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Virtual Church Choir

Hilary Cullingford, one of the members of the Virtual Church Choir, writes:

One of the sad consequences for many people in the closure of churches as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, is that choral singing is no longer allowed. In times of crisis, music has always had a significant part to play in bringing people together to foster community spirit, inspire hope and express our Christian faith. As this is no longer possible, five members of St George’s Choir – David, myself, Lucy, Roy and Victoria – have joined the Virtual Church Choir which is building up a library of hymns and worship songs to be used in services throughout the Diocese.

It has to be said that it is the very opposite of singing in a familiar group. Each week we are given a web link to the hymns for next Sunday’s service and listen to a singer performing whichever ‘voice’ we represent. Next we plug in headphones to sing along with the original part and record it separately into an iPad or mobile phone. Then we send the completed recordings to Canon Clare McClaren at the Cathedral, who has been wonderfully supportive and good humoured about our efforts, and they are mixed and edited ready for use.

Although that sounds fairly straightforward, it is more challenging than I thought it would be. I find it much more difficult to pitch the note listening to a voice through headphones than standing next to my friends in the Quire stalls. And then there are often mishaps with the recording process – it’s easy to forget to press the record button or find that you’ve linked the headphones to the wrong machine. Our houses are not recording studios and, although we try and record in a quiet room, so often it seems to coincide with the day the binmen are on their rounds or one of the many online deliveries are arriving. Then there are clocks that tick and chime inconveniently just as we’re reaching the deadline for the recordings to be finished, unexpected phone calls and sounds from the world outside: children playing, shouts, chatter and laughter in the street and, recently, more traffic.

It’s rewarding to think that we are making a positive contribution to worship in these difficult times and I’ve been able to enjoy singing familiar hymns. I’ve learnt some new tunes and harmonies, although I’ve had to listen to the sound of my own voice which is not how I imagined it to be! Although I’m looking forward to being able to sing with the Choir and organ again in the familiarity of the Quire stalls, I would like to thank Clare and the team at the Cathedral for giving us this opportunity.


The VCC sing all the hymns for Newcastle Cathedral’s online Sunday services, which can be viewed on our YouTube Channel: https://tinyurl.com/NclCathedral

To listen or download and use any of the recordings, please access the sound files in the external Google Drive folder named “Hymns for Sharing” via the link: https://tinyurl.com/VirtualChurchChoir

To mark the 10th #clapforcarers on Thursday 28 May, Bishop Christine, Canon Clare, and members of the VCC lent their voices to a famous Geordie anthem to say thank you to the North East for everyone’s efforts to protect the NHS and stay safe.