music choirs and the organ at St Johns
Since its foundation in 1861, St John's has enjoyed a fine tradition of church music. Today, music is provided for all the weekend Masses, together with the Easter Triduum and solemnities throughout the year. Two choral foundations provide the liturgical music at the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass - the Sunday Choir and the Festival Choir.
Music for Weddings, Baptisms or Funerals
St John's Sunday Choir
The smaller of our two choirs, this is nevertheless responsible for the majority of the music throughout the year. It provides music for most of the Sundays not covered by the Festival Choir, together with Maundy Thursday, the Easter Vigil, Christmas Masses and Solemnities. The Sunday Choir's primary function is to lead the congregational singing - antiphonal settings of the Mass, responsorial psalms, Gospel and Eucharistic acclamations. An anthem is generally sung at Communion. Plainchant is used regularly and the musical diet is generally eclectic without resorting to vulgarity. There are two resident composers: Rupert Bevan who writes the psalm setting each week together with the regularly sung Gloria, and Jacquelyn Fry who has produced two settings of the Mass Ordinary for congregation/choir use as well as anthems.
Choir practice happens at 7.30 pm on Thursday evenings in the church. Rupert Bevan is the Musical Director and if you are interested in finding out more about or would like to join, please contact him.
In particular, opportunities exist for cantors. The Cantor Ministry is one which is taken very seriously at St John's and training is available for those who would like to serve God in this way. Please contact the Musical Director if you are interested.
St John's Festival Choir
The Festival Choir was founded in 1963 by Cuthbert Bates to sing at the Centenary celebrations of the church. From then on, it has sung on all the major Church Festivals each year - hence its name. It sings Mass approximately twelve times a year, with the addition of the Good Friday Service and the Candlelit Festival of Carols and readings on the Sunday before Christmas. The present conductor is Elizabeth Bates, daughter of the Founder.
Until 2004, St John's had a strong, unbroken tradition of Plainchant, fostered initially by the Benedictines until they left in 1937. Plainchant was then carried on by musical lay members of the parish. Since Mass times were changed and the number of Masses reduced in 2004, plainchant is still sung occasionally by the Sunday Choir which was formed around this time. St John's Festival Choir sings mostly sixteenth century polyphonic Masses and Motets as this music sprang from the original Plainchant idiom - the foundation of Catholic music. On occasions it also sings in a more modern style.
For the Festival Choir programme of music for the current year, click here. ( PDF 57kB, opens in a new window).
The choir numbers about 25 and as well as parishioners, members travel from some distances to sing with them. It is open to all who love to sing polyphonic music, whatever their creed, and they are not averse to having social occasions as well!
As mentioned earlier, the choir was founded for the Centenary celebrations by Cuthbert Bates who retired in 1979. His son, Richard was appointed until his untimely death at the age of 39. Since then Elizabeth Bates has been the Director. We think it might be some sort of a record for a choir to have been in the hands of the same family for 50 years! 2013 was therefore a very special year, not only for the 150th anniversary of the church, but also for the Festival Choir's 50th year.
To celebrate the great variety of music which is heard at St John's, a special CD was produced for the unique Jubilee year, "A Jubilee in Song". There really is something to suit all tastes. You can listen to samples from the CD by clicking on the following:
In dulce jubilo (St. John's Festival Choir)
Gloria: Mass in Eb (St. John's Sunday Choir)
They'll know we are Christians (St. Gregory's Catholic College Choir)
Salve Regina (Gregorian Chant Choir)
Ego sum panis vivus (St. John's Sunday Choir)
As someone who lives near Honiton said:
"I would like to say how much I am enjoying it. There is certainly a lot of talent in your parish. It was a wonderful idea to include all the various groups, the children and the parish congregation, too."
The cost is £12 and includes post and packing. Please make your cheque payable to St John's RC Church and send to:
Parish Office (CD Purchase)
St John's Church
Bath BA2 4AF
All money raised from sales will go into the church funds.
All sung Masses at St John's are enhanced by the fine Walker Organ which is positioned in the West Gallery. It is a three manual instrument originally built in 1966 for the Middleton Hall, University of Hull. At that time it was a portable recital instrument and the style was German baroque. However some of the stops sounded much less effective when it was rebuilt in its present location by Robin Winn, and Matthew Copley was engaged to carry out appropriate tonal alterations. The result was an instrument that was capable of meeting the demands of congregational worship but with the integrity of the original concept preserved.
Nicholas Kynaston gave the Opening Recital in 1996, since when it has charmed and delighted both organists and audiences alike.
Our Organists are:
- Nicholas Stuart MA LTCL ARCO
- Jacquelyn Fry BA Hons
- Rupert Bevan BSc MPhil
- Dr. Malcolm Hill M.Mus., A.D.C.M., F.R.C.O.(CHM), A.R.A.M.
For the full Specification of the Walker Organ, click here ( PDF 7kB, opens in a new window).