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Thousands raised in non-stop hymn marathon at Norfolk village church

23 September 2022

Matthew Jackson

The hymn marathon at St Mary’s, Attleborough, in Norfolk, over the August bank-holiday weekend

The hymn marathon at St Mary’s, Attleborough, in Norfolk, over the August bank-holiday weekend

IN A non-stop hymn marathon at St Mary’s, Attleborough, in Norfolk, over the August bank-holiday weekend, a rota of 29 organists played all 847 hymns from Ancient & Modern: Hymns and songs for refreshing worship. They played from 6 p.m. on the Friday to 10 a.m. on the Monday, to raise money for both a music-outreach project and essential repairs to the 100-year-old organ.

Choirs — including that of St Mary’s — and singers joined them informally throughout the marathon, and the nights proved popular. The Rector, the Revd Matthew Jackson, said that it had been addictive: “You were going to leave and then a hymn came up that you just couldn’t miss . . . and then another . . . and then another.

“It was a great way of involving the community spirit. We kept the church door open throughout so that it could be heard outside and it really touched people’s imaginations.”

The church’s director of music, Ben Miller, who organised the event, did a six-hour stint, with a five-minute break each hour. “It was a bit bonkers, really: extreme but wonderful,” he said. I played a lot of stuff in the middle of the night, and the sun came up in front of our great medieval screen just as we moved into Palm Sunday and Easter.”

Guest organists included the organist of Norwich Cathedral, David Dunnett; the Cathedral Organist Emeritus, Michael Nicholas; and the director of music at St Mary’s, Nottingham, John Keys — believed to be the only organist to have recorded the entire Ancient & Modern hymn book.

Donations so far have reached more than £8500. The target is £10,000 for the Attleborough Music Project, which seeks to create a centre of excellence, and bring more music to Attleborough and the wider community. It includes the provision of a music-outreach worker, repairs to the organ, and the extension of facilities to create more space for community events, concerts, and recitals.

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