BBC radio is returning to capture the music of Croydon Minster

Using as much broadcast equipment as  might be seen at the Cup final, BBC television’s transmission from Croydon Minster’s Midnight service last Christmas made a big impression

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 Christmas service from Croydon Minster was very well-received

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.

New arrival: Sophie Garbisu

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.

BBC Radio regularly broadcast services from Croydon Minster in the 1930s

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.


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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2 Responses to BBC radio is returning to capture the music of Croydon Minster

  1. Lewis White says:

    Thanks for this piece of very good news (very rare under current Covid-affected world) of live choral music being broadcast on UK radio– and even better, live from the Minster. The music and singing at Croydon Minster under Dr Ronny Krippner’s directorship is second to none. Great that the BBC have recognised the exceptional quality of the choral sound and musicianship created here.

    To hear the singing of the choirs (I think I am right in saying that there is a boys and men’s chir, and girls and womens’ choir, but perhaps also with a mixed choir on occasions) in the beautiful setting and acoustic of the Minster is truly uplifting. At certain times, it is possible to be transported back in time by hearing the sound of the Medieval English church.

    Whether the listener is a member of the Anglican church or not, to attend any service at the Minster will provide access to a sound-world of musical light and shade, spirituality and beauty.

  2. Charlie Aberdeen says:

    Sadly for this Choral Evensong recording I understand there will be no congregation. However, the BBC should get the best of the atmosphere and sounds with the broadcast.

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