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The Choir Of Farm Street Church, Mayfair

For the past 50 years, the music at Farm Street Church has continued a tradition dating back to the 1920s when the music there had a great reputation. Then the choir was under the direction of Fr John Driscoll SJ, succeeded in 1940 by Fernand Laloux (1901 – 1970). Driscoll had trained an exceptionally good choir of men and boys at Wimbledon, and from 1928 undertook the direction of the choir at Farm Street as well. He was an expert in voice-production and both the Farm Street, and Wimbledon choirs, received frequent praise in the press. The music critic Ernest Newman wrote of “the perfect singing of the Farm Street choir” which “must be one of the finest choirs in the country”. Fr Driscoll’s greatest difficulty was in keeping a regular team of boy choristers, and as there were no local Catholic schools, he had to recruit from across London. With the choristers having to travel from various parts of the city for rehearsals there was great difficulty in keeping a consistent group, yet the quality of the singing was such that one of the Farm Street Choristers sang in a production of Tosca at Covent Garden in 1938. After the Second World War, it was decided to introduce a fully professional mixed voice choir, with the aim of regaining the reputation the music had at Farm Street before the war. (From 1943 – 45 a quintet of male voices had been responsible for all the singing.) A period of change followed in 1964 when the professional choir was briefly disbanded, partly as an overreaction to the Second Vatican Council, and also with the aim of encouraging more congregational singing. From the early 1970s the mixed-voice fully professional choir was reinstated to sing at the main liturgies, as well as at weddings and memorial services.

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