St Edward's Choir: a brief history

The Choir has led Sunday worship since St Edward's opened in 1915, together with special services at Christmas (since 1946) and Easter (since 1962). In the early 1970s a group of choristers expressed interest in developing the music of the church, and worked to produce an annual series of Christmas Concerts. The first concert, on 15th December 1972, was an elaborate affair, including a fibre-glass "star", hung across the chancel, with a torch bulb attached to make it glow at the appropriate point in the story! At Passiontide 1974 the Choir performed their first Cantata, Stainer's Crucifixion, followed in 1975 by a performance of the cantata "Darkness and Dawn" by F.W.Peace, and it was intended that such music should be performed as part of the Passiontide devotions each year. For the following two years, however, this was not to be, due to the death in 1976 of Robert W. Riddett, who had been our organist since 1941. Music for the services was maintained, with accompaniment and much encouragement from Mr Riddett's brother, Francis Riddett, until Norman Doe joined us in 1977 and enabled us to broaden further the musical interests of St Edward's.

Passiontide in 1978 and 1979 saw repeats of the cantatas of 1974-5, but works were performed on other occasions - Vivaldi's Gloria at All Saintstide (subsequently repeated at St Samson's Church, Grangetown, by invitation of the vicar, Fr Frank Begley), and a special choral setting of the Eucharist for Corpus Christi.

In 1980, a new Service of Music and Readings was introduced for Harvest Thanksgiving - an innovation that has become a regular part of our worship.

By 1981, the choir was ready to embark on a series of oratorios, starting (of course) with Handel's Messiah. Our first ventures in this field were just excerpts from the major works, but by 1984 we were performing substantial amounts of the major oratorios, such as Haydn's Creation.

1984 also saw the first Advent Carol Service, which was immediately incorporated into our programme as an annual event.

When special talents were available, we were quick to exploit them. For example, in 1985 one of our choristers, Stephen Hamnett, was training as a Bass Soloist, and we produced Mendelssohn's Elijah with his contribution in the title role.

1988 saw the first of many performances of "musicals", concentrating on the talents of the young people in the church: "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" was a great success, and the idea of performing musicals annually was soon to supersede the annual Christmas concert. Many of the best known musicals were performed, such as "Jesus Christ, Superstar" and "Godspell". Another favourite was "The Witness" by Jimmy & Carol Owens. Members of St Edward's also turned their hands to writing musicals themselves (e.g. a musical version of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol").

Photos of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" 2006

Also in 1988, one of our many performances of Vivaldi's Gloria was accompanied by violin, cello, flute and clarinet (thus employing the talents of four young musicians who were available to us at the time).

In September 1990 an orchestra formed from an evening class by parishioners Fred and Rita Waite at the Howardian Centre started rehearsing at St Edward's, and very soon they made the church their home, and indeed recruited new members, forming the "St Edward's Orchestra". This added a new dimension to the music-making of the church, and Choir and Orchestra have given regular performances, sometimes together and sometimes separately, since that time. In particular, the Orchestra has joined the choir in leading the Christmas Carol Service each year.

The regular musical events at the church were widely advertised, and local professional and amateur musicians expressed interest in performing there - many commenting on the exceptionally good acoustics of the building. Under the guidance of Fr Ken Martin, the Church Committee decided to follow a policy of encouraging local musicians to perform in the church, as a means of outreach to the local community. The policy has been outstandingly successful.

Since 1991, there has been a devotional service on Good Friday evening, during which the Choir, usually joined by the orchestra, performs a suitable choral work such as a Requiem. The church is almost always full on these occasions, and sometimes newcomers have joined us at the Eucharist on Easter Day.

Also in 1991, a Music and Arts Festival was arranged to celebrate the Feast Day of our Patron Saint, Edward the Confessor (13th October). Each year since then, in addition to the regular Patronal Eucharist, about six to ten events have been arranged, giving an opportunity to anyone who would like to take part - and allowing everybody to find something that appeals to them. In the early days, most of the events were musical, reflecting the interests of the majority of our more active members, but there were also Baroque Dance displays by Philippa Waite, talks by local historian Dennis Morgan, and Art and Photography displays.

In 1992, local musicians Jayne Thomas and Carolyne Peters were invited to bring their pupils to the church to give a concert for parents and friends. This also proved to be very successful, and now many musicians regularly bring their pupils to St Edward's to perform.

In 1994, professional mezzo-soprano Sara Clethero, Head of Voice at the London College of Music, based Opera Company “Youthful Promise” (later Opera Mint Wales) at the church.

For the first time in 1998, the choir and orchestra combined to lead the music of a Eucharist Service, performing the Mass in C by Beethoven. Choir and orchestra occupied the chancel, the congregation occupied the nave, and Fr Ken Martin celebrated in the midst of the people at the chancel steps. This was a very moving experience, and has been repeated on several occasions, with performances of various masses.

On 3rd September 2006 the 6.30pm Sung Evensong was replaced by a 7pm Choral Evensong, with introit, anthem and settings of the canticles; this form of Evensong has been sung weekly at 7pm since that time.

More groups of musicians soon joined the growing community, and in 2009 the Parochial Church Council established St Edward’s Music and Arts Centre to promote and coordinate their activities.

Also in 2009 an annual community arts festival Made in Roath was established, which usually happens to coincide with St Edward’s Music and Arts Festival. Each year St Edward’s Church hosts several of the Made in Roath events (and often some of the Festival concerts are included in the Made in Roath programme). This has helped us to make our Festival more "Music and Arts" without the previous bias towards music.

Since the establishment of St Edward's Music and Arts Centre, there has been a further dramatic increase in the number of people rehearsing at the church, and the number of concerts performed. In the early days, the Choir organised and performed most of the musical events; it still contributes to some of the concerts, but the majority of its efforts now go towards maintaining Choral Evensong, which involves a substantially larger amount of music than the previous concerts.