Chorister, 86, celebrates 80TH YEAR singing for congregation

It’s hymn again! Chorister, 86, who joined Perth church choir aged six celebrates 80TH YEAR singing for congregation

  • Bob McFarlane’ joined the church choir at St John’s in Perth in 1941 aged just six 
  • The 86-year-old has no plans to retire and says it brings him happiness and joy
  • He remembers the pew light bulbs had tin-can lampshades for blackouts in WW2

His chorister’s robes now cover trousers instead of shorts and the soprano voice long ago gave way to a rich bass, but 80 years in the same choir has not dimmed Bob McFarlane’s love of music.

The 86-year-old joined the church choir at St John’s in Perth in 1941 when he was six, and only National Service and a stint working away from home have stopped him taking his place in the stalls.

Mr McFarlane insists he has no plans to retire, adding: ‘It keeps you fit and it’s a great way of mixing with people with the same attitude and interests and getting to know them. Being in the choir has brought great companionship throughout my life and still brings happiness and joy.’

His chorister’s robes now cover trousers instead of shorts and the soprano voice long ago gave way to a rich bass, but 80 years in the same choir has not dimmed Bob McFarlane’s love of music 

Marjory Watson, the choir’s director for 11 years, said: ‘Bob is the type of member that all choir directors love to have. He is loyal, dependable, supportive and always gives his best.

‘He is still an excellent singer – a linchpin in the bass section. He’s a lovely person whose quick wit and sense of humour makes choir practice more enjoyable for everyone.’

Mr McFarlane recalled that during the Second World War the light bulbs above the pews were fitted with tin-can lampshades to allow the choir to see their music without throwing out too much light during blackouts.

And at the end of the war he sang at the church for a distinguished guest – Field Marshal Bernard ‘Monty’ Montgomery, the commander behind some of the Allies’ most crucial victories.

The 86-year-old joined the church choir at St John’s in Perth in 1941 when he was six, and only National Service and a stint working away from home have stopped him taking his place in the stalls

Mr McFarlane said: ‘He was at one of the special services on Remembrance Day and I was standing at the door and he spoke to me.’

As a young man, Mr McFarlane moved to the Maldives while completing his National Service. He later worked in insurance and married Margaret in 1961.

He was forced to stop going to St John’s during the Covid lockdowns, so the couple watched services via the internet.

But the great-grandfather is now reunited with his friends and choir members. ‘We’ve missed meeting people, but we are all in the same boat,’ he said.

‘The congregation at the church has held up well. Singing is not the same when you’re socially distanced, but nevertheless we do our best.’

O Holy Night has been named Britain’s favourite Christmas carol.

The song topped a poll run by Classic FM for the sixth year running, beating Silent Night into No 2.

Gustav Holst’s version of In The Bleak Midwinter came third, followed by Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

Based on a French poem, O Holy Night is believed to be the first carol ever played on the radio – in 1906 – and it has been recorded by Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli. Howard Darke’s version of In The Bleak Midwinter came fifth in the poll, followed by O Come, All Ye Faithful, Carol Of The Bells, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, Once In Royal David’s City and Away In A Manger.

John Brunning, who will host the Christmas Day rundown on Classic FM, said: ‘O Holy Night has got it all – a beautiful melody, powerful words and, at its core, a story of hope and the promise of redemption. Its enduring popularity is undeniable.’

 

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