DAVID MORGAN on the latest very public endorsement of the quality of the choir and music at Croydon Minster
It seems like a lifetime ago now, what with everything that has happened since, but it is 10 months since the BBC’s outside broadcast vans trundled into position outside Croydon Minster. A mountain of technical equipment was unloaded. Lights were rigged both inside and outside the building, microphones were carefully placed to capture the sounds of organ and voice, cameras were positioned high and low.
All was made ready that Christmas Eve of 2019 so that BBC1 could broadcast the service of Midnight Mass from Croydon Minster to the world. Croydon was in the limelight, and for once only in a good way.
The televised service made a good impression on many people. Compliments flowed into the church office. Invitations for the choir to sing in prestigious venues were received and plans for the year were made.
The first two months of the year passed quickly with choir training and services. On a dark and extremely wet evening in February, choir members sang Evensong with the choir at Guildford Cathedral. Then came lockdown and the singers were silenced.
Singing stopped inasmuch as the singers couldn’t stand next to each other, though they soon arranged to sing from their own homes. Dr Ronny Krippner, the Minster’s musical director, encouraged each chorister and adult singer to record their own part for a variety of pieces of music. In kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms and studies, headphones were donned and recording buttons were pressed.
The results were painstakingly woven together so that the home singers became a virtual choir. The results were remarkable in the circumstances and were posted on YouTube.
Slowly, church services returned over the summer but with no music. Eventually, the government gave the green light for choirs to start singing in church, but under the strictest of controls.
At the Minster, the return of the choir was eagerly anticipated, but the choir of September 2020 was not the choir of pre-lockdown days. Some young voices had broken; some singers had left for university; others had moved out of the area.
New recruits were signed up but it takes time for them to learn how to make the best of their vocal talents.
Most of the invitations for the Minster choir to sing in 2020 had passed.
But one remained on the desk. The BBC wanted to return to the Minster again.
This time they wanted the church to host a live transmission of the Radio 4 Sunday Worship service as well as to record a service of Choral Evensong for transmission on Radio 3.
October 18 is the chosen date. The live broadcast in the morning, starting at 8.10 and the recording of Evensong in the afternoon.
Rev Canon Dr Andrew Bishop, the priest in charge, and Dr Krippner set to work to plan the day.
The musical department of the Minster was boosted by the arrival in September of Sophie Garbisu, from Bordeaux. Taking a sabbatical from her post at Bordeaux Cathedral, she is spending this year learning more about Anglican choral music, both in performance and in training. Hearing of Croydon Minster’s reputation for the high quality of its choral services, Sophie felt this was a place to come where it would enable her to develop and take back new ideas to France.
Canon Bishop is the celebrant for the morning service when Bishop Precious Omuku, a member of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s staff, will preach. As the service is broadcast on the day which is the feast day of St Luke, a physician as well as a gospel writer, the theme will be on healing.
The socially distanced choir with a small, similarly distanced congregation, will be awaiting the red light of transmission which will be switched on at ten past eight, straight after the news.
The recording of Choral Evensong will be transmitted on Wednesday, October 21 at 3.30pm. The standard of singing and musicianship is acknowledged to be of the highest standard on this, the longest-running of any live broadcast programme on the BBC.
This will be the second appearance of the Minster choir on Radio 3 in the last two years. The choir broadcast live in November 2018, 40 years after the last BBC visit was made. When broadcasting the Sunday service was begun by the BBC in the 1930s, Croydon Parish Church, as it was called then, was a frequent host to both national and regional broadcasters.
After such a difficult few months, it is a delight that music-making at the Minster has returned, and is doing so in such a special way, through the airwaves to listeners worldwide. It is a credit to the leadership of Dr Krippner and hard work of the singers that the Minster choir continues to develop and thrive.
- 2010 to 2020: Inside Croydon has been delivering local community service and local community news for 10 years. To support independent local journalism in Croydon, please sign up today as a supporter. Click here for more details
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at email@example.com
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and BBC London News
- Inside Croydon named Journalist of the Year at 2018 Anna Kennedy Online Autism Heroes Awards
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: For three consecutive years, 2017, 2018 and 2019, Inside Croydon has been the source for award-winning nominations in Private Eye magazine’s annual celebration of civic cock-ups
- Inside Croydon had 1.6million pages viewed by 721,000 unique visitors in 2019