Music at St Mary's
St Mary’s Church building has a very good acoustic, and music of much diversity may be heard within the ancient walls.
In addition to the beautiful sound of our competent Sunday choir, the church is used regularly for recitals and concerts covering many different musical genres.
St Mary's Choir
St Mary's Church has a long tradition of good choral music, and the current St Mary’s Choir works hard to maintain this high standard as it leads the congregational singing, providing appropriate anthems according to the
time of the church year.
The Choir has a wide repertoire and this is exercised particularly when they are required to sing at a variety of special services – for example, weddings, memorial services, civic services and pet services.
In recent times, it has been necessary to hold services which involve the whole Totnes Team, and on these occasions the St Mary’s Choir looks to join with choir members and musicians from other churches in the Team, to make one united musical offering for the occasion.
On the third Sunday of each month (except August), the choir is joined by choir members from Stoke Gabriel, part of the Totnes team, and other supportive singers who enjoy the tradition, to sing Choral Evensong. These services are very popular and well attended. The average size of the choir on these occasions is 28 singers and accompaniment, and a concluding voluntary is provided by a very proficient organist.
We also enjoy an enthusiastic Junior Choir who meet each Friday at 5.00 p.m. for rehearsals and sing with the main choir on the 4th Sunday of the month at a Family Eucharist. Parents enjoy a cup of tea and a natter whilst the children sing and indeed support their children at the Family Eucharist.
Laurence Elvin, writing about the organ in the April 1938 edition of Musical Opinion says: “The instrument is of great interest, representing as it does the work of Father Willis at the early part of his career”.
The organ’s life began in 1861, when it was a two manual with pedal instrument. It was installed in the west gallery of the Church, but in 1889 was moved into the St Leonard’s Chapel (on the north side of the Chancel). A choir organ was added to it by Ivey.
Later, in 1922, Willis added the swell aeoline. In 1959 the organ was taken back to its original position in the west gallery. By 1986 the mixture of pneumatic and mechanical action and the soundboards were in such poor state that a complete restoration was needed.
Following an appeal for £25,000, the action was made entirely mechanical and the two sesquialteras were returned to their original positions (the pipework having ‘travelled about’ the organ case over the years).
A Quint mixture was added to the great.. All other voicing was returned as closely as possible to its original state, and a Harmonic Piccolo copied from from an original stop at St John’s, Taunton which is about 3 years younger.
St Mary’s Director of Music & Organist