A decade of parish life: from the magazine, 1923-34
(4) Bi
centenary 1929, and parish musical life

Plans for the 200th anniversary of St George's in 1929 had been in the making for some time. (Right is an article from six years before.) In the event, the parish found that it had to find £3000 for repairs to the roof, so fundraising featured prominently - more details here. The fête was held on the Thursday and Saturday of the weekend (with electric lighting in the gardens to enable stalls to stay open later), leaving Friday free for the special service.

Bishop Joscelyne, who preached on the Friday evening, had been a curate in the parish in the 1890s. He was a substitute for the Archdeacon of London, who was unwell.

On the Monday, a special musical service was held, with the Dean of Windsor preaching, and
Sir Henry Walford Davies speaking afterwards on church music, with illustrations by members of the choir of St George's Chapel Windsor, where he had become director of music in 1927.

The Rector has worked with Walford Davies for some years, on the People's Palace Musical Festival (see below) and on various national musical committees. He had been organist at the Temple Church until 1917 (in later years, the Old Templars Choir were frequent visitors to the parish) before becoming Professor of Music in the University of Wales, and Gresham Professor of Music in London. However, at the time of his first visit to the parish in 1925 (to give an organ recital after the service) the Rector wrote that people in East London probably know him better as a great teacher of music over "The Wireless". He speaks to thousands of children and others every Tuesday at the present time.

After Walford Davies' bicentenary visit, the Rector wrote that, while the Stepney Orpheus Choir's singing of Bach on first evening was noteworthy,The visit of the choir of St George's Windsor, was a much rarer thing: indeed, I think that no parish church has ever had the privilege we had...

(Walford Davies [pictured] was invited back the following year; he had hoped to bring choir again, but cricket matches were taking up the boys' free days so instead he brought the gentlemen of the choir, and spoke on 'Church Melody', declaring that Christian song should express the Christian temper and be marked by 'restrained exuberance'.


As a keen musician, the Rector encouraged the development of choirs in the parish. As well as the church choir, which sang twice on Sundays (in 1926 he appealed for more tenors and basses), several of the organisations had their own choir. The Stepney Orpheus Choir, which the Rector had founded in 1908 and conducted ever since, now held rehearsals at St George's, and performed regularly here; it was, he said, well known and useful, singing at big church meetings around London in aid of various church funds. They sang many carol services. He wished more St George's people would join it; and noted after their December concert in 1927 that it attracted a good number, though not many were our own people.

Not content with all of this, Beresford formed a parish male voice choir in March 1928 - it rehearsed at 9pm on Friday in the Rectory (with a weekly sub of 1d. for music), and in February 1930 a Choral Society, bringing together members of the Girls' Club with the male voice choir. The men rehearsed from 9pm to 9.30pm and the full choir until 10.30pm - it was unfortunate, he said, it this was so late, but it clashed with other fixtures. By September 1931 they were short of altos and basses, but a few months later performed Mendelssohn's 'Hear my prayer' and other music.

Every May a musical festival, lasting several days, was held at the People's Palace in Stepney [pictured here in a drawing after the opening in 1887, in an early 20th century photograph and after the 1931 rebuild following a fire; it is now part of Queen Mary College], with choir competitions and a festival concert, usually conducted by Sir Walford Davies. The Rector was one of the organisers, and several choirs from the parish competed. They generally won prizes in their various sections: the choirboys came second in 1926 and 1927 and first in 1930, the Girl's Club were third in 1927 and 1929 and second in 1932, the Guides won the Challenge Cup in 1927, 1928 and 1929 and took a first prize in 1930, and second in 1932; the Scouts took first prize in 1928 and 1930;  the Mothers' Union took second prize in 1928, 1929 and 1930, and first in 1932; the Male Voice choir had a 'promising first appearance' in 1928, first prizes in 1929 and 1930 and a certificate of merit in 1932, and the new Choral Society came first in 1930 and 1932. But the Rector's Stepney Orpheus Choir (which numbers some of our people amongst its members) regularly walked away with the most prizes, winning the madrigal class, singing at sight, vocal quartets and vocal trios in 1927, three firsts and several seconds in 1928, firsts in all principal choral classes in 1929 and five firsts in 1930.

In 1928 the Duchess of York presented the prizes, and the Scouts were part of the guard of honour. The following year the Rector encouraged people to attend, even though the event would lack the glamour of a royal presence ... those who have not had the opportunity of listening to choir competitions do not know how interesting and exciting it is. Admission is only 3d (grand concert from 6d - 7/6) - timetables, programmes and tickets are available from the Rector. Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, presented the prizes in 1932 at the Kingsway Hall.

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