Singing a new song

Published on: 10 January 2020

A junior choir at Great Yarmouth Minster has brought fresh experiences for those joining and for those already at the Minster.

Great Yarmouth Minster’s massive wooden door bursts open, and in dash children, with parents and carers in tow. It is a Thursday at 4.45 and the Choristers Club gathers to sign in. Volunteers – trained adult choir members – are ticking registers, serving simple refreshments and taking contact details from parents of newcomers. The air is full of excitement and enthusiasm.

At 5pm a chord strikes up on the piano, parents leave and the young teams of Cantoris and Decani dash into their places in the stalls to sing. It may be a church anthem or a pop hit from the musicals. Whatever it is – they pick up the music and dive in with enthusiasm, learning as they go.

The Choristers’ Club was set up by the Minster’s Director of Music Outreach, an experienced teacher and choirmaster, Martyn Marshall, after a year of ministry in the parish:

“We wanted to offer a regular social music club in the Minster for local youngsters – partly based on the existing work of the Minster’s Music Outreach project. I also hoped it might also bring in new singers for special events and re-invigorate the Minster choir.

“I took the plunge and personally visited several local primary schools, explaining what the Minster had to offer their young people in the way of music and community opportunities. I took assemblies at each school and left flyers for them. We had a few keen takers – 10 in the first week, and since then it’s really spread by word of mouth as young people and their families realise what a great opportunity it is.”

“I’m just amazed at how much my daughter has grown,” smiles one mum, “She’s really come into her own through singing.” One of the volunteers, Ian Dracup, echoes the sentiment with a grin, “I’m so impressed at their growing confidence – they all volunteer to sing solos now – it’s an example to the adult choir!”

This growth in confidence is due in large part to the care and kindness that are a foundation of all the club activities. “The leaders and volunteers work hard to make this a safe place for children to flourish and find their voice,” says Team Vicar, Jemma Sander-Heys. “There is only encouragement in the rehearsals, and the children work hard but also socialise together regularly, which is really important, and we couldn’t do any of it without the support of the young people’s families.”

Perhaps most important for this new beginning has been the support of the existing Minster choir members as volunteers. Rosemarie Brown describes what it has meant to her:

“After my career as a midwife was cut short by a serious back injury many years ago, I lost all my confidence; singing gradually gave me a new lease of life. And though this was a challenge – being brave enough to come and help as a volunteer – it is such a joy to see the children’s delight in music, their focus, and how they grow in confidence. It’s been lovely, feeling of use again – a new beginning for us all!”

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