The parish of St Edmund at Bungay was distressed when it learned that it could have no singing at Masses during lockdown, but not to be daunted went ahead and recorded its own collection of favourite music.
Clare Seabrook, organist and music director in the parish, enthusiastically took up a suggestion from a parishioner of making an album.
It is a recording by the parish choir of familiar pieces from its repertoire, to be played before, during and after Mass to fill the silence.
Clare wrote a short introduction for the sleeve and after several recording sessions settled on no fewer than 21 short pieces.
One stroke of luck was that the son of one of the parish’s leading families, Leo Altarelli (who lives in Australia) had the necessary equipment to master the recordings into a coherent collection with an attractive sleeve and brochure. The CD has now covered its costs and is available from the parish.
Pio Altarelli, a brother of the Norwich Circle of the Catenian Associations, expanded on the story to The Catholic Universe. “Mass following the first lockdown was bereft of music from our choir and the beautiful tones of our pipe organ, so it was a quiet affair. Choirs were not allowed, so no singing.
“The serving rota disrupted, I, long- time sacristan and MC, brother of the Norwich Circle of the Catenian Association, served our priest, Dom Charles Lombard, during this challenging period.
“One Sunday, a parishioner, Peter Smith-Cullen, and I were lamenting the state of affairs, when he proposed that we might consider recording the choir, socially distanced of course, and play these recordings during Mass.
“Armed with a digital recorder, over a number of weeks, after Mass, limited members of our choir came together and laid down a number of hymn tracks which were played at strategic times, enriching our worship.
“Peter then came to me with another proposal; this music is so well received, he said, why don’t we put these tracks into a CD and raise funds for our parish?
“Peter arranged the production of CDs and I, with a little experience in sound production, but none in mastering, am fortunate enough to have a son who is a professional musician and singer songwriter. With a bit of persuasion he agreed to ‘master’ the tracks… though the only issue is that he is based in Brisbane!
“An ex-St Edmund’s Bungay and Notre Dame Norwich pupil, graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music, Leo, his wife Kathleen and four-year old daughter Mia now live in Australia. So I had to learn how to make WAV files, transfer them to Dropbox and then make them available for Leo to do his magic before sending them back to me for compilation.
“While this was going on Peter was arranging for the design of the CD sleeve, a foreword by Fr Charles and a description by Claire Seabrook our organist and choir leader.
“The CD was ready for Christmas and sold well within the parish.
“Since then we have continued to record and play hymns at Mass, culminating in a full programme of music for Holy Week and Easter, including a glorious Exultet courtesy of Dom Andrew Moore of Downside Abbey.
“With a possible continuation of the Covid limitations, we look forward to a continuation of this process that adds another dimension to the ‘lockdown Mass’,” added Pio Altarelli.
Picture: Leo and Pio Altarelli.