Revd Dr Mary Cotes
Peter J Williams
Dr Adrian Prisk
The aim of IN HARMONY - Free Church Choirs is to widen, enrich and deepen interest in Choral Music, to spread knowledge in its exercise and practice, and to raise even higher the standard of singing in the Free Churches. Membership of IN HARMONY is open to all choirs in any part of the country.
IN HARMONY organises regular National Festivals of Church Music every two years, held in Cathedrals or large churches in various parts of the country. All our Festivals are marvellous occasions in the fellowship of music and singing and typically attract hundreds of singers. There is no affiliation fee, each National Festival seeks to cover its own costs by the sale of Anthem books and a collection on the day.
There are currently two regional sections, Midlands and Southern, and each holds Festivals in the years between the National Festivals. Membership of these sections is subject to a £15 annual fee for choirs, £1 per annum for individuals or £15 for life membership.
Details of forthcoming Festivals will be found on the relevant pages. Any choir or individual singer that wishes to take part in any of these events will be warmly welcomed, and should contact the appropriate secretary who will be delighted to help.
The Free Church Choir Union was founded in 1888, following a letter which appeared in the second number of the Nonconformist Journal,which came into existence also in 1888.
A history, written in 1930 by James T Lightfoot, records: ‘The letter, from Mr T R Croger, who was at that time choirmaster at Union Chapel Islington, where music formed an important and notable feature in the services, described a “large and representative association” which could “assist congregations in many ways”, by helping to organise choral festivals in large centres and by establishing a library of music.’
Such an association was formed, and met for its first Festival at the Crystal Palace. In 1925, it took on the present name of the Free Church Choir Union and Festivals continued to take place. The FCCU has a splendid heritage and can well glory in its past when a large number of famous singers have sung with the choir.
The centenary of the founding was celebrated at Coventry Cathedral in 1988 when a choir of over 600 gathered together under the batons of Alan Crisp and Richard Silk. This was not the 100th Festival, due to the years of the two World Wars when Festivals did not take place.
In 2009 a new name and logo were launched, to reflect a new age. Choral singing in the Free Church tradition is not strong at the present time and so IN HARMONY continues a long history of encouragement.
WHAT IS A FREE CHURCH?
The term is historical, referring to those churches who in the 17th century were 'non-conformist' and free of government legislation (congregationalist and baptist). The name has also applied to churches that originated in the eighteenth century evangelical revival (methodist). Today the tradition of independence continues. The Free Churches Group draws together 22 denominations and works with government to maintain freedom of religion for themselves and for others. More information about the Group and its work can be found here.