With their live choirs silenced by the covid crisis, All Saints Kenley and St Barnabas Purley have had to look elsewhere for Christmas inspiration.
They didn’t have to look far, because organist and choir-leader Giles Holland was able to use his Abbey Road studios experience to mix the individually recorded voices of the choir members for the twin church’s live and online Christmas services.
“We had been thinking of ways that we could continue singing together at a time when we were not able to meet,” Holland said. “Both choirs were massively enthusiastic to contribute, so it’s been a big undertaking, but so rewarding, especially with live singing and rehearsing ruled out because of the covid restrictions.”
Holland worked at Abbey Road in the pre-digital 1990s, producing recordings for EMI. In 2020, he has created the All Saints-St Barnabas carol music in his front room in Haydn Avenue, Purley.
“I started by recording myself playing the organ and singing some of the parts to produce backing tracks. Choir members and members of the clergy recorded themselves at home, singing to the backing tracks, and then emailed me their contributions,” he said.
“Justine Middlemiss, our priest in charge, sent hers down from Scotland where she’d been caring for her mother. So you could say this was an international effort.”
The power of modern technology and recording techniques mean that All Saints and St Barnabas have assembled at least 20 voices singing a dozen of their favourite carols in full harmony.
Several singers even sang more than one part, so the end result sets several new records. Multi-instrumentalist Holland also played trumpet, trombone, bass and electric guitar on some of the carols.
One of the carols has a special significance for Holland as it is a based on a calypso song, written and originally recorded by his Jamaican father-in-law, Neville Willoughby.
Together with new words by Jock Miller from the St Barnabas choir, “Rejoice in the Lord is a glorious cross-cultural celebration of Jesus’ birth that will leave you in no doubt that Christmas is very much on this year in Kenley and Purley, despite covid and everything else that’s been thrown at us this year!” Holland said.
The churches’ combined Christmas services will be held on December 20 (Carols), live in church as well as on Zoom and YouTube, and on Christmas Eve, also on Zoom.
Places at church are limited and must be booked online, but anyone will be able to follow the services on YouTube.
Two of the borough’s churches are operating under the ‘new normal’ conditions, as our Religions Correspondent, PHIL PUGH, reports
All Saints Church in Kenley and St Barnabas in Purley have decided not to use the traditional “Happy Christmas” message this year, in favour of something more appropriate in this time of covid-19.
This year’s Christmas message on the parishes’ seasonal cards is simply a wish for “Comfort and Joy”, coupled with an offer of prayers – requests can be made using a new online feature.
All Saints, in Church Road, Kenley, and St Barnabas, on Higher Drive, Purley, have been linked for many years and share a priest-in-charge, Justine Middlemiss.
“A traditional Santa and snow message just didn’t seem right this year, so we’ve gone for something that offers a message of hope and love – something we all need right now,” said Rev Middlemiss.
“Our message is the simple wish for comfort and joy, to quote from a well-known carol – goodness, if there was ever a time that was needed, this is it.”
So, there is no snow, no holly, no Santa or stockings on All Saints and St Barnabas’ card – just that “Comfort and Joy” message and a 21st Century QR code providing links to the Christmas services and the new on-line prayer request web form.
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