Jonathan Dods, Director of Music at St Michael & All Angels, writes:
Music is a central part of our spiritual life at St Michael’s. Music sets the tone for our worship when we come into Church from the busy world; it helps us to express our love of God and to articulate things we are unable to express. Music is also a key part of how we bring people into our Church.
St Michael’s Choir is a mixed adult group which rehearses on Tuesdays at 8.30pm and sings full choral Mass and Evensong once every month plus special services. We are a friendly group; you don’t have to be a member of the church, just sympathetic to the aim of the choir, which is to perform to a high standard to enrich the liturgy. The repertoire is broad and engaging and changes regularly. We are often joined by professional instrumentalists for special services. Every year we visit a cathedral to sing for a weekend.
If you would like more information about joining the choir contact me, Jonathan Dods, the Director of Music:
mobile: 07899 654 358
Meet the singers
You get a real sense that the choir is part of the church family.
I joined the choir at St Michael's after I was introduced by a friend whom I had sung with since an early age. I found the existing choir members - many of whom are long-standing - extremely welcoming. You get the real sense that the choir is not simply an accessory that provides music for services, but an integral part of the church family; many members will be found in the congregation when the choir is not singing and supporting the wider church events.
The choir benefits from not singing at services each and every week but maintaining a regular Tuesday evening rehearsal slot. This allows sufficient lead time between sung services to work towards musical performances of a wide range of repertoire. Jon, our director, helps us to do this by focusing on our ability to listen to each other and sing as a choir as well as on the score. Singing technique is integral to our rehearsals and, despite being an experienced singer, I certainly feel that I have developed since Jon came on board.
Rob Davenport – Bass
When you're up to your ears in Byrd or Britten you'll forget all about the day job!
I joined the choir having only sung in a tiny village choir where an unaccompanied hymn was the height of daring. So the St Michaels choir was like a glittering cabinet of jewels to the novice singer - at once dazzling and slightly beyond my price, or at least my vocal range! But despite my lack of experience, the choir were welcoming and generous of spirit - after all, as Mahalia Jackson once said, "God don't mind no bum note!"
As a group of singers, we have a variety of experience, with former cathedral choristers and Oxbridge choral scholars rubbing shoulders with those for whom St Michael’s is their first choir. We’ve even been joined by Broadway and opera singers over the years. Under the watchful baton of Jonathan Dods, the choir has grown in both skill and fellowship into a group who come together to create beautiful music with quite a few laughs along the way.
The choir is the perfect antedote to a hectic corporate life. It's non-competitive, the ultimate in teamwork and cooperation and you'll do all the deep breathing of yoga with none of the pulled muscles! Whether you've not sung since school or are regularly exercising your vocal chords, I'd highly recommend giving the choir a go. When you're up to your ears in the music of Byrd or Britten, I promise, you'll forget all about the day job!
Amanda Bradley – Soprano.
I’ve made good friends, learned a lot about music and had a lot of fun.
I joined the choir at St Michael’s four years ago. I did a good deal of singing as a boy treble, but then drifted away from choral music completely for many years, until a member of the congregation here suggested it was time I came along and gave the choir a try.
I was instantly glad that I did, and wish I’d rediscovered singing years ago. From the moment I walked into my first Tuesday night rehearsal the choir here at St Michael’s was welcoming, unstuffy and fun. The wide age range, the wide range of choral music in the repertoire and willingness to try new things, the speed with which we head for the Tabard pub after singing – all these are parts of the mix. I’ve made good friends, learned a huge amount about choral music, musicality and performance and had a lot of fun.
We strive for high standards, driven on by Jonathan, and – increasingly – we quite often reach them. But to me this is a choir driven just as much by friendship and enjoyment, and a desire to add to the worship of the church. We sing services, rather than concerts.
For years, the idea of joining a big choral society just didn’t quite appeal to me, but I’ve found that singing in a smaller group – typically two or three to a part, offers quite different and often greater rewards than singing on a grander scale.
If you’re interested in trying out singing with a new group the St Michael's choir is always delighted to see new faces. A warm welcome can be guaranteed - and a drink at the Tabard afterwards.
Matthew Hickley – Tenor. (Matt and his family have now relocated to Hampshire and are much missed - he was given a rousing send off by the choir and congregation on Easter Day 2013)
St Michael’s is fortunate to have many accomplished instrumentalists play for our Services. From strings to accompany the Fauré Requiem to a brass quintet to support our singing at the Nine Lessons and Carols, Choral Services are always colourful and exciting, making music and worship come alive. The highlight of our Services with instruments is the Festival Mass, performed in late June at the end of the Bedford Park Festival.
The Festival Choir, which begins rehearsing after Easter, is great for people who are less confident, because the pace is more relaxed and we begin afresh each year working on choral and vocal technique. It is a way for people who can’t commit to the Choir regularly to be involved in music at the Church. We are grateful to all the singers and instrumentalists who join to perform these works in their appropriate context.
The most exciting development in the music of the Church is the buidling of new organ alongside the provision of two meeting rooms within the vestry and sacristy. This is still work in progress and has been a huge project in terms of the time it took to make detailed plans and carry them out, as well raising the considerable funds. It might seem to have been a brave decision, given the current climate, even a selfish one with so many people in need, but we are convinced that as something had to be done, it behoved us to do it well, and create something of value not just for us but for future generations, in the same way that the founders of our Church did for us. Worship, in which music plays a central role, is at the heart of who we are; it challenges us and guides all our activities.
We have come a long way since I outlined the problems of the previous organ; its failing condition, its poor quality and its constrained site. Four organ builders of international stature visited the Church and made detailed proposals. Dr John Rowntree, our adviser, the PCC and I agreed that one builder stood out for their inspired design and the quality of their instruments; St Martin of Switzerland. Detailed architectural plans were prepared (see detail, right) and were submitted to the DAC and the Victorian Society. The Faculty permitting the work to commence was granted in Autumn 2011. Work began in July 2012 and our new organ will be ready for its first concert performance in September 2013. We believe that this great project will transform St Michael’s, its music, its worship, its whole life and help all of our activities to flourish. Fund raising continues - it commenced with our very successful Hymnathon in February 2012 and contines with the 'Pipe Up' campaign.
Jonathan read music at Christ Church, Oxford,
where he was a choral scholar. He returned to London after a year as assistant organist at Lodi Cathedral in Italy. Jonathan is a freelance singer, organist and teacher.