General News



There was plenty of singing at the October events of our Festival of Sacred Music!

Two participative workshops started us off. The first, on Wednesday, 1 October, was on the Scottish IMG_0054.JPGPsalms. It was led by Walter Thomson and Catriona Graham, together with the Church Choir, Choral Group and members of the Edinburgh Choir Jubilo, and explored the history of the metrical tradition that developed in Scotland after the 16th century Reformation. More than 70 of us grouped ourselves in the nave, the more confident singers amongst us being directed to pews for sopranos or altos, tenors or basses, while those of us who just liked to sing along sat happily behind. Catriona, in a series of short addresses, enhanced our knowledge of how and why the metrical psalm tradition evolved. She explained how Protestantism is a religion of the Book: the Bible, so bringing Biblical knowledge to the people was the priority, and one way of ensuring this in a largely illiterate population was to use singing. A cantor would sing unaccompanied each line of a psalm followed by the congregation, so the texts became embedded in the memory. Walter, through the variety of psalms chosen for us to sing, showed how this tradition developed. Who will forget his enthusiastic leadership as, walking up and down the central aisle and standing on the chancel steps, he encouraged us to sing. The end result was a delightful and very informative evening very much enjoyed by all, and discussed at length afterwards when tea, coffee and shortbread were served in the south transept.

The second workshop, on Monday, 6 October, was again led by Walter Thomson, the Church Choir, Choral Group and members of the Edinburgh Choir Jubilo, and was a chance to learn about and sing Afro-AmericanIMG_0090.JPG Spirituals, as originally sung by slaves and later much loved by choral arrangers. These songs again arose from Biblical words and stories, but in complete contrast to the metrical psalm tradition, they originally accompanied hard repetitive physical labour and the lack of hope of anything better in this world. Later, as Walter explained, they became part of the jazz and popular music scene, with many different arrangements being made for a wide variety of artists. Again the workshop was very well attended and the singing very much enjoyed as we tackled, with the help of Walter’s inspirational conducting, such songs as – ‘It’s me, it’s me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer’, ‘Swing Low, sweet Chariot’, ‘Steal Away’, and ‘Old Man River’, all unaccompanied of course and in parts! The tea, coffee and shortbread, again on offer afterwards, were most welcome after so much exertion!

Then on Sunday, 26 October, there was an Evening of Meditative Worship in which the beauty and insight Evening_Service_FoSM_October.jpgof the Scottish Psalms and Spirituals that formed the focus of our two workshops was blended together in a very beautiful service of worship led by our minister, Scott McKenna. There were periods of meditative silence, thoughtful heartfelt prayers, Bible readings, an introit, ‘Deep River’, and an anthem, ‘I got a robe’, sung by the Choir, Choral Group and Jubilo, a solo rendering of ‘By the waters of Babylon’ by Walter Thomson, hymns and psalms, all accompanied by John Willmett on the organ and piano. On what was surely the stormiest evening of the autumn, it was wonderful that around 100 people made their way through howling gale and driving rain to reach the Sanctuary of the church! Thankfully it was not the storm that then raised the roof, but the joyful singing!

Another very successful event took place on Tuesday, 7 October, when George Ross and Susan Wooding led a session of ‘Come Along and Sing Along’! This took place in the upper hall and was particularlyIMG_0125.JPG appreciated by those who find it difficult to attend evening events. There was level access, assistance available, a specially prepared hymn booklet in large print and we remained seated throughout. The stage was thus set for an extremely enjoyable afternoon at which a wide range of well remembered hymns was sung, starting with that old Sunday School favourite: ‘Jesus wants me for a sunbeam’ and finishing with ‘Abide with me’. This was followed by a delicious afternoon tea and a time of fellowship, with memories shared, sparked by the singing of so many old favourites.

And the wonderful events did not stop at the end of October! On Sunday, November 2, there was a special service of worship entitled 'A Scots Theme to Morning Worship' at which the traditional style of unaccompanied psalm singing led by a precentor was used throughout the service and there was use also of the Scots language, most notably in a reading by Christine De Luca of Hebrews 12: 18-24 from the 'Lorimer' Bible. These links with our forefathers were extremely evocative and wonderfully moving. Tapes of our morning services are always available and are much appreciated by our housebound members, but, not surprisingly, there was an increase in requests for this particular service, as several worshippers wished to share the experience with friends and family who could not be with us.

Finally, a mention must be made of how, throughout the Festival, our Choir and Choral Group have been singing specially chosen Introits and Anthems at the 10.45 morning worship with background information and comments about these being included in the Service Sheets, which, week by week, have greatly enhanced these services.

Details of further events in our Festival of Sacred Music, such as the Advent Choral Communion on Sunday December 14, can be found in the Festival booklet.  Download the programme here



Contact Information

Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church,
18 West Mayfield,

0131 667 1522 / 0780 801 1234

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Scottish Charity Number: SC000785


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