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Church Choirs

In Leicester the Groby Road separated the parish of St. Augustine's from St. Leonard's. Rather strange then that my father was a church warden at St. Augustine's although living the wrong side of the road. This had quite an effect on my later life, if you think the age of 10 is later life.

From the age of about 7, I was in St. Augustine's church choir and in the 32nd. St. Augustine's cub pack. So quite simple except that a dispute between the vicar a Rev. Daybell and the Choirmaster led to the choir getting the sack!!

Before that fatal day I have fond memories of a Mrs Burton always pulling my leg whenever we sang hymns with 'Hallelujah' in them. We always had a smile at each other, pity it wasn't throughout the year though and not just for a few weeks.

I enjoyed singing in the choir and when at my primary school Alderman Richard Hallam a member of St. Leonard's came looking for choirboys it seemed a natural step to switch sides.

Trouble brewed when the Rev Daybell re-instated his choir and there was a heated discussion with my father about being poached by St. Leonard's. In the end I was asked to choose between the two and as St. Leonard's had a weekly choir club there wasn't really any doubt where I would continue. As well I think the pay was perhaps better as well. A regular income and extra for a wedding and for some reason even more for a funeral.
Church wedding

The Reverend Daybell eventually became a Cannon and lived in Botttesford until his death only a few years ago.

Our choirmaster was Mr Hill and the organist a small fellow Mr Dick Tuck who was quite a character and had played the piano quite seriously in his younger days. No wonder that the music was of a much higher standard and included over the years The Messiah and St. Matthews Passion. Remember later on singing at Somerby Village Church as a 17 year old and being beaten into the pub by their vicar and Mr Tuck.

Before choir practice it wasn't unknown for us to pop into a small room at the side of the church and drain empty bottles of communion wine into each other! Enough to get a taste at least.

Also Phillip, who later became my Best Man, playing some light hearted music on the organ. He had an exceptional talent and it was a sad loss when he died at the age of 42. His two brothers Richard and Christopher also sang in the choir and Richard will always be remembered for his renditioning of 'Once in Royal David's City' at the Christmas midnight mass.

A more humorous moment was when for some reason about five of us decided to join the congregation for this service. We must have been about 18/19 as a tour of a few public houses, namely The Blackbird, Cricketer's Rest and The Robin Hood preceded this moment. As I remember Phillip, Anthony, David, Malcolm, Barry and myself sat in the congregation much to the surprise of the regulars. Mr Tuck came and we took up his invitation to don our robes. Funny that afterwards he commented that it was the best we had ever sung!!

I cannot remember why sometimes at a service one of us had to use a pair of bellows to keep the organ going. Also whether it was foot or hand powered. However I can remember Mr Tuck giving some very forceful orders at times as the air supply dwindled.

Another of Mr Tuck's lighter moments was in regards to his marking our music sheets with letters of the alphabet. This made it easy to return to a certain place even for the dimmest of us. Funny how many times it was to Letter B as he looked at the lady members of the choir.

One of the merriest times for many reasons was the carol singing around the streets of St. Leonard's. This also included Groby Road Hospital and the infamous Blackbird Hotel. Each night we would start at someone's house and finish at another with mince pies etc. Most welcome ending was at Mr Hessletine's which was across the road from, yes you have guessed The Blackbird. As we grew older it took quite a while to go in one and out of another door.
Carol Singing

St Augustine's Church

Sadder moments were when St. Leonard's was demolished due to the demise of local homes and recently St. Augustine's was burnt to the ground whilst awaiting plan planning permission for other uses.