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In the days before half term, the School received the first 1000 copies of the new hymnal that had been in the planning for some months. In the coming week, it will be used in services open to the public for the first time, both for the memorial service for former headmaster Chris Tongue and the Service of Remembrance planned for Sunday.
St John’s School has a long and rich tradition of choral music and communal singing, which it values and aims to preserve. Indeed, it could be said that the School was born in song: its foundation in 1851 was, in part, an attempt by the pioneering Reverend Ashby Haslewood to provide for his church a choir of some quality to sing at the weekly liturgies.
The old hymn book has been in use since 2007 and has served the School well until present. The idea of introducing a new hymnal was first mooted a year ago and is the product of the work of several contributors, carefully coordinated by Simon Bland, Assistant Director of Music. Both he and Director of Music, Nicholas Smith, gave considerable thought to the contents; but they also consulted with Peter Lutton, Mr Bland’s predecessor until 2009, for additional suggestions. As a result, the new hymnal includes several amendments, most notably around 50 additional hymns chosen to reflect the breadth of modern church music. A few of the less popular hymns that were in the previous hymn book have been omitted, while certain minor inaccuracies have also been corrected.
Having decided upon the contents, the Music Department then sought advice from outside on the final form. Following a recommendation from Christopher Tambling, Director of Music at Downside School, they decided to adopt an A5-format with a sturdy but stylish vinyl cover in dark brown, embossed with the School’s crest in gold.
Headmaster Martin Collier commented, ‘We collectively sing hymns together in Chapel to express our school identity, to reinforce the sense of community. Through the singing of hymns we, as a school, recognize and celebrate our shared culture.’
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