Music at St Mary's, Maldon
Music plays a central role in the life of St Mary’s both liturgically and in concerts.
The Parish Mass draws on a variety of musical styles from the earliest chants of the church to good modern choral and congregational music. The choir has a wide and impressive repertoire of settings of the “ordinaries” (the regular sung parts of the Mass). These include settings by Palestrina, Victoria, Byrd, Mozart, Haydn, Howells and many others. A recent favourite addition to the repertoire has been the Missa Brevis by the contemporary composer Jonathan Dove. In addition to a Mass setting, the choir sings a motet during the communion which is specially chosen to reflect the theme of the day. Polyphony features heavily in St Mary’s, partly because of the current limitations of the organ (see the page on The Organ) and partly because it is still considered to be the music of the church. It is wonderful to think that some of the music which the choir sings was being sung when the walls of St Mary’s were new. These beautiful choral settings provide moments of reflection during the Mass, when the congregation can use the singing of the choir to focus on the central act of worship and to aid their prayers. The full choir sings at every Mass except for the first Sunday of the month, when the junior choir alone sings.
In addition to the choral settings of the ordinaries, we use a variety of modern Congregational settings, chosen particularly for their prayerful character and for ease of singing. We use the New English Hymnal as our main source of hymnody, expanded by the modern Laudate hymn book. We are fortunate that, at St Mary’s, we not only have a very good choir but also a congregation which sings lustily and with joy.
The other sung services include 1662 Choral Evensong (sung at 18.00 on the first Sunday of the month) and special services as the seasons require, such as Carol Services, a Requiem Mass for All Souls and an annual liturgical performance of Bach’s St John Passion.
With it’s lofty vault, the large open spaces of St Mary’s give it the best acoustics for music in the town. It is a major venue for the Maldon Festival and we are very happy to host concerts by any musical organisation from Maldon or elsewhere.
We hope that the provision of a new pipe organ, will further enhance the concert making in St Mary’s and the town.
St Mary's Organ Scholar
The organ scholarship was set up in early 2008 to support and encourage young musicians. Anyone who has reached a standard of at least grade VI on the keyboard (not necessarily organ, piano will suffice) may apply. The holder receives tuition, ample practice time and many opportunities to accompany the choir and congregation under the guidance of the Director of Music. It is an ideal opportunity for any young person interested in pursuing a career in music or who simply loves making music for its own sake. Experience of holding such a position can be an invaluable aid in university entrance. The first holder of the St Mary’s Organ Scholarship was Paul Johnson, who was generously supported financially by a grant from the Linda Starling Memorial Fund. Paul subsequently studied organ at Birmingham Conservatoire and is now Director of Music at St Martin of Tours, Epsom. Currently, we have both a senior and a junior organ scholar. The former is Matthew Foster, who has accompanied the choir in Germany and in various cathedrals and college chapels in the UK. Our junior organ scholar, James Housego, joined us in May 2018.
Anyone interested in applying for the post of Organ Scholar or of finding out more information should contact the Director of Music, Colin Baldy.
The Choir of St Mary's, Maldon
St Mary’s Choir is a mixed choir of adults and children which leads the worship Sunday by Sunday. The ethos of the choir is rooted in the rich tradition of Anglican Choral music but also draws heavily on continental experience. This means that congregations are treated to Mass settings by the “greats” of European music. Each week, whilst there is much Congregational singing, the choir sings Masses by Palestrina, Lassus, Mozart, Haydn, Ireland, Howells and many more. For major festivals, the choir is accompanied by orchestra such as for the Fauré Requiem on All Souls or Haydn’s St Nicholas Mass at Midnight Mass.
Choral Evensong is sung on the first Sunday of the month at 6pm. This beautiful service, one of the greatest gifts of Anglicanism to the Christian tradition, is a time for the congregation to forget the stresses and strains of the coming week and to allow the singing of the choir to transport it to another plane. The music sung stretches right across the Anglican corpus of music, from the sixteenth century to the present day. The choir’s repertoire includes all the famous Anglican composers of canticles, such as Tallis, Byrd, Stanford, Nobel, Walmisley and Howells. Occasional continental settings also feature, such as those by Palestrina and Buxtehude. Music at the Mass on the first Sunday of the month is more Congregational in character.
Choir children benefit hugely from exposure to this great array of music. The sheer pace of the choir’s repertoire means that different music is practised and performed on a weekly basis, aiding hugely the children’s ability to sight-sing and their aural and vocal development. Besides the sheer joy of singing such wonderful music, such a discipline is invaluable in developing a child’s self-confidence. The choir is also a huge help in developing social skills and the enjoyment of shared experiences.
Weddings and Funerals at St Mary’s are greatly enhanced by the presence of St Mary’s choir, which is available to lead the singing and to sing specially chosen choral music during the service. The choir is also available to sing at weddings and funerals throughout Essex and further afield.
Choir Practice is on Wednesday evenings at 6pm for children, for children (until 7.30pm) including games. Pizza is provided, for those who require feeding, at 5.30pm. The adult choir practice is at 7.30pm. There is also a short practice on Sunday mornings before the Mass at 9.15am and before Evensong at 4.45pm.
Joining the Choir
joining the choir is open to all. Children need to have reached the age of 7 before joining as probationers. A period of training is undertaken, during which music theory and vocal production are studied, before they join the choir full-time after a few months. Adults need to be able to read music, although “rusty” readers will soon improve. The Director of Music is always happy to receive enquiries and to arrange auditions.
Enquiries about the choir and music in general at St Mary’s should be addressed to the Director of Music, Colin Baldy at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01621 856526
The old organ, situated in the chancel in St Mary’s, was condemned by the diocesan organ advisor in 1984.
After an exhaustive process of research and tendering, St Mary’s PCC appointed the fine organ building company of Hey Orgelbau of Bavaria to design and build a new instrument for the church. The picture shows a photoshop mock-up of what the organ might have looked like in St Mary’s. Sadly, due to matters beyond our control, we have had to abandon the project. However, we are delighted that Hey Orgelbau are still collaborating with us and will be installing a second hand instrument from Germany in the next little while. More details will be published about this instrument shortly.
Colin Baldy: Director of Music
Colin’s career encompasses performing, teaching, writing and directing. As a singer, he is known principally as a character baritone, having worked for many years with companies such as Garsington Opera, Opera Restor’d, The New Savoyards, Opera Interludes, Country Opera etc. Such roles have included Sempronio (Lo Speziale), Don Alfonso (Cosi fan Tutte), Geronimo (Il Matrimonio Segreto), Bartolo (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Sorceress (Dido and Aeneas) to name but a few. In addition, Colin Baldy has performed much contemporary music with groups such as the London Sinfonietta, Phoenix and New Chamber Opera. One of Colin’s signature roles is the soloist in Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King, a role he has previously performed with various groups in the UK and Europe. On the concert platform, he has appeared with the Britten Sinfonia, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The Southern Camerata (under David Hill), L’Orchestra National de Picardie and L’Orchestra National de Lille, to mention just a few.
Colin has sung frequently on BBC Radios Two and Three, and has made several CDs; most recently appearing as Bass soloist in Bach’s St John Passion (Naxos). In recent years, he has also enjoyed considerable success as a cabaret artist, performing the songs of Noël Coward and contemporaries.
As a teacher, Colin has had a long association with the University of Oxford, having been, for many years, the singing teacher at New College. Now, however, he splits his teaching between London and Umbria. He receives frequent invitations to teach around the world, and is a visiting professor at Utah State University (USA), and on the Cisternino choral course, Italy. He is also director of the Scheggino Advanced Course for Singers in Umbria.
As a Musical Director, Colin was in charge of the music at St John the Divine, Kennington between 1981 and 1991. He then went on to found the choir at Wantage Parish Church, where he was Director of Music from 1991 until 1998. Colin was Musical Director of the National Pilgrimage to Walsingham for some six years, has been an occasional Musical Director on BBC Radio 2’s Sunday Half Hour, directs the annual Oratorio Course at All Saints Anglican Church, Rome, founded the St Peter’s Singers, Vauxhall, in 2003 and the Academy of St Peter’s in 2005.
In 2001, Colin co-founded the Howden Festival in the East Riding of Yorkshire and founded the Maldon Festival in 2008. He is currently Artistic Director of the opera programme at the City Lit in London.
In 2002, Colin published a book on vocal technique for the RSCM (Voice for Life, 5) and has also been published by The Guardian, Church Music Quarterly and The Independent. His latest book, The Student Voice, aimed at anyone who is serious about working on their voice, was published by Dunedin Academic Press in March 2010.