These contributions are from Norman Ashfield, Director of Music, Temple Balsall and from Simon Urquhart about the visit of Holy Trinity Choir this past summer to Solihull England.
It was a joy to welcome Henk and the choir to the West Midlands of England on 21st July. Some of the choir members came by ferry and car, and others flew in to Birmingham airport. The outline planning of this event began when several members of the Choir of Temple Balsall sang at Holy Trinity Organ Centenary Festival in September 2014, after sharing religious music together on a number of other occasions.
Here we hired a Christian conference centre – formerly a church vicarage – in a tiny country village called Barston, to house our guests for the weekend and to enable us to have a rehearsal room, share meals, get to know each other better and to host the local church congregation in the extensive garden after the Saturday concert, which was given in the church just yards away. Here our concert, after a long morning of rehearsal, inspired the goodly number of fifty in the audience to raise 600 euros for their chosen church charity. The choirs sang many anthems you would recognise at Holy Trinity, plus some English folk songs.
On the Friday and the Sunday the choirs moved to Temple Balsall, three miles away, where they rehearsed extensively and sang two united choral Evensongs, plus Sunday morning Eucharist, at which the Hopper Mass, composed specially for your church, was performed as part of the service. St Mary has similar features to Holy Trinity – no tower but a single bell turret, no large vestry but an ancient Old Hall placed nearby, like The Parsonage, where the congregation meet after the services to enjoy refreshments and the chance to greet others.
The Parish Secretary treated sixteen choir members upstairs in The Old Hall to roast Sunday lunch, whilst in the evening, after a weekend of glorious sunny weather, everyone retreated to the garden at Barston for a final barbecue, provided and cooked by members of the Holy Trinity team.
Singing and giving praise to God together is a real team effort, and with both choirs enlarged it was possible to sing more ambitious music, to inspire our listeners and to rekindle our own spirits and enthusiasm as we return to our usual Sunday routines. The congregations were very complimentary.
We in England have lasting happy memories of this event and our visitors were as always warm, generous and charming, leaving the centre so spotless as they went, that they were a great advert for their country, and would always be welcome again. There was interest in joining Holy Trinity for a similar weekend in the future…
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The poem by George Herbert, written in the early C17th and set to the tune Augustine in 1960, is well known to us today. He was writing at the time of Milton, Shakespeare and Donne, having the support of Wesley and King James, whilst the Bible of 1611 was in translation. Herbert was ordained Priest and his “antiphon” as the hymn form is known, is a perfect example of what the Holy Trinity Choir was doing on their visit to England. Check out the hymn in your hymnal:
“Let all the world, in every corner sing – My God and King!”
A scholar of English literature noted that a characteristic of Herbert’s poetry is his emphasis on the “heart”. Although the Church sings or “shouts” psalms, it is the heart which must ‘bear the longest part,’ continuing the praise.
So what were we doing there in Barston and Temple Balsall in the Heart of England, apart from enjoying fellowship and the beautiful English countryside? Well, the fellowship was a vital part; although we sang a Choral Eucharist, Evensongs and a concert, bringing young and not so young, traditionalists and modernists, people affirming and finding their faith, some who only wanted to hear a good “tune” but maybe they left thinking there must be something in all this. Our purpose was to bring Holy Trinity and our faith to share with others; given the reception we got and the way we and the Liturgy was listened to, maybe we just succeeded.
You will have read in the article (see above) from Norman in England, how we were made welcome and hosted. We reciprocated in the hospitality, warmth and thanks in voice and deeds. The charity concert at which we jointly performed raised nearly 1,000 pounds for Mission Aviation Fellowship (www.maf-uk.org).
I heard from Judy, our Editor, that the Holy Trinity Newsletter is far reaching around our world and perhaps this trip will further enhance this. The relationships we made may well result in another future joint project in Utrecht, which can only be good for the church, ourselves and the Word.
The choir is grateful for the support of Holy Trinity Church and Council in helping to make this trip such a positive experience in the Heart of England.