TWENTY-FIVE singers sang their way round 28 churches in
Chelmsford diocese, all in one day, in a Choral
Steeplechase, to raise funds for historic churches in north Essex.
The Colchester Chamber Choir, under its musical director, Roderick
Earle, sang an unaccompanied sacred song at churches of all
denominations: Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, and
Greek Orthodox, and at a Quaker meeting house - sometimes with an
appreciative audience, sometimes with almost none.
The Anglican and RC churches were all open, and they could sing
inside, but many of the others were not. "If the church wasn't
open, we sang outside," Mr Earle says.
Mr Earle founded the Colchester Chamber Choir in 2010, and it is
now a leading a cappella choir in East Anglia. Although it
owes no allegiance to any particular church, much of the choir's
music is sacred, and its next concert will be in St Edmundsbury
Cathedral on 22 November - St Cecilia's Day.
Mr Earle is an opera singer who sang for many years with the
Royal Opera, and he still sings with the English National Opera. He
started his singing career as a chorister in Winchester Cathedral,
and became a choral scholar.
He has taken his choir on singing marathons before, but the
steeplechase is their own version of Ride and Stride, raising funds
for the Friends of Essex Churches Trust. Their target was £2000 and
- at the time of writing - they had already received £1500, with
many more pledges to come in.
What was very pleasing was that on their steeplechase journey
more than £100 was donated by people who chanced to hear them, a
number of whom asked where they were going next, and said that they
would come along with them to hear them sing again. They started in
the redundant Holy Trinity, Colchester, where John Wilbye, the
great English madrigal composer and contemporary of Byrd, is
They found one of the Anglican churches full of flower arrangers
preparing for a flower festival. Another venue was the chapel in
Colchester Castle, which has splendid acoustics; and also a small
Greek Orthodox chapel, where they sang from the Russian
The response from the people who chanced to hear them was so
positive that he hopes other choirs might follow their example,
bringing good singing unexpectedly to the public. In fact, Mr Earle
would love to see the idea spread across the country, perhaps as
part of Ride and Stride. (His choir walked as much as possible
between churches before taking to cars.)
If anyone is interesting in pursuing the idea, he can be reached
by email to infocolchesterchamberchoir.org.