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NNPM 2016 Conference

“Handing it On…”


Nurturing the next generation of pastoral musicians…

High Leigh Hoddesdon Hertfordshire --- a few thoughts on the Spirit and song  of an NNPM gathering

‘God welcomes all, strangers and friends’, using the words of John Bell we wove our voices together, young and old from all over England and Wales. Led by Jan Brind and Bryony Davis into our Opening Worship our motorway stress faded away. With a welcome from Stephen Dean the weekend began in the Mulberry Room at High Leigh.  Next door in Yew Tree Hall music and book shops were set up by Decani Music and Ennerdale Music and we assembled there for a big singing session with Andrew Maries- and friends! We tackled a wide variety of music choices on our theme from the different workshop leaders, in parts, in unison and on a screen to save paper.

Later on we enjoyed catching up with old friends, meeting newcomers and sharing experiences in our Church music life. The excellent 24-7 coffee machines were a hit – as well as the bar. Well done and thanks to High Leigh staff for all the facilities.

Saturday’s full programme meant an early start with Morning Prayer in Willow Hall, with the arched windows and doors open on to the rolling parkland it was close to being outside in God’s garden. We sang Stephen Dean’s haunting Celtic melody to the words of an 11th century Gaelic poem  ‘It were my soul’s desire to see the face of God’ graced by the sound of the harp. We were lucky to have a talented group of instrumentalists with us for the weekend.

Over 40 Saturday delegates joined us from 9am and as one we sang Bernadette Farrell’s ‘All that is hidden will be made clear’, was this a hope for the day itself?

Keynote speaker Tom Daggett inspired us with his singing outreach work in the schools and communities of East London. His confidence and determination was an example to us all. He encouraged each of us to remember how we had become Church musicians, who had instructed us, what we had heard or seen or felt. This could be the key to how we hand our gifts on to the next generation.

After coffee seven different prayer and music workshops were available in three sessions around the centre. They were all given by people with practical experience to share and hand on. Furthest to find was the Cherry Room, an oasis, a sacred place created by Jan Brind and Bryony Davis with suggestions for ways of praying using physical actions-  making, cutting, weaving,  pressing, writing,  looking. Frances Novillo presented in conjunction with two young people that she has worked with, who then took leading roles in our Saturday final worship. Julie McCann’s session centred on running a Taize service which welcomes families, children, young people and all comers, creating a beautiful space to pray in what you see and hear. Christopher Walker looked at music from 11th-21st century and reminded us that all music had once been ‘new’ .  With  ‘Pilgrimage in song’ Wendy and Richard Hubbard described several one –day walking and singing events they have run,  visiting local Churches on the route, good for mind and body, and involving those who might not usually venture inside a Church. For more information on this visit   www.cantusfirmus.org.uk

Bill Tamblyn’s Saturday afternoon Big Sing focussed on the work of Bernard Huijbers, one of the great pioneers, writing modern accessible liturgical music for the assembly in Holland from the early 1960’s.

As only Bill can, he had us singing in Dutch and in a round! ‘Dan nog Klamp ik mij’ (Even then I’ll cling to you).

Looking at how we got here gives us some of the answers to the question, How do we hand it on?

Frances’s young cantor led us in to our Saturday final worship with great accomplishment. We wrote down what our gift to our Church was, what we did very week, and on leaving we took someone else’s paper – to pray for them and give them the strength to keep going. Another handing…

Saturday evening in the Willow Hall with the doors flung wide to the sky, trees, lavender and bees we celebrated Mass together with Fr. Peter McGrail. The words of the hymn by Nah Young-Soo were apt, ‘Look and learn from the birds of the air, the flowers of the field’.     

Our 20th Anniversary cake was cut and shared by all, a highlight of the evenings socialising was a performance by our two cellists of ‘Swan a ‘L’Orange’ a Bach/Saint Seans (I think!) mash-up involving an actual orange !!!!

A sunny Sunday morning brought most to the early Anglican Eucharist celebrated by Bryony Davis.

Morning Prayer was a mini-pilgrimage led by Richard Hubbard with his hat and drum! An umbrella was also useful to keep off the strong sunshine. We walked and sung through the grounds with a prayer pause at a wooden cross.

Christopher Walker took us on tour – this time musical – remembering those composers who have gone before us, in particular,  Peter Jones (Coventry Gloria) and Ernest Sands (May the choirs of Angels). He presented his own ‘Always forward, never back!’ and reminded us that we may never know the outcome of what we hand on to others.

In the NNPM forum Stephen Dean invited the workshop leaders and speakers to feed back on their sessions. Christine Howes (Accord Secretary) encouraged us to send in news of Church music workshops, services and events from around the country, to help us ‘Hand it on’ . Vicky Dearing NNPM Membership Secretary and Treasurer reminded us to join the network, organise local events, and to ask for advice and sponsorship. She also announced a Subscription rise to £15 per two years to build up the funds to do this and cover increased postage costs.

In our final worship led by Jane Porter and Martin Foster we managed singing and signing in a round

‘What we have received from the Lord Jesus Christ, this we pass on’  (Martin Foster www.bearmusic.info).

Then Marty Haugen’s ‘A great cloud of witnesses’ brought to mind all those who have handed on to us, we spoke and listened to each other about our hopes for how we would be handing on our gifts and skills in the coming months and years of the future.

A huge thank you to Jennifer Burridge for her fantastic organising skills which produced such a smooth running, enjoyable and positive conference experience.

Reflection on the NNPM conference from Sophy Cartledge

This was my first attendance at the NNPM conference for many years and this time I decided to bring my harp with me.  I am very glad I did because I was able to join in with much of the music because I am able to follow a melody line with some chords on it (like guitar).

Therefore it was very fulfilling to be able to take part in the liturgies and Morning Prayer sessions, and one of the Taize workshops.  I think that the beautiful Celtic Melody by Stephen Dean 'It were my Soul's Desire' was a musical highlight for me.

I enjoyed the singing sessions and the huge enthusiasm exuding from the composers, and I loved hearing Christopher Walker talking and singing and coaching us, and his session gave a window into his deep faith and love of music and people!

I was also taken by Tom Daggett's talk and how he has involved himself with the wider community in coaching choirs outside of the 'church'.

I also admired Mag Shepherd's faithfulness to be available for whatever was 'thrown' at her - and as a musician myself, I know that she had a very challenging time with some very difficult musical accompaniments on the piano - but which she nevertheless managed with great accomplishment.  As I sat near her - (often for moral support myself) I was aware of her sensitive musicality, often adapting at a second's notice, for all the different styles of music that we were singing and playing.  As a piano accompanist, a person is often overlooked - but I want to say that a good accompanist is someone who is a servant of others and who takes a 'back seat', burying their own ego for the benefit and sake of the others.  Therefore I would like to applaud Mag for her hard and beautiful work that weekend.

link to a blog from Marion Hill

https://marions30dayswild.wordpress.com/2016/07/31/conference-at-high-leigh/