Music in the Churches

The Lambourn Benefice is very fortunate to have a committed choir, affiliated to the RSCM, to support our worship. We currently have 15 regular members, including 3 young choristers who are being coached using the RSCM Voice for Life series. Choir practice is every Friday and is taken collaboratively by our organist, Dr Stephen Holmes, and the Assistant Music Director, Susan Holmes (Stephen’s daughter). Stephen has been our organist for 25 years, and regularly performs organ recitals in Newbury. Susan is an accompanist and freelance musician working predominantly in and around Berkshire. The choir attends every Sunday service at Lambourn St Michael and All Angels’ church, and also all group services throughout the valley, performing anthems appropriate to the Sunday, and leading the congregation in the hymns and communion setting. Repertoire and hymns are chosen to reflect both the traditional and the contemporary, spanning approximately five centuries of music.

A particularly important event in our calendar is the Good Friday Concert where the choir is joined and augmented by extra singers from around the area to perform music suitable for the season, such as requiems and masses. This event has now been running for 25 years and has a great following. A new initiative 2018 was to put on a concert of all our favourite anthems to showcase the choir outside of the liturgical responsibilities. Another special event is the Taize service at Eastbury’s St James’ Church, and we hope to collaborate with other churches in the area including the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Church in Lambourn for future Taize services. Every year, we attend the RSCM Oxford Diocesan Festival Evensong where choirs from over the diocese come together to sing evensong. Inspired by this, in October 2018 we hosted our own come-and-sing evensong and invited members of the congregation to be a chorister for the day. This is something we hope to build on in the future.

The church has a fine 3-manual organ installed by ‘Father’ Henry Willis in 1858. Some of the pipework is older than this; at least two stops were originally in the 1786 Samuel Green organ in Wells Cathedral. There are 25 speaking stops. The organ was last restored in 1962 by Nicholsons. For more details see the National Pipe Organ Register.

Sir George Martin (1844-1916), who was born in Lambourn, was inspired to learn to play the organ after hearing a recital of Bach fugues on the instrument. He soon became the organist in Lambourn and later was organist of St Paul’s Cathedral where he supervised the music for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.