Our Choir – 1941
The Choir of St Bartholomew’s Church was founded in 1868, 73 years ago and became famous for the rendering of the services during the late Mr Vipond Barry’s 54 years of office as Organist and Choirmaster. Mr Barry came directly under the influence of Dr. Hoyte, then organist of All Saints’, Margaret Street and came to St Bartholomew’s at the invitation of a former Vicar, Dr. Travers Smith.
Such a tradition as Mr. Barry has made for us is a great but joyous responsibility. We must realise the importance of our responsibility by maintaining our musical standard and the education of the Boys who give so much of their time and energy to us.
We are fortunate in our kind friends who, at this time, are giving of their best to relieve our anxiety about the future. We are sincerely grateful and look forward with confidence in them that we may maintain our choir to the Glory of God.
Edward S. Fry – Organist & Choirmaster, 1938 – 19XX
Glimpses of a Choir – 1941
What is it like to be in the choir? Grand, but it is not as it looks, for there is a lot of backstage work to be done. A choirboy is a proverbial piece of mischief. In one way he looks so good on Easter morning in his freshly laundered surplice and scarlet cassock and lungs all in order for the great burst of Alleluia, but you will find that he is as clever as any other boy when it comes to trick-cycling or getting the ball first. He is just a flesh and blood boy, of course, but with a difference: for by his own efforts and the leadership of his choirmaster he has become a specialist in an important branch of music. Furthermore, in the surroundings of the visible Church and the atmosphere of liturgical worship, he is a boy with an excellent chance of serving God and man in the fullest way possible. Today, not only organists and bishops are thankful for their days of fiery trial in the practice room, but also broadcast announcers, actors, teachers and a host of business men bring to their vocations qualities promoted and developed in their early days of choir singing in the parish church.
The choirboy won’t be able to tell you how it happens. Later on, it will be just as difficult for him to put into words what the actual Church building, the path, the green lawn, the stillness inside the Church, the very smell of everything, mean to him; for he becomes part of the Church. It is making him, and he in a very modest way is helping to make it. Perhaps he can point to one moment or two, through the long period of six or seven years, when a new window opened on his life and he got a glimpse of a far off view. It might have been the first time he heard a Bach chorale, or was stirred by the solemn depth of the passion music in Holy Week; or again, it might have been the fun, or the melody of a Christmas carol. But once he has seen the view through that window, no one will take it away from him.
Those flashes, those feasts of good things only seem to come at very rare intervals. The chief thing to be endured is the toil and the grind. Choir practice follows choir practice. The disciplining is strict, for the choirmaster has a golden rule that a service must be thoroughly known and written on the tablets of the heart before it can be offered to God in Church. Words must be pronounced truly and intelligently, the right expression given and the whole effort brought to such a pitch of perfection that the people are not merely led, but carried away to the worship of God.
That sense of wonder, that piece of heaven has been granted to many an unknown worshipper, who may have wandered into the church as a casual sightseer, but has stayed to kneel in silent adoration. But such an act of worship, rendered by the choir, is only the climax, the culmination of much practising, striving, going over and over and over the piece again. Herein lies a special piece of character training. For the crude, awkward, unsociable, boy finds that he has to work together with the others as a team. If he leaps ahead and tries to work on his own, or if he lags behind and relies on his next door neighbour for the right note, he is spoiling the unity, rhythm and co-operation that belongs so peculiarly to good choir work. In this team work, not only are selfishness and laziness driven out, but the joys of working together, in harmony, with one heart and voice, are discovered. This harmony is strangely infectious, for if the choir brings the congregation with it to the courts of heaven, when singing the psalms or hymns, a great combined opening, a social act, one of the important characteristics of our Communion Service, is enacted there and then, in the name of the whole Church. Despite of themselves all the worshippers can know without a doubt that they are together in spirit before the wonder of God’s presence.
But the choirmaster has not much time to strive after or even think about effects such as these. He has dedicated work to do. Over and over again he has to restore balance to the production of his choir. With one eye on the liturgy and another on the music, he has this blending task always before him. Behind the reverent interpretation a simple faith and a regular practice of devotion must be maintained. Where choirboys learn to share fully the worship of the sanctuary, as servers at the alter or well prepared communicants, and enter into the deep, sacramental, almost tranquil silence of adoration at the consecrating word in the Holy Communion, when the organ is dumb, we can be sure that they are expressing in some measure the holiness due to God, for His honour alone, when their voices break forth into song at the Gloria in Excelsis.
The Rev. George Otto Simms, B.D. – Curate, 19XX – 19XX
The Vestry Ghost (by himself)
You will never guess who I am unless I tell you; so, I’ll begin by introducing myself – I am the Vestry Ghost. You did not know of my existence? Well you see, I’m painfully shy and take good care never to be seen or heard, which, however, doe not prevent my overhearing many an interesting conversation and witnessing not a few exciting occurences.
Being now over twenty years old I felt it to be high time that I wrote an autobiography. Indeed, I began; but just when I was getting well into my stride, at the peak of my literary career, there commenced a positive epidemic of disappearances of the Vestry pen. In time – perhaps the appeal of the traditional game of darts is on the wane – it reappeared and remained complete for at least three weeks on end. Then came the time when the ink pot used to boost an anaemic liquid that wouldn’t even have made a blot on the preacher’s book (however much some clergy I know might have tried). After a few more setbacks I gave up in desperation and instead of an autobiography I was reduced to writing down a few memoirs which I here offer you.
I know all the people in the Parish worth knowing. I know the Vicar well enough to be called “my dear”; and Mr Ryder well enough to be told a fishing story. I like Mr Ryders stories. They are not like some of the ghost stories people tell that give me sleepless nights. I always enjoy Sunday evenings after Evensong, when three or four people sit round the table to count money (for every bit as if they were going to start a rubber of bridge). That’s the time for stories.
I remember a very good one Mr. Ryder told about a poacher. It was on the memorable Sunday evening in May when the money added up right the first time – but you’d better get him to tell it himself.
Though I am usually in the vestry on Sunday evening, I don’t always remain there. I often wander outside. Sometimes I go and have a chat with Mr Coote’s “horse”, while it disconsolately drips oil into the gutter outside the Vestry gate. I’ve never been into the Parochial Hall – I’d be afraid I’d catch my death of cold, though sometimes I listen outside to hear what the Scouts or Guides and others are doing. Believe me, I don’t always have to put my ear to the keyhole!
I like the choir boys very much, though there too, if I were indiscreet, I could tell a tale or two. I know the solution to lots of Parish mysteries. I know who put the pulpit clock forward so that the sermon ended five minutes earlier, and I could tell you where some of the Vicarage apples went to, and many another interesting thing. So, isn’t it a blessing that I am discreet?
There’s one thing I can’t tell you and that is – who, in the event of an emergency is going to operate the stirrup-pump which the Vestry now possess. Some say Mr. Perrin – if so, I think I’ll evacuate. Some say the choir boys, in which case there would certainly be plenty of water flying about. Some say the Vicar – but there I’d better leave the subject.
In fact I had better stop all together, because I am nearly at the end of this sheet and I wouldn’t dare tear another page out of the Vicar’s sermon book. So, goodbye for the present and don’t think too badly of me.
The Pembroke Township (Historical Association)
The Pembroke Township has justly been termed “Dublin’s Premier Township”. It is worthy of the title as, situated on the South side of Dublin, embracing from Leeson Street bridge to Sandymount Strand and on to Booterstown, it enjoys an enviable position.
In early days, the famous ancestor of the Pembroke family, Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, received a part of the lands of Pembroke from the King of England for military services rendered to the crown, and so this laid the foundation of the Pembroke fortune around Dublin.
The Earl of Pembroke is now represented by Mr. Henry A. Vernon, the agent, and Mr Crawford Smith, the architect, who have well maintained the high traditions of the estate. Where would you find such wide and well planned roads as Waterloo, Wellington, Raglan, Clyde, Elgin, Landsdowne, Morehampton and Northumberland Roads, to mention some of them?
Wellington Road, in particular, with its grass and tree bordered footpaths, and its long front gardens, is greatly admired and appreciated. The modern shops in Upper Baggot Street are another tribute to the far seeing qualities of the Estate Management, who encouraged this rebuilding at moderate ground rents.
The churches, such as St Bartholomew’s, Clyde Road, beautifully placed and with its lovely peal of bells; Christ Church Leeson Park, St Mary’s Haddington Road, St Mary’s Donnybrook and St John’s Sandymount, are all worthy of their delightful surroundings.
The historical associations of the Township are probably unique of their kind. Starting with Waterloo Road, we are at once reminded of that famous battle which ended Napoleon’s career and formed on of the most decisive battles in history. The name testifies then that it was some time after the battle in 1815 that the road was planned and the houses built.
To commemorate the victor of the Battle of Waterloo, Wellington Road was christened. This, in particular, is noteworthy, as in addition to being a famous soldier, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, was a great Irishman, who was born in Upper Merrion Street in Number 24, I believe. Then we proceed further to more great wars. The Crimean war saw Lord Raglan as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, and so to keep his memory green Raglan Road was named after him.
Two years later the Indian Mutiny took place and Lord Clyde distinguished himself by oppressing it, and Clyde Road commemorates his splendid prowess and achievements. Lord Elgin, a famous Victorian statesman, is associated with that fine road – Elgin Road. Landsdowne Road is of a later date, and reminds us that the Landsdowne family have given many distinguished Irishmen to the British Empire.
Herbert Park, that delightful beauty spot with its attractive lake, was the site of the famous Dublin Exhibition in 1907, which was opened by King Edward and his Consort. The exhibition was a great success, bringing thousands upon thousands of visitors to Dublin.
I trust that I have, in these few lines, shown that the Pembroke township is worthy of its proud name and that, whether from a health aspect, derived from the mountain and sea airs which it enjoys, or from the splendid planning of its roads and the many fine residences it possesses, the township is deserving of the high position it enjoys. I have not touched upon the more modern roads such as Shrewsbury and Aylesbury, and more modern Sydney Parade district, which also keep up the high traditions.
In conclusion, I would mention the name – Royal Dublin Society, unsurpassed the world over for its Horse Shows and Spring Shows, as I feel that no article on Dublin’s Premier Township could possibly be complete if it were omitted.
More on the Pembroke Township is available here.
The Church Organ in Broadcasting
Dr T.J. Kiernan (Director of Broadcasting, Radio Eireann)
Proportionately more frequently than in other countries, organ recitals find a place in the Irish broadcasting programmes. This is not to say that they are very frequent. There is indeed a doubt about the usefulness of the organ in the broadcasting domain. It is undeniable that an organ recital, per se, is monotonous music. In broadcasts, a little of it goes a long way. A half hour organ recital can have only a specialised and limited audience. The relative prominence given to organ recitals in Ireland is due, to some extent, to an appreciation of the special position of the organist in the musical life of our country. Especially in rural and small town areas the organist is the musical pivot of his district.
With recent years choral music has developed in Ireland more than any other kind of music. The association of organist and choir is here clear enough. Where there is a good organist there is usually a good choir; and it is in choirs that the future singers of the country get an essential part of their training which can nowhere else be obtained – a training in team work, in obedience and in alertness.
Composers have not been kind to the organ, and few of the great masters have troubled to write music for it – Bach, of course, and Mendelssohn, with his six ever popular sonatas. The organ is heard at its best in the great fugues of J.S. Bach. Of Irish composers, Stanford, a fine organist himself, gave us several attractive sonatas and books of choral preludes. One might have expected Hamilton Harty, who began his career as an organist, to compose for the organ; but he did not do so. I think the explanation is that composers will not devote to the organ ideas which can be better expressed through the full orchestra. The organ is an imitation orchestra with its flutes, clarinets, oboes, bassoons; but it is not easy to find an organ oboe, for instance, even faintly resembling the real thing.
To broadcast an organ recital successfully is a most difficult job for the engineers. Every church has its own special mysteries of acoustics, and is full of surprises. An organ which is not perhaps a first-class instrument may sound astonishingly well in wireless transmission, whereas a good organ can sometimes fail lamentably. Soft passages are apt to die away in the organ chamber; while full organ ff knocks over the needle in the control panel with a sickening jerk – the nightmare of the control engineer!
Since music appeals to the emotions, and music which is broadcast is not usually listened to in any settled surroundings of dignity or quiet, it is easy to understand the comparative failure of radiated organ music; and also, by contrast, the appalling success of the cinema organ, with its sickly tremulant and its unlimited capacity for vulgarity-linked liquorice long drawn out. For the one, intelligent appreciation is needed; for the other, mental vacuity.
By George McClinchie
It was in the beginning of the ‘ninetees that I became one of the “children of the choir”. On the day of my audition, my test for reading was taken by Mr. Wolseley, who afterwards became one of my life long friends. My earliest impressions are of the dedication service of the new Church Home, and the new Chancel Screen; and once at Evensong a strange clergyman coming into the Vestry to see Canon Smith, who, it was whispered, was a Mr. Fry (grand-uncle of our organist), who had read the burial office over Parnell in Glasnevin Cemetery.
How vividly I remember my first Fancy Dress Ball held in the Parochial Hall and a wonderful Egyptian costume lent me by Mr. (later Sir Arthur) Vicars, who was then living in the Vicarage with Mr. Wolseley; and the annual pantomime in which we boys acted as chorus, etc. This was always a tremendous success, played to crowded houses. On my first Christmas a carol party was organised by Mr. Sidney Fry, who had some years previously been a boy chorister; the frosty and snowy weather did not improve our voices, so that on Christmas morning some of us were quite hoarse. Mr Barry was greatly annoyed, and instructed that no boy under any condition was to sing in public or otherwise without permission. How I recollect on one Sunday morning some boy introducing some peppermint lozenges in the Choir and the lecturing of the Canon for the misdemeanour afterwards.
Some time later the Canon went to Italy for a holiday and brought back a large box of Italian Crystalised Fruits for his boys; which reminds me that during this period the new Mosiac flooring was laid in the Church by a group of Italian workmen brought over specially for the task.
What a beloved personality was the Canon! His goodness and generosity were enjoyed by the least of us. Any of the boys who lived long distances and had to attend Children’s Service were invited to lunch at the Vicarage on alternative Sundays. How I remember one Sunday, just as we had started dessert, the butler announced Dr Mahaffy, who was given a place at the table, and a certain boy who was manipulating an orange, in cutting it, sent a spray of juice across the table right into the eye of Dr Mahaffy – “Doing him in the eye”. The Canon had a wonderful fox terrier called “Spot” who did all sorts of tricks, and was given a place at the table. When dessert was served, “Spot” got his portion of custard and ate it like a gentleman, much to the delight of us boys. I was given the run of the library to borrow any books I liked. Little did I dream that one day I should be asked to prepare a catalogue of the library, some 7,000 volumes.
One Christmas we had an anthem of Gounod’s “Oh! Sing to God your hymns of gladness”, which had a note of high B flat in it, and which I was given to sing. I received a book in commemoration of the event with the scale giving the note written on the front page. We boys were always amused by an elderly lady who occasionally attended Evensong. She wore a crinoline and barrell curls, and came prancing up the aisle during the first Lesson.
George White, son of the late Bishop, was a contemporary of mine; always shy and retiring and not joining in any of our pranks. We boys had the privilege of many good friends such as Mr. Wolseley, Mr. Tabuteau and Sir Arthur Vicars, giving us all sorts of entertainments and treats, theatre, concerts etc. But one’s memory always goes back to a loveable figure whose memory will never be forgotten – Canon Travers Smith, our Vicar.