Making A Joyful Noise

Since religion’s earliest days, music has been an integral part of communal worship. It creates and sustains emotional responsiveness and rational contemplation. If we limit our horizons to the Western world, we can more easily trace the development of church music through the centuries and enjoy the privilege of sharing the experience of congregations unknown to us. More than that, we can reclaim much of their music and use it to enhance the quality of our worship today.

Following the installation of the modern organ in the Old Church, this “homage to heritage” found expression locally, not only in organ music, but in the formation of the Penallt Church Singers by our organist David Murray (Director, B.B.C. National Orchestra of Wales). Under his patient tuition and that of his wife Tessa, a dozen or so singers explored the delights and difficulties of performing church music ranging from Gregorian plainsong to modern responses in the service of the Eucharist. Formed in Autumn 2003, the group sang in the Old Church and Ty Mawr Convent, notably for Christmas Services and the service of Compline. Much of the singers’ music was unaccompanied but some featured accompaniment by Tessa Murray who draws beautiful sound from a variety of stringed instruments.

Most of the singers had other claims on their time but the hope was that more frequent appearances would become possible, for their work was well worth hearing, bringing together music long forgotten, long-remembered favourites and the new sounds of today. But as some members moved out of the district it became impossible to continue and so an all too short chapter in Penallt’s cultural life came to an end.

It is encouraging to record, however, that all is by no means lost for currently (2009) there flourish the Narth Singers – a sizeable mixed choir performing a wide range of music locally for charity, the Gwent Women’s Institute choir based in Usk and a small group also based in Usk specialising in music for church services under the unusual name of the Flying Shepherds.

[from: Penallt Revisited]