young people and is an excellent foundation for many aspects of later life. As well as the development of music skills, there is chance to learn to work as a member of a professional team, build social skills, play a crucial part in the regular worship of the Church, and to benefit from Christian teaching and leadership.
Many leading musicians and professionals have laid the foundations of their careers as members of church choirs, and the finest choristers can use the opportunity to move on to cathedral choirs and take up music scholarships at schools and universities.
CONTACT THE CHOIR
The Director of Music and Choir Administrator will be pleased to explain more about the choir and the opportunities it can afford.