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All through the night

02 November 2012

IT TAKES 31 hours to sing all through The New English Hymnal - or so the musicians and parishioners of St Andrew's, Leytonstone, in Chelmsford diocese, found when they mounted a sponsored hymnathon.

Starting at midday on an October Friday, they continued all through the night to the very end, "including all the boring bits", the Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Duncan Dalais, assured me. Those very-end bits, Kathryn Rose, the St Andrew's organist, said, "were a flog for me, as no one else there could manage plainchant".

She had organised the event, and had persuaded her predecessor and a couple of organist friends to take turns during the marathon. Not surprisingly, it was a small handful of singers who kept going through the small hours. Mr Dalais himself was there from midnight until 2 a.m., he tells me, and a gallant few turned up at 4 a.m. and stayed until 8. There was also an atheist, who loved singing but was apprehensive about coming, "in case she was preached at". She thoroughly enjoyed herself, however.

The church has a café that provided a light dinner in the evening, and breakfast the next morning. When they reached the Christmas hymns on Friday afternoon, mince pies were provided, and after "Jerusalem", on the Saturday afternoon, there was a cream tea.

In all, it was quite an effort, and Ms Rose tells me that she was exhausted the next day, but it was well worth it. They raised more than £5250 - more than 20 per cent of the £25,000 that is needed to repair the 1914 Lewis & Co. organ, which still has all its original pipework. The leather bellows, I am told, are in a very poor state, and the organ will soon fall silent if nothing is done.

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