Transcription of an article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine in the series Our Choirs and Choirmasters by Rev James Burton
MUSIC is the speech of God, and is found not only in Himself but in His heavenly palace. When the foundations of the earth were laid the strains of the heavenly choir were heard as the “morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” There is also divinely composed music in Nature borne on wind and wing, and played to the baton of His laws.
This being so it were strange did we not find music in His people, and forming an important part of their worship of Him.
Music—both vocal and instrumental—has been a significant factor in influencing life and making history. It has wooed to sleep the fretful child, given elasticity of step and courage of heart to the soldier entering the field of battle, and soothed the chafed and fretted spirits of the hypochrondriac as the Davids of each generation have played before the desponding Sauls.
“There is in souls a sympathy with sounds,
And as the mind is pitch’d the ear is pleas’d;
Some chord in unison with what we hear
Is touched within us, and the heart replies.”
But nowhere has music been more effective and beneficent than in the exercises of the sanctuary. For this devout practice we have the example of the Old Testament worthies, together with the saints of New Testament and more recent times. Testimony has been forthcoming again and again of persons attracted to religious services by the music to be heard there, and being within the sacred enclosure they have heard the music of the Gospel, which has frequently led to the ringing of the “bells of heaven,” and the rejoicing of angels over a wanderer’s return! And we unhesitatingly say that the service of praise has played an important part in the success attending our church at Matlock.
To begin with we have a good two-manual organ, upon which some £200 were spent about three years since in improvements and enlargements, the whole of the money then spent being raised. This instrument, and the present choir, show the quiet, but emphatic, evolution that has taken place since a few earnest souls, forming the choir of former days, were led by an orchestra of string, wind, and reed instruments, of which some of the “old hands” speak in enthusiastic terms to this day.
What vicissitudes choirs have! What opposition sometimes to development from unexpected quarters! A minister stationed on this circuit some years ago would not allow an anthem to be sung in the services, and preferred to break up the choir—which he did—rather than forego his prejudice to this form of praise! The times have changed! Now the anthem, reverently and tastefully sung, is an integral and effective part of the service.
The Lord’s Prayer is chanted to an easy devotional setting, and at the close of Sunday evening’s service a Vesper is sung, each exercise adding greatly to the devotions of the day. The singing is hearty and thoroughly congregational, a fact much appreciated and well spoken of by the many visitors who from time to time worship with us.
Our choir consists of about forty members, and they are ever willing to render special service, not only in connection with their own church, but to the village churches in the circuit, and to other churches in the town. Some idea of the quality of music we get from them may be gathered from the following list of successes secured in choir contests during the past three or four years: 1905, Mixed Choir: Ripley, first prize; Swadlincote second. 1906, Mixed Choir: Ripley, first; Coalville, first, and shield value ten guineas; Male Voice Choir: Holloway, third; Quartette: Ripley, first. 1907, Mixed Choir: Buxton Festival, first; Coalville, first and shield; Mansfield, second and third; Male Voice Choir: Buxton Festival, second, Coalville, second; Quartette: Buxton Festival, first. 1908, Mixed Choir: Buxton Festival, first; Coalville, first and shield; Mansfield, third; Male Voice Choir: Buxton Festival, second; Quartette: Mansfield, third.
For the third time in succession they are this year the holders of the Coalville shield, but unfortunately it is not one that can be won outright by any choir.
One of the secrets of their success is that there is always peace and harmony within their ranks, and that they are well organised and officered. The writer, during a somewhat lengthened pastorate, has not known any case of wrangling or dispute among them. They are supposed to be always ready to take their part, and if selected by the choirmaster to sing solos there is no rebellion or the ugly jealousies and pouting that so often mar the beauty of services rendered by church choirs.
It has been said that Mr. Lubin G. Wildgoose, the efficlent organist, is “all music from head to foot,” a comprehensive description that does not need qualifying. Music has often been to him more than his food or home comfort, and it has only been by hours and hours of willing labour on his part that the choir has come to its present perfection. He is equally at home in playing, singing, or conducting; indeed he often does all three at the same time when seated at the organ. For years he was bandmaster of the Matlock Brass Band and led them to many successes. Being in the prime of life we trust that he has before him many years of useful service in connection with the church in which he is so deeply interested.
His brother, Councillor Davis M. Wildgoose, is choirmaster. He is an architect, and has on many occasions given the church the benefit of his professional knowledge. He is an adept at making peace, and possibly his being choirmaster accounts for the peace and harmony already referred to.
Mr. Ernest Holmes has been choir secretary for several years, and is most methodical and painstaking in his work. Music is properly and promptly gathered and pigeon-holed for future use, and a register kept for reference. All correspondence connected with the choir is effectively done by this excellent penman, whilst in relation to contests he is always alert, optimistic and inspiring. He is quite a favourite with his fellow choir members.
It is only fitting that reference should be made to Mrs. J. Wildgoose, Senr. She is no longer in the choir owing to increasing years and physical infirmity, but she was a member of the choir for fifty years, did much splendid service, and went Christmas singing for the funds of the church for forty-nine out of the fifty years, often with deep snow on the ground.
The organist and choirmaster are her sons, as is also Councillor J.W. Wildgoose the Sunday School Superintendent, Circuit Steward and Choir Treasurer; whilst in the choir group accompanying this article there are no less than seventeen members of the Wildgoose family by blood and marriage.
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1909/29