Singing in Argyll….NOW WITH PHOTO


 On Sunday our Choir ‘Angelus Singers’  went to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ballachulish, at Argyll near famous Glencoe, for the service of Sung Evensong. You can’t miss the Church, in its glorious setting halfway between Glencoe and the Ballachulish Bridge. It has an ancient history with the graveyard of especial historical interest, and they have the Communion Cup and Plate reputedly used by the Jacobites just before Culloden. The building is in some need of restoration, but the beauty is still evident. 

The fact that we were asked made us feel very proud, as the area of course is full of musical choirs, who participate in the Mod Festival, and Gaelic is still extensively spoken.We were supplemented by some local choir members, and a total of  18 singers filled the choir stalls. This allowed us to have a rousing service of well-known hymns, traditional sung responses, collects, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, and Psalm 119 (only a small part!). In addition we had an Introit and Anthem. The performance of the latter, ‘I saw a new heaven’…. was a first performance. Words of the Revelation of St John were the inspiration of this piece, and it is dedicated to the present congregation, and those who have gone before.

The weather was foul, during the two hour  journey both ways, but ballachulish-original-churchwe all arrived safely. We couldn’t  process from the ‘old church’ (really an old storehouse), to the ‘new church’  (1830’s)  because of the rain and snow.  The  organ then threw a tantrum by ‘ciphering’, when certain stops and notes got stuck and kept on playing! The organist kept her cool and and played well under the circumstances!

An excellent congregation had braved the weather, many from a long distance, and obviously enjoyed the old well-kent words, spoken and sung.
So it was a great event, and shows that many people working together, despite the many problems can produce something bigger than any of us.

How fortunate can anyone get to be in the midst of some of the most wonderful countryside in the world, and sing our hearts out!


Compose yourself, boyo!

I’ve never understood the composing process! The idea of constructing a tune, and then developing it into an interesting, challenging, and (importantly) original piece of music is still daunting. I was brought up in a household where music was part of the furniture, and I have played, listened to, and sung music since a child. So my brain was always full of tunes and harmonies. This is probably the greatest legacy I received from my parents and the rest of the family.

So what has this to do with understanding composition? Well, I loved whistling or humming tunes when walking or working, and I was sometimes not sure if the tune was original or one from ‘way back’. The problem got worse as I learned more music!

I wrote my first piano piece at about 13, and am still proud of it! Writing for organ came later, and was followed by choral writing. The opportunity of hearing pieces performed only came much later and was quite interesting with performers being involved, and adding their skill to the overall performance.

One problem is that it is easy to continually want to change the details of a piece, after every performance, but it’s not really practical, one has to be realistic, and leave it alone. 

I enjoy writing a piece with no real idea of where it may end, but am much happier writing for a reason. This is especially-important where words have been specially-produced, and I am just now working on a choral setting of wonderful original words just recently written by a good friend, F.C.

But whence cometh the theme I do not know, how interesting it is I must leave to the performers, and how much of it is original I must leave to those who listen.