Music has long been an important part of the tradition of worship at St Giles. It lifts the spirits, deepens prayer and glorifies our Maker and Redeemer. If worship is central to our life, then music is central to worship. Apart from a quiet early Sunday morning service and said mid-week services, Sunday worship is always sung, led in the morning by up to four professional singers and in the evening by the larger St Giles (voluntary) Choir, both directed from the recently restored organ by our talented director of music, Jonathan Bunney.
The St Giles Quartet at Morning Worship
Four professional singers lead the congregational hymns, psalms and sung canticles and also offer an anthem at morning worship. They are drawn from trained, music graduates greatly experienced in the mainstream Anglican repertory, being equally at home with Renaissance motets as with Victorian harmonies and 20th century settings.
In addition to their regular Sunday commitments, they also sing on Good Friday and other special festival days. They can also appear, on request, to lead wedding celebrations and funerals. Our current quartet consists of Nina Kanter, Susan Moore, Andrew Thomas and Paul Hopwood.
Nina Kanter graduated from Cambridge University in 2009 with a first class honours degree in Music. She studied at Gonville and Caius College, where she was a choral scholar and won the Sir Rudolph Peters’ Prize for Music. She sings regularly with the Philharmonia Chorus through their Professional Singers Scheme, the Philharmonia Voices, and is the regular soprano at St Giles-in-the-Fields. In 2012 she was chosen to participate in the Glyndebourne Academy, a new generation scheme for young singers run in partnership with the National Opera Studio, and followed this with a students’ recital at Glyndebourne in November. Also this November Nina sang Ninfa/Echo for Hampstead Garden Opera in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, whilst covering the roles of Euridice and La Musica. Other roles have included Galatea (Handel’s Acis and Galatea), Princess/Cat (Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges) and Mary (cover, Vaughan William’s Hugh the Drover). Future plans include Mozart’s Requiem Mass with The Amadé Players in December. Nina studies with Jacqueline Bremar.
Susan Moore is a character mezzo renowned for her diversity and energetic performance style. She studied voice at diploma and postgraduate level at Trinity College of Music and was awarded 1st place in the Elizabeth Schumann Lieder Prize. She currently works privately with Susan McCulloch. Recent operatic roles include: Mrs. Herring (cover) Albert Herring & Filipyevna (cover) Eugene Onegin for English Touring Opera; Suzuki Madame Butterflyfor Opera Brava; Florence Pike Albert Herringfor Surrey Opera; Katisha and Pitti-Sing Mikado as well as Little Buttercup and Cousin Hebe HMS Pinafore for Charles Court Opera; Marcellina Le nozze di Figaro for Longborough Festival Opera; Little Buttercup HMS Pinafore and Mrs Partlet The Sorcerer for Opera della Luna; and many roles for Opera Minima. An accomplished opera, operetta and oratorio singer, she recently premiered her narrated recital programme about the life & career of contralto Kathleen Ferrier with pianist Nicholas Bosworth. In the current season Susan will create the role of the Dog Catcherin Laika the Spacedog for English Touring Opera.
Paul Hopwood was an English teacher before he chose to pursue a singing career. He won a post-graduate scholarship to the GSMD, then sang in the Glyndebourne chorus, understudying many principal roles. Now establishing himself as a solo performer, recent operatic roles have included Don Jose in Carmen, and Canio in Pagliacci. He has understudied Faust in ENO’s acclaimed Damnation of Faust, and Hoffman in their production of Tales of Hoffman. Next year he will sing Gastone in their new production of La Traviata. More unusual roles have varied from the lowlife Jemmy Twitcher in Beggar’s Opera for the Royal Opera to the all-powerful Aurelios, ‘Master of the Universe’ in the eponymous ‘sci-fi’ opera at the BAC. Paul is an experienced concert soloist; he has sung a wide variety of repertoire at venues including the Albert Hall and the Barbican. His solo recordings include a live performance of Mozart’s Requiem on the Hyperion label.
Andrew Thomas studied performance, musicology and composition at the City University, London, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and subsequently took the MPhil degree in composition at St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge. He is currently a PhD candidate in composition at Birmingham Conservatoire. He is active as a freelance flautist, composer, conductor and teacher and is a member of St Giles’ professional quartet. Whilst an undergraduate Andrew was a member of the BBC Symphony Chorus singing a vast variety of choral music both in the UK and Europe as well as taking part in the premiere of a number of works. Recent solo roles have included requiems by Faure and Duruffle as well as masses by Vivaldi, Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart. Andrew’s activities as a composer have seen his music performed by many of this country’s leading ensembles as well as being played in festivals and concerts across Europe. http://www.altmusic.org.uk
The St Giles Choir at Evening Worship
This volunteer choir leads worship at the 6.30pm Sunday evening services, meeting beforehand at 5pm to rehearse the settings, hymns and anthem to be sung that evening.
Under the encouraging leadership of our director of music they have gone from strength to strength over recent years and now number some 25 in all. Whilst some members have music training, most have not, but can read music and lend their own voices to that of the ensemble. Jonathan is always pleased to hear from new singers who might like to join and will offer a voice test first.
The St Giles Choir have also sung for evening worship at Portsmouth, Chichester, Winchester, Southwark and Norwich Cathedrals, as well as for local charitable causes.
If you are interested in joining the St Giles Choir, please contact Jonathan Bunney.
The organ which today graces St Giles dates back to the end of the 17th century. It predecessor, which the poet John Milton would have heard in 1647 when his daughter Mary was baptised in 1647, was destroyed shortly after this date during the English Civil War.
In 1678 a replacement organ was built by George Dallam and later, in 1699, was ‘repaired’ Christian Smith, a nephew of the great organ builder ‘Father’ Smith. It was this organ that was then rebuilt into the present church when it opened in 1734. The work was carried out by Gerard Smith the younger, possibly assisted by Johann Knopple. Much pipework from 1699, and perhaps some from 1678, survives today in the handsome new case made in 1734.
Minor alterations were subsequently made to the organ. It was rebuilt in 1856, when it was restored and up-dated by the distinguished London organ builders Gray and Davison, then at the height of their fame. Apart from replacing the mechanical key and stop actions with an electro-pneumatic action in 1960, the organ is one of the few historic organs in central London to have escaped twentieth century ‘modernisation’.
At the turn of the 21st century, and after one hundred and fifty years use, this historic organ urgently needed sympathetic restoration. The Parochial Church Council appointed organ historian and consultant Stephen Bicknell to advise on the best way forward. After considering various proposals the Parish appointed the organ builder William Drake of Buckfastleigh. Drake’s restorations include the historic organs in Lulworth Castle Chapel and Buckingham Palace Ballroom. All material from 1699 and earlier was kept, together with the oak case and other material from 1734 and additions made in 1856. New mechanical key and stop actions were made, replacing the poor actions of 1960. A technical specification for the organ can be found at http://www.williamdrake.co.uk.
Now that the organ has been restored, listeners are able to enjoy, for at least another one hundred and fifty years, sounds that have been heard on this site since 1699 or before. The restored organ takes pride of place in the developing programme of recitals and concerts at St. Giles’, as well as in the many services attended by those who live and work in the area. It benefits not only the local community, but also the many visitors and tourists who come to this historic church.
The Organ can be used for concerts and events held in the church; however, all use must be arranged with the church organist. Please note that the organist is entitled to a fee whenever the organ is used for events or concerts at the church, whether or not the organist themselves play.
St Giles’ steeple possesses a ring of eight bells. The oldest bells (numbers 3 and 4) dates from 1635, the two heaviest (numbers 7 and 8) from 1685 and the remaining four bells from 1736. The tenor weighs 14 cwt (700 kg). This means that when the present church was built in 1734, four of the bells from the old church were preserved and four new bells were added. In 2006 the bells were rehung with new fittings but were not tuned. (A fuller technical specification can be found by going to http://www.dove.ccbr.org.uk and then searching under the post code, WC2). Several notable peals have been rung on the bells, including the first true peal of the Stedman Triples in 1797.
The bells are rung every Thursday lunchtime from 12.40pm to 1.25pm by the ‘Thursday lunchtime band’ – a group of ringers from around London working in the area who first formed the band in 1964 to ring for the Thursday lunchtime service held at that time. Today the band still consists of local workers (past and present) who extend a warm welcome to any ringers visiting or working in the area.
A learners’ practice for local ringers also takes place on Tuesday evenings from 6pm to 7.30pm. Sunday evening ringing is by arrangement with two regular quarter peal bands and occasional local ringing bands.
Visitors of all abilities are always welcome at either practice, but it is advisable to check with the Tower Captain, Dennis Elisdon, via the Church office, that ringing is taking place at the normal time. The tower is affiliated to the Middlesex Association of Change Ringers and houses the Association’s library. For more information go to www.mcaldg.org.uk.