|Choir and Organ
The Choir practice in Church on Fridays at 7.30pm
For further information on the choir and organ please call in on a Friday evening or join us
on a Sunday morning for a service and ask for Don Knott.
|The picture to the right shows Don Knott
playing the Organ during a Choir rehearsal.
|Between 1977 and 1987 we have had several Organists and Choir Masters; Richard Salt,
Nicholas Hill, Geoff Cassidy, Colin Parsons, Hubert Stafford, John Taylor and one Choir
Mistress Valerie Robinson. The choir grew in number and at one stage there were between
forty and fifty men women boys and girls. Unfortunately over a short period of time the
boys and girls left the choir for various reasons until we were only left with an adult choir.
In 1987 the Rev Dr David James (who is now the Bishop of Bradford) appointed Don Knott as
Organist and Master of the Choir. His wife Madge, a trained music teacher, came with him
as Choir Mistress. Madge was like a breath of fresh air for a choir like ours as most members
did not read music. Over the next twenty years both Madge and Don encouraged us to keep
trying, even when we thought that the parts we were being taught to sing were too difficult.
Due to their commitment, dedication, confidence and their patience they formed a choir of
men and women capable of singing Easter Cantatas (The Crucifixion, The Darkest Hour,
Olivet to Calvary, The Saviour } and most chorus’s from The Messiah. Concerts were given
which included music from many West End shows and also a variety of other secular music.
The Choir also sing at approximately twenty Weddings a year.
The Christmas Eve Service was changed from the traditional Midnight Service to an earlier
time and with the Church full to capacity the Choir, who sing some solo parts and the
congregation, we sing Christmas Carols with lessons, telling the Christmas story. Sadly,
Madge died unexpectedly two weeks before Christmas in 2007. The Choir are determined to
continue with Don, who is still one of the best organists in this area. Lynda Pearce, one of our
members has agreed to conduct the choir on special occasions, we pray that we shall be able
to continue to praise God in our ministry of music in such a way that it would make Madge
proud of us.
We are one of only a few robed choirs in the north of Sheffield and we are always looking for
new members. If you can sing, enjoy music and would be prepared to help lead the Sunday
Morning Service at 9.30 am or you are willing to help us sing on special occasions, then
please telephone Don Knott on 0114 2468430 or Lynda Pearce on 0114 2463935. The choir
practice is on Friday nights at 7.30, I am sure you will enjoy singing with us, we are a
1. Dr Alfred Gatty’s book ‘A Life at One Living’ was first published in September 1884 and it contains a brief
history of Ecclesfield Church and the Priory. Dr Alfred Gatty also published a number of theological works.
|The history of St Mary’s Choir.
The organ was built and installed by, the then internationally known Sheffield firm of
Brindley and Foster in 1901(1). It is located in the North Transept and can speak freely into
the Church. At inception it had 26 speaking stops spread over three 58 note manuals and a
30 note pedal board.
In 1973 the organ was overhauled, enlarged to 33 speaking stops, and fitted with a new
draw-stop console located in the South Transept. An early solid state system provided the
interface between the organ sound boards and console.
Failures in the solid state system, sound board motors and difficulties in accessing various
wind chests prompted a further overhaul in 2000.
This overhaul included the fitting of a new solid state system, re-leathering of the sound
board motors, installation of new solenoids and the provision of comprehensive registration
aids. Lastly in 2007 a humidifier was installed to counteract the problems caused by widely
varying humidity levels.
1. Knott, J. A Study of Brindley & Foster, Organ builders of Sheffield 1854-1939 (2nd ed. 1985)
|Choir Image Gallery
Where possible names and dates have been included as footnotes to the images.
Click on images to open full size in new window.
|The Choir with Dr Gatty in
the Vicarage garden Whit
|Robed Male Choir at the
funeral of Dr Gatty.
|Robed Male Choir in front of
Date - Circa 1968
|St Mary’s Church Choir
|Ecclesfield Choir and Friends
in front of Church
Palm Sunday 2003.
|The history of St Mary’s Pipe Organ.
|Floor Plan showing Organ & Draw-Stop Console
|Links to Choir and Organ websites
Experience required – None! - Age Range – Nine to Ninety!
St Mary’s choir is looking to increase its numbers and would like to hear from anyone
interested in trying their hand (voice) at singing in a choir. Lots of people say they can’t sing,
but have never really tried - except in the bath; and who knows you may be the next Aled
Jones, Katherine Jenkins or even a Russell Watson. If you would like to try out please call in
on a Friday evening around 7.30 pm and ask for Don Knott
|The history behind St Mary’s Choir.
We have had a Choir in Ecclesfield Church for a few hundred years but the exact date when
it was first formed is not known. We do know however that we have had a robed and
surpliced choir for at least 136 years.
The Gatty Era - 1839 to 1903.
In his book ‘A Life at One Living’; (1) Dr Gatty states “Prior to 1826 the choir with both
stringed and reed instruments, flute, bassoon, violin were seated in the West Gallery. The
Choir-men with a female voice or two, and no boys, sang florid music in an oratorio style;
the method was not cultivated nor ecclesiastical, but showed native ability”.
After that date the singers occupied a singing loft in front of the newly purchased organ
which cost £400.
It was not an easy matter after forty six years to change this custom but in 1872 a
Choirmaster was engaged who introduced a more cathedral like service which led to the
vesting of a choir of thirty men and boys with surplices.
Dr Gatty had no hesitation in saying ”That the service in Gods house was more reverently
performed than it had ever been before; that this plain symbol of the “robe of righteousness”
acts upon those who wear it with sobering, may I say, sanctifying effect”. ‘This tradition of
only having robed male voices in the choir was to last almost one hundred years.’
|The next Century - 1903 to Present day.
Sadly there is little documentary evidence covering the period 1903 to 1966 so much of this
period remains a mystery.
It is not clear for how long a Cathedral like Choir was engaged but it appears that this
tradition was to continue for many years. The information that we have indicates that an all
male voice choir was still being used the in the nineteen thirties, forties and fifties. A Mr.
Whitehead was the organist from 1945 up until 1957 when Harold Fulleylove was appointed,
Harold was a music teacher and he was organist and choirmaster. During the period from
the early 1950s to 1966, the assistant organist was Miss Ada Gillott, another local music
teacher, who also sang with the choir. At some point a mixed voice choir was started prior to
1966 but again how many years before we do know.
The Vicar in 1966 the Rev Richard Page decided that he would like the Choir to be re-formed
into one consisting of only male voices and would therefore continue with the tradition of
having a Cathedral like Choir. Mr Peter Crowther who was one of the best organists in this
area was appointed Master of the Music in 1966. As musical representative for the Diocese of
Sheffield and Master in Charge of the Royal School of Church Music Courses, Mr Crowther
developed and instilled the principles of the R.S.C.M. Choristers attended instructional and
residential courses in different parts of the country including those at St Paul’s and Truro
|Over the next few years the Choir was developed into probably the best Parish Church Choir
in this area. It now consisted of about thirty boys and fifteen men. There was a well
established regime of training, examinations and promotions, through from probationer,
junior singing boy, and senior singing boy to chorister. In 1971 the choirboys were examined
by a Special Commission of the RCSM and were admitted as a Guild Choir – A status
identified by the special flat badges which were worn.
In an age when congregational participation was the vogue in many churches, the choir of
Ecclesfield, particularly during the monthly Choral Evensong, continued to sing music
derived from all periods from the 16th century up to the present day and normally
associated with our Cathedrals.
In 1977 Mr Peter Crowther decided to move on and after a short period was appointed
Master of the Choir at Sheffield Cathedral, many of the men and boys also decided to leave
and with it came the end of a Cathedral type Choir in Ecclesfield. The Church at this time
had many young families so the tradition of having a choir of only men and boys was
relaxed which left it open for women and girls to join.