Rules for Singers - Lancashire and Kent
1. The Mass House Quire
by Chris Gardner
Reprinted from an article in West Gallery no.16, May 2000
Nowadays, we have a goodly amount of information relating to both Anglican and nonconformist quires during the West Gallery period, but little has yet come to light concerning the existence of contemporary provincial Romanist quires. However, this is not to say that they did not exist, even though it was an offence to attend Mass openly. Exceptions were made in the case of the London Embassy Chapels as well as those in private house Chapels, for example at Arundel Castle. Nevertheless, prior to the 1829 Emancipation Act (when Catholics were at last granted freedom of worship) certain corners of England retained indigenous Catholic minorities. Notably, one such area was the North West, which produced a number of martyrs for their faith during the Elizabethan and Stuart persecutions.
Romanist recusants in the more isolated areas of North Lancashire and in other districts were able to build "Mass Houses" from the early 13th century onwards - sans bell and tower usually disguised as ordinary dwelling places, so that the flock could meet in relative safety. One of these was at Claughton, Wyresdale, generally known as Claughton Chapel. The Priest there in 1787 was one John Barrow, a martinet who was a keen musician. He organised a quire of sorts to sing the music for Mass, instituting strict rules about conduct, which are reproduced here. It is interesting to note that most of the choristers were, seemingly, illiterate, making their signature with an X.
(Capitalisation, spelling and punctuation are as in the printed source)
Rules to be observed by the Singers of Claughton Chapel
Although no records exist of the music employed, one could assume that it was simple plainchant, which could be learnt by rote. Certainly, no mention of choral music is made here. We do not know how much, if any, of the dignified music of the London Embassy composers (such as the Webbes and Vincent Novello) infiltrated that locality. Nor has much come to fight so far regarding musical material of a homespun nature in any provincial area. (One exceptional example of the latter is the work of Father Charles Newsharn, who apparently wrote motets and settings for the quire at Ushaw College, Durham, to save buying music during the early 1 9th century. His work and the extent of his influence are yet to be researched.) One positive West Gallery influence on Catholic music-making is seen in The Catholic Choralist, published 1842 in Dublin. This contains a number of florid and fuguing tunes, sung to more liturgical texts. Cranbrook, amongst others, is included.
Subsequent collections such as Easy Hymns for Catholic Schools (1851) and Crown of Jesus Music (1864), alas, were largely pale shadows of their Tractarian equivalents, full of plagiarisms. The editor of the latter, interestingly, was H. F. Hemy, the Tyneside Catholic organist and band leader who adapted the folk tune Stella as a hymn tune. (This is known, of course, in West Gallery circles as the tune for Blessing to God".) Despite that, the aforementioned Ushaw College still retains a large collection of choral music (some in manuscript), dating from 1808 (or even earlier). Fortunately, this has escaped the zeal of the "reforming" iconoclasts of Vatican 11 in the 1970s. It may thus prove worthy of investigation. Also, this contains some pieces by Father Newsham.
2. The Rules of the Kenardington Psalm Singers
by Helen Mitcham
Reprinted from an article in West Gallery no.17, September 2000
Readers may like to compare the following with Chris Gardner's article on The Mass House Quire in the May 2000 issue of West Gallery. What interested me particularly about that article were the Rules, which immediately reminded me of those of an Anglican quire in the opposite corner of England, Kenardington in Kent. Kenardington is a small well-wooded parish on the hills above Romney Marsh. Here are their rules (original spellings preserved):
1773 Oct. 28th Ann agreement made for the Company of Psalm singers in Kenardington. We Do gree to forfitt two pence on all Sundays for not being at Church in Divine Sarvis time to joyn to sing to the praise an glory of GOD and to meet on Sunday Evening at Six o'clock and forfitt one penny and to meet on all Thursday evenings at Six o'clock or forfitt one penny for each Neglect of not being there at the time. The mony to be gathered by One Whom the Company apoint for that purpus and the forfitt mony to be Spent on January 1st 1774 at a place apointed by the Company. Agreed and aproved of by us Who have hear unto Sett our Names.
Unusually for this period, the Kenardington churchwardens' accounts and many of their bills have survived. Among those for 1773-4 (Bills for the past year were settled every Easter Monday) we find "Paid for a sing pipe... 5s 3d". During the same period, "Gave to the Sadozhurst [Shadoxhurst, nearby] singers 2/6d". Examination of the burial register reveals that the old Parish Clerk, Stephen Morris, died in June 1773, having "been chosen Clerk May 5th 1739".3 This suggests that Morris may have still been using the "Old Way" of singing psalms, and that the "modern" style of quire could not begin until after his death. Were the Shadoxhurst singers invited to show the congregation what they might expect to hear in the future or to encourage singers to join the new Kenardington "Company"? Who taught them in their first years is not revealed, but in April 1788 they engaged Jeremiah Francis "to come to Kenardington Church a Sundays and to have one shilling a Journey." There were at least two teachers and composers called Francis; Jeremiah (probably b. 1757) and James, both from Ruckinge, about 31/2 miles from Kenardington, whom I hope to make the subject of a future article.
Although the rules at Catholic Claughton and Anglican Kenardington are remarkably similar in their aims and format, (presumably this was a standard way of organizing societies at that time) there are two striking differences. Claughton's rules were clearly written by a well educated person, (presumably one of the "Masters") whereas those of Kenardington were probably penned by one of the singers, whose literacy level was that of a tradesman or farmer, though perfectly serviceable for their purpose (or should I say "purpus"?). This tends to confirm the view that Anglican quires were independent of clergy or gentry.
The most surprising difference is in the amount of the fines. Kenardington's seem reasonable enough, particularly as their effect was that absentees simply contributed more to the New Year's feast. But unless wages were far higher in Lancashire than in Kent (2/- per day), the Claughton rates of 1/- or 6d seem excessively high; the singers must have been terrified of Mr Barrow!
Two other points are worth noting. The Kenardington singers practised twice a week, which suggests that they were aiming at a high standard of performance. Their level of literacy, too, if we can judge from the proportion that could sign their own names, was considerably higher than at Claughton.
1. Centre for Kentish Studies (CKS) P206/7/2-3
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