HISTORY of ST MICHAEL’S CHOIR
As late as the 1960’s there was a flourishing choir of men and boys. Prizes were awarded at Christmas – one of two guineas to a chorister “who has completed two year’s service and whose singing ability and leadership has been outstanding during the year” the other of one guinea to a chorister “who has shown the greatest progress” – but both prizes of significant value in 1962! In those days there was an annual Choir Supper at Lincoln College, with whom the church still has very close links – indeed the College Choir has been singing a full sung Eucharist on Ascension Day every year since 2003. The longevity of membership of the choir is further endorsed by examples such as Charles Arthur Webster, described as “a most faithful member of the Choir” 1912 to 1959. The main reason for leaving the boys’ choir at this time seems to have been the amount of school work, although it is good to note that six new choristers were admitted at the office of admission on Advent Sunday, 3rd December 1967. In 1968 the Wednesday evening boys’ choir practice was jettisoned with considerable reluctance owing to the amount of homework the choristers were given at school and the Friday practices were extended.
Regular news about the choir and the state of the organ was circulated at this time – one such newsletter mentioning Brian Newby and Colin Thomas as giving long service in the Choir, as well as Malcolm Dawson, Robert Earl and Kevin Griffiths who “having proved their worth” may be “following in the steps of our most Senior member Jack Tyler”. Under his proper name of George Archibald Tyler he merited a news article headed “Sixty Glorious Years”. The text ran – “In October 1963 George Archibald Tyler completed 60 years singing in the Choir of St Michael at the North Gate, Oxford. A truly wonderful act of Service. A presentation was made to him on behalf of the Church”. (January 1964, published by Diocesan Information Committee).
Also in 1963 new cassocks in blue and purple were purchased for 17 boys and 10 men at a cost of £150. These replaced cassocks purchased in 1948 for £100 and in turn replacing the 1924 supply which cost £22.
On Good Friday, 27th March, 1964 Stainer’s “Crucifixion” was performed at St Michael’s and again on Palm Sunday April 4th 1966, where the church was so full that (it is recorded) there were “not enough copies [of the words] for the people”. It is also recorded that the “Choir did very well” and the soloists were Mr Robbins (tenor) and Mr Gardner (bass). During the late 1970’s correspondence shows that there was a decline in numbers and at a later stage the choir became one of mixed voices with the admission of sopranos and contraltos. For some years this formula worked successfully but for young people with increasing commitments at school and, with other demands on free-time, numbers were always something of a problem.