The three-day fundraising event saw a total of 847 hymns sung from the hymn book Ancient and Modern: Hymns and songs for refreshing worship. The book was sung from cover to cover during the event, with accompaniment on St Mary’s Church organ by 29 organists and hundreds of singers, all taking part in shifts ranging from one to six hours at a time.
After a blessing given by the Bishop of Thetford, David Dunnett, organist at Norwich Cathedral, began proceedings accompanied by the choir of St Mary’s and the congregation. Guest appearances were also made during the marathon by other well-known organists including Michael Nicholas, the Cathedral Organist Emeritus, and John Keys from Nottingham, who has recorded the entire hymnbook.
Ancient and Modern: Hymns and songs for refreshing worship is partly arranged in the seasons of the church year, which saw the marathon begin with the journey from Advent through Christmas carols, followed by Lent and Easter to Pentecost. The mix saw St Mary’s singing ancient plainsong hymns and Victorian stalwarts such as “There is a Green Hill Far Away”, alongside wedding hymns including “Love Divine” and well-known hymns such as “Jerusalem”. The hymns were all played on St Mary’s organ, which dates back to 1913 and was built by Norman & Beard who also built the organ in Norwich Cathedral.
The event was held to raise funds for the Attleborough Music Project, which aims to create a centre of excellence and bring more music to Attleborough and the wider community. The project includes the provision of a music outreach worker and essential repairs to the church organ, not to mention the extension of St Mary’s facilities in Attleborough to create more space for community events including concerts and recitals.
Dr Ben Miller, Director of Music at St Mary’s, said: “The whole event was joyous, with everyone in church agreeing it was a great thing to have done. As a result, St Mary’s can now sing any hymn in the hymn book because we know them all! Many thanks to everyone who took part and provided sponsorship and support for the event, including those who organised refreshments during the day and night, and the organ tuners who spent a lot of time inside the organ the day before, paying particular attention to the blower as no-one knew the effect of continuous three-day playing on an organ blower! The funds raised will go a long way towards our goal to create a centre for excellence for music at St Mary’s that will enable us to bring music and its many benefits to the community in Attleborough and beyond.”