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St Leonard’s Church, Hythe, Kent

Boys and Men Choir

St Leonard's Church, Hythe is one of the few in Kent that still maintains a traditional choir of boys and men, singing at the weekly evensong some of the great religious music written over the centuries. In addition, the boys and men contribute a special flavour to Advent, Epiphany and Easter with the carol services for these three seasons. There are also occasional concerts, weddings and visits to other churches and cathedrals.

Choirboys have sung in St Leonard's since at least 1442 though the modern foundation, with cassocks and surplices and singing in the Chancel choir stalls, dates from the second half of the nineteenth century.

The choir is always on the lookout for boys of the right ages (between 7 and 12 years) who could enjoy membership. Some of the benefits are:

Training in voice production, musicianship (sight-reading skills, etc) and theory that can reinforce instrumental lessons and provide a basis for life-long interests. A graded system of ribbons is used to indicate the level each boy has achieved, based on the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) recommendations.

Personal development, including team-participation, becoming organised as an individual, recognition of and striving for goals.

Familiarity with some of the greatest music composed over the last millennium by major figures from this country and abroad.

Achieving standards of excellence in performance that are exceptional outside the cathedrals, Oxbridge colleges and major public schools.

The positive spins-offs that have been shown to be evident in non-musical studies from being an organised and skilful young musician.

The trebles rehearse from 6.00 to 7.15 on Wednesday evenings and on Sunday evenings at 5.30 before singing evensong at 6.30 (normally finishing at about 7.20). There is no commitment to sing on Sunday mornings.

In recognition of the ‘professional’ nature of a boy treble’s role, a small payment is made for each attendance. More substantial fees are received for singing at weddings (which are optional) and special events.

The normal recruitment pattern is that, after an initial interview with the choirmaster, the boy then comes to a few Wednesday rehearsals to discover whether the choir is for him. Most who get this far decide to join.

The Boys and Men Choir also welcomes adult singers (basses, tenors and counter-tenors) with reasonable sight-reading ability.

Choirs

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Mixed Choir

The Mixed choir (women and men) was formed in the early 1990s to sing at the Sunday Morning 9.30 Holy Communion service ( Eucharist ). It is relatively small (currently 4 sopranos, 3 altos, 3 tenor and 3 basses) but the plan is to increase numbers slightly to enable it to cope more easily when individuals are away from Hythe at a weekend. Because it is a small group, each person makes a definite and important contribution. The choirmaster would be glad to hear from singers with good to moderate sight singing ability who would be interested in auditioning for membership.

The Mixed Choir normally sings each Sunday morning, though the first Sunday of the month has often been free. Occasionally the choir takes part in social services at other times and concerts 9 such as the annual Carol Concert.

This choir specialises in unaccompanied music. This is in part because of necessity ( an assistant organist is not usually present on Sunday mornings ) and in part because there is a wealth of good a cappella Eucharist settings, some old some new, that sound good in the helpful acoustic of St Leonard's chancel.In addition, motets and anthems are sung during the service, when the choir moves to the South Transept. If accompaniment is needed, a grand piano is used.

The purpose of the Mixed Choir’s contribution is clear: to enhance services by performing high quality music to a high standard. We welcome enquiries from anyone who shares this objective and would like to be part of this small, committed and friendly group.


Girls Choir

An exciting development has taken place recently in St Leonard’s Church with the setting up of the Hythe Girls Choir. This means that the opportunities that have been provided for boys to sing and be trained in choral music, dating back some six hundred years, are now available to girls as well. Hythe Girls Choir is entirely separate from the boys’ and mixed choirs at St Leonard’s Church, though on rare occasions (such as the annual Carol Concert) all three choirs can appear together.

Rehearsals are held weekly on Tuesday evenings (6.00 to 7.00). The girls (aged between seven and sixteen) sing at the 9.30 morning service on the first Sunday of each month, though they may also appear at the other churches and undertake outside engagements. One reason why the group is labeled the Hythe Girls Choir (rather than carrying the name of St Leonard’s) is to allow flexibility as the nature of the choir emerges. It performs a range of music, though the emphasis is on good quality.

The girls undergo the same training system as the boys: a programme to develop the singing, sight-reading and organisational skills of each individual, using a scheme devised originally by the RSCM. Ribbons of different colours are used to signal the main levels of achievement – junior singer, senior singer, and full chorister – the last indicating a high standard of proficiency.

Another important aspect is the training to work as a member of a team. Choir singing requires everyone to listen to each other, to be sensitive and to co-operate. Simple things like walking in procession are part of this. All these skills have benefits that spill over to the rest of life.

Rehearsals held at St Leonard’s Church are under the supervision of the Director of Music, Dr Berkeley Hill, with the assistance of a team that includes an appropriate number of ladies. Parents are invited to remain in the church throughout the sessions if they so wish. All team members have been cleared for work with children.


Further information on any of these choir activities can be obtained from the Church Director of Music,

Dr Berkeley Hill, telephone 01303 265312 or e-mail from our directory page.