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Home Parish History A history of Our Lady of Lourdes choir (1945-1997)
A history of Our Lady of Lourdes choir (1945-1997)
Written by Ursula Walker   
Wednesday, 12 September 2007 20:15

The choir's founder was Father Denis Crowley who, on his arrival in New Southgate in July 1944 as Father Sunn's newly ordained first curate, got a choir together in time to sing at Midnight Mass at Christmas 1944, when the church had to be blacked out as the war was not over. Thus 1945 was the first year of the choir's existence. In those early days, the Sung Mass was 10.30am and four-part Latin Masses and motets were sung, with plainchant during Lent and Advent.

Father Sunn died in 1953 and, in 1956, when his successor, Father George Eldridge, celebrated his Silver Jubilee, Father Crowley organised a concert in his honour at the Intimate Theatre, Palmers Green, and recruited a choir of male volunteers from the Knights of St Columba to sing the hymn to St Edmund as part of the programme. One of these volunteers, Peter Wurr, remained to become a mainstay of the church choir, acting as assistant conductor and taking over as choir master in 1964 when Father Crowley went to Hackney as parish priest and Father Eldridge was replaced by Father Haughey. Contact with Father Crowley was not lost over the years and, in 1969, we went to Hackney to sing at his Silver Jubilee Mass and again in 1980 at his Requiem.

During the fifteen years or so from 1955 most members of Our Lady of Lourdes choir also belonged to the Westminster Diocesan choir, where we learnt much from Father Wilfred Purney and sang the Whit Sunday Mass in the cathedral every year. We also went to Paris in 1957 and Cologne in 1961 for the Congresses of Sacred Music.

In 1958 we went to Brussels for the International Exhibition and sang in the Vatican Pavilion on the Feast of St John Fisher and St Thomas More for the English Day, and visited the English Convent in Bruges, making the nuns cry when we sang to them Farrant's 'O Sacrum Convivium' from memory and the National Anthem. It was at this period that Our Lady of Lourdes choir boasted six tenors and, on one memorable occasion, actually sang the Byrd 'Five Part Mass' (learnt originally with the Diocesan choir for the Paris Congress) at an evening Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation, Father Crowley conducting.

A misinterpretation of the Decrees of the Second Vatican Council resulted in many parishes disbanding their choirs but we continued and have gradually evolved a repertoire of both English and Latin music. There has also been the growth of ecumenism and increasing friendship with neighbouring churches, with the result that, for many years now, we have gone to St Paul's, New Southgate, to join their choir for Nine Lessons and Carols on the Sunday before Christmas, while, in the mid 1980s, Our Lady of Lourdes choir was one of two Catholic choirs taking part in the Royal School of Church Music's Choir Festival which usually took place in a different Anglican cathedral each year but which in that particular year was held in Westminster Cathedral. We greatly enjoyed the experience and valued the opportunity to work with Dr Lionel Dakers, the Royal School's then principal.

The last fifty years of the choir hold many memories for us, not all of which it has been possible to record here, but we remember with some pride two concert performances of major works which Peter Wurr conducted with Val Hunt at the organ, namely Faure's 'Requiem' during Holy Week in 1979 and friends and an impressed Canon Crowley in the audience and, in 1981, a joint presentation, with the choirs of Cockfosters and Ware, of Schubert's 'Mass in E Flat' in all three churches, Our Lady of Lourdes choir providing two of the soloists ' Peggy Harrison, alto, and Bill Dunne, tenor.

There have been several organists during the fifty years, notable among them being Maurice Rogers in the 1950s and Val Hunt who played from 1970 until his retirement to Bath in 1986. Val was a fine musician and composed the 'Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes' for us, which we still sing. After his departure we were indeed fortunate that Kathy Wurr was able to take over so well.

Uncle Bert Morley, our original and by then only bass, died early in 1972. The choir was able to continue singing in four parts with Peter taking the bass line as well as conducting but, after the retirement of our last tenor, Bill Dunne, because of ill health during the 1980s, we have had to become a two/three part ladies' choir. The majority of the existing members have over thirty years' service and some well over forty years. New members are needed to ensure the future of the choir and, if only a few men would take the plunge, much of our previous four-part music could be revived. Our commitment is to sing at the 9.45am Mass on Sundays and to practise between 8pm and 9.30pm on Fridays. In recent years the music at Christmas and Easter and special events like the Consecration of the Church in 1990 and Requiem for Father Haughey in 1991 have been combined efforts by the choir and the folk group.

With the arrival of Father Paul McGinn in 1990 when Father Haughey retired, the choir has served under all four of our parish priests and we hope that, with some new members and Father Paul's approval, the choir of Our Lady of Lourdes will enjoy many more years in which to sing to the greater glory of God in New Southgate.

Last Updated on Monday, 22 December 2008 19:45