Long Choral Tradition at Saint Paul’s

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Whit Sunday 1964

It was 1948 when females were first admitted in the choir but not as equal members. The young women were not robed and were not allowed to process into the church with the altar party and male choristers, slipping quietly into the choir stalls before the service began. At the end of the service they had to stay in the stalls until the procession had left the church! The choir stalls at that time were behind the chancel rail, three rows on either side facing each other across the aisle that led up to the high altar.St.Paul’s church has had a strong tradition in choral music as long as I can remember and for many years before.
As a young child in the 40’s, I remember that the choir was a male voice choir with strong bass and tenor sections. The higher voice registers were provided by young boys, many of whom were recruited from the Boys’ Home that existed in Royton at the time.

We have been fortunate over the years to have been led by very good organists and choir masters. In the mid 50’s the choir became affiliated to the Royal School of Church Music. The women and girls were now accepted as full members. The choir entered Music Festivals at Macclesfield, Hazel Grove and Blackpool. In 1957 a quartet from the choir took second place at Macclesfield and in 1964 the choir took first place at Hazel Grove.

The membership of young boys and girls went from strength to strength in the 70’s.They were split into “houses” named after famous composers of church music. The two houses that I remember were Tallis and Byrd.
The teams took it in turns to set out the music before and after services and they prepared the hymn boards for the following services. They attended courses organized by the R.S.C.M. and developed their choral skills as well as learning how to behave reverently during the services. They made a valuable contribution to the worship. They were encouraged by the adults who organized day trips for them and every year the teams competed in a Sports Day in Tandle Hill Park, the victors being presented with a shield. The children were paid for their services, although not too generously .They earned a penny for every service and rehearsal attended. I think they were paid extra for weddings. Their ‘annual wage’ was paid to them on Christmas Day after the morning service.

As the years have gone by our numbers have gradually fallen from an incredible fifty members at our zenith, to only seven today! Like many other choirs we have difficulty recruiting new members, especially children and men. People have so many other interests and commitments these days.

We are lucky that we still have a good organist in David Williams but we would love to have more members to enable us to widen our choice of music again.

Ah Well! What we lack in numbers we try to make up for with enthusiasm.