Rochester Cathedral Voluntary Choir
The Cathedral Voluntary Choir normally sings 6–8 full weekends per year, (i.e. Saturday Evensong plus all the three choral services (Mattins, Eucharist and Evensong) on the Sundays), usually during holiday periods, plus occasional Saturdays and the annual Ordination services.
The Cathedral Special Choir was in residence for the Memorial Service for Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on Low Sunday 2002.
It has also occasionally been on duty for the annual Civic Service and “Mayor-Making” and for the Royal Engineers’ annual Memorial Service, and it is sometimes booked by other organisations which hold their carol services in the Cathedral.
For the Palm Sunday morning procession, and the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, the two Cathedral Choirs sing together.
We were the duty Cathedral Choir for the last two Diocesan Advanced Choirs Festivals, conducted by Ralph Allwood and Barry Rose.
We hosted the Festival of the Association of Cathedral Voluntary Choirs here in Rochester in October 2004 to coincide with the 1400th anniversary celebrations of the founding of Rochester Cathedral in AD604, and will do so again in October 2019.
On the first weekend of August 2014 we were joined by our Aachen-area friends, and members of the choir of the Marienkirche in Rostock, to remember the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War 1, and to celebrate and give thanks for the friendships we now have in Germany.
About the Association of Cathedral Voluntary Choirs
Rochester was represented at the meeting in Wells in 1996 which resulted in the formation of this body, and was therefore a founder-member of the Association.
Its first sesquiennial festival was held at Wells Cathedral the following year.
We and 200+ other singers from nine similar choirs attended the ACVC Festival at Guildford in October 1998, which was reviewed by Ruth Gledhill in her column “At Your Service” in The Times.
Some of our members took part in the festivals at Chester in 2000 and Worcester in 2001, and a large contingent from Rochester joined in the May 2003 Festival at Exeter Cathedral, where an excellent time was had by all.
Rochester hosted the ACVC Festival over the weekend of 30-31 October 2004 as part of our celebrations for the 1400th anniversary of the foundation of this Cathedral and Diocese.
Since then we have attended the festivals in Peterborough in May 2006, Derby in October 2007, Chelmsford in May 2009, Worcester in October 2010 , Ely in May 2012, Derby in March 2014, Lichfield in July 2015, Wells in October 2016 (returning, on its 20thanniversary, to the place where the Association was founded), and most recently, Guildford in May 2018.
Rochester will host the next Festival on the weekend of 19-20 October 2019.
For more information about the Association of Cathedral Voluntary Choirs and its members, visit www.acvc.org.uk.
Some comments we have received over the last 20 years:
“It was a very special Carol Service thanks to your beautiful playing and singing. I’ve had so many lovely comments about the evening. Bishop Graham thought it was excellent. Thank you so much for all your hard work.”
- Rev’d Jackie Cray (Priest-in-Charge of St Faith’s, Maidstone) after “Carols by Candlelight” on 23 December 2009.
“Thank you for the part you all played at the Ordination Service last Saturday afternoon. I have received some very appreciative comments from the Ordinands about how uplifting the service was, particularly for members of their families who are not familiar with cathedral worship!
My thanks to all those who formed the Music Group. The blending of the range of styles of music worked well and provided a reflective as well as a dynamic atmosphere to the afternoon’s worship. It certainly lifted hearts in praise.”
- Rev’d Canon Ralph Godsall (Precentor), following the Ordination of Deacons on 8 September 2007.
“Wow... you were amazing! Thank you for singing so beautifully at our wedding. People who came have not stopped talking about you. They were so impressed.”
- Adele & Atef Tawfik, following their wedding in the Cathedral on 2 September 2006, when we sang “How great thou art” in Arabic!
“Thank you for all you contributed to the Ordination Service. As always, the singing was magnificent and your enthusiasm communicated itself so well to the congregation. The good rapport with the Music Group was evident for all to see. Please pass on our thanks to Roger [Sayer] and to the brass players for the excellence of their contribution too.”
- Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, following the Ordination of Deacons on 9 September 2006.
“Thanks again for Sunday, especially the afternoon, which was about as good as it can get!”
- Rev’d Canon Ralph Godsall (Precentor), following the New Year Carol Service at the Cathedral on 1 January 2006.
“The Carols by Candlelight service is greatly appreciated both by members of St Faith’s and those who just come occasionally to church. The significant growth in attendance again this year is a clear indication of the way it is valued...”
- Rev’d Ian Crofts, Vicar of St Faith’s, Maidstone, following the carol service on 23 December 2005.
Following the Ordination of Deacons in the Cathedral on Saturday 10 September 2005:
“I write to thank you and the Special Choir for another outstanding performance on Saturday, much appreciated by all concerned. I received many comments after the service about the way in which the music had contributed so much to what was a very special occasion.”
- Rev’d Canon Chris Stone, Personal Chaplain to Rt Rev’d Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester.
“Thank you for the lovely musical setting to the prayers. Thank you too, for the wonderful music: I've never before seen the blending of Haydn, Byrd, a brass enemble, guitars and choruses work so richly together.”
- Rev’d Canon Roger Spiller, Director of Ministry in Coventry Diocese and Retreat Conductor for these Ordinands.
“All my folks were bowled over by the sensitive combination of styles, and how well it hung together. Wonderful example of litugical music at its best.”
- Rev’d Ronni Lamont, Vicar of St John the Evangelist, Bexley.
Thanks to the magnificent music group and choir. It was superb to hear the brass in the Cathedral, where the acoustics were ideal and the fanfares in the final verses of various hymns and songs really lifted the intensity (even more!). The quality of the music was really excellent and the breadth of styles met all church traditions - from my elderly parents to the many children for whom the drums and the other musicians were a highlight. My parents felt quite at home also !
- Rev’d Hugh Thomas, one of the newly-ordained.
“This is a note to thank the Special Choir and all who contributed once more to a quite magnificent service last Saturday. Please do pass on my thanks and those of the Bishop and his Senior Staff to all concerned. As ever, it was a pleasure to work with you.”
- Rev’d Canon Chris Stone, Personal Chaplain to Rt Rev’d Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, following the Ordination service on 4 September 2004.
Following the service to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood:
“A huge thank you for all the vision and energy you brought to the music for the service on 16 May 2004. I have never received so many positive and joyful comments about a service - everyone is speaking about the music. Do pass on my thanks to the choir”
- Rev’d Canon Anne Dyer (member of Chapter),
“I would like to thank you and the choir for the wonderful music at the Cathedral to celebrate the 10th anniversary of ordination of women to the priesthood. It was lovely to be in a service where there was variety and such excellent quality of music.”
- Rev’d Chris Dench, Rector of Leybourne.
Following the Ordination service on 6 September 2003:
“I am writing to say a big thank you for the magnificent contribution the Special Choir made to what so many people have said was a splendid time of worship and praise. I was particularly pleased to see how well the Special Choir and the Music Group worked together.”
- Rt Rev’d Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester.
“I am still receiving very affirming messages from people across the diocese concerning the Ordination service. It was a very happy occasion and everything we have been working to achieve over a number of years came together in a quite remarkable way in this service.”
- Rev’d Canon Jonathan Meyrick, Canon Pastor and Acting Dean.
“Thank you for your help in making last night’s Carol Service such an occasion. All agreed the Choir were splendid. Please pass on our thanks to the Choir and Edmund [Aldhouse - Cathedral Sub-Organist].”
- Helen Maxwell, Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, following a Carol Service at the Dockyard Church on 16 December 2003.
“Please convey to the members of the Special Choir who entertained us so charmingly on 29 November 2003 our thanks for coming to the Civic Centre... We all enjoyed their contribution to the success of the event and their company at it”
- Miss Betty Trollope, Secretary of the Friends of Rochester Cathedral.
“The choir was splendid...thank them for the work they did.”
- Rt Rev’d Brian Smith, following his farewell service as Bishop of Tonbridge.
“I wanted to say how very grateful I and my colleagues are for the Special Choir’s contribution to this Easter. The standard of their singing and their commitment to the life of the Cathedral remained at the high level... that enhances the Cathedral’s music and worship considerably.”
- Rev’d Canon Jonathan Meyrick, Canon Pastor and Acting Dean of the Cathedral, following various services over Easter 2001.
“My thanks to the choir for making Julie & Ian’s wedding so special. Having you lead the singing encourages those of us with less talent to ‘make a joyful noise unto the Lord’.”
- Mrs Ann Allen, following her daughter’s wedding, August 2001.
“Thank you, and all the Choir, for rounding off the weekend so magnificently. For me personally it was worship in spirit and in truth...a privilege to share in.”
- Rev’d Margaret Mascall.
“Thank you for the Special Choir’s contribution to the worship of Exeter Cathedral last week. Your help was greatly appreciated.”
- Rev’d Canon Ken Parry, formerly Precentor of Exeter Cathedral, following our week’s residency there in April 1999.
“All the best to you and your fine ensemble.”
- Mr E Carl Freeman, Minister of Music at River Road Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia, following our concert there in October 1998.
“My wife and I had the good fortune to attend the concert you recently gave in the Cathedral, and were moved by the excellence of the performance.”
- Mr Stephen Bush, May 1999.
“I much enjoyed the concert given by the Special Choir last Saturday. The music was of such excellence... All in all a most enjoyable, indeed exhilarating evening.”
- Mr Chris Hebron, formerly Comptroller of Rochester Cathedral, July 1998.
“The concert was all I had hoped - and more! It was a rich experience in every way - depth of sound, variety, intensity - and it touched those who would not have chosen to attend a programme of unaccompanied church music. I was astonished at some of the comments I received.”
- Rev’d Margaret Mascall, following a concert at Hartlip church, July 1997.
“Congratulations I believe are in order. I was thrilled to hear of such glowing reports. Long may the Special Choir thrive.”
- Roger Sayer, Cathedral Organist & Director of Music, following our performance of Bach’s St John Passion in Germany, March 1997.
“You are to be thanked and congratulated on last evening’s meditation. I hope you were as pleased and satisified as I was. Well done, I say.”
- Rev’d Canon Dr John Armson, formerly Precentor of Rochester Cathedral, following a service of readings & music for Remembrance Sunday 1995.