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Welcome to St Mary Magdalene, Newark, our newest corporate member

FCM is delighted to welcome the parish church of St Mary Magdalene, Newark.

Choir of St Mary Magdalene, Newark

Photo: Lou Brimble

Here is some information about the church and its choir.

Newark is a market town in the Southwell and Nottingham Diocese. Many a traveller on the East Coast main line or the A1 will have seen the spire, one of the tallest in the UK, as they have journeyed past. King John died in Newark Castle in 1216. The town played a pivotal role in the Civil War (1642-1646) and now hosts the National Civil War Centre. John Blow (1649-1708), sometime Composer to the Chapel Royal, was born nearby and baptised in the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene. Robert Parsons drowned in the River Trent in Newark in January 1571/2.

The choir of St Mary Magdalene, Newark is one of the finest and oldest church choirs in the country. Made up of both boy and girl choristers, “Magnus scholars” and adult volunteers, they sing for the 9.30am Parish Eucharist and 5.00pm Choral Evensong each Sunday and assorted civic services and events across the year. The choristers also sing Choral Evening Prayer on a Wednesday at 6.05pm during term time.

The choir is professionally led by the Director of Music (sometimes known as the Master of the Song School), Dr Stephen Bullamore. He is supported by the Assistant Organist, Mike Dutton, who both plays the organ and assists with the training of the young people in the choir.

Newark boasts what is thought to be England’s only surviving pre-Reformation choral foundation, outside the cathedral and collegiate foundations. In 1532 Archdeacon Thomas Magnus founded a Grammar School with a Song School alongside. The Grammar School is now a Church of England Academy; the former buildings are now occupied by the National Civil War Centre.

In 1866 the Magnus Foundation built a large house for the Master of the Song School, providing rehearsal facilities and accommodation. This building is still used by the Director of Music and the choir, the trustees having recently purchased a new piano for the rehearsal room.

Magnus money enables choristers from a wide variety of backgrounds to receive singing and instrumental lessons. Many choristers go on to become “Magnus scholars”; these teenagers are also offered generous funding to further their musical education. Singers trained by the church have recently gone on to sing in Lincoln and Chelmsford cathedral choirs; a former organ scholar has recently played for his first live Radio 3 broadcast from Keble College, Oxford.

The foundation currently supports a composer-in-residence, Jane Olson, whose first work for the choir will be premiered on Ash Wednesday 2020. Recent commissions include a setting of Malcolm Guite’s Sonnet XV: Easter Dawn by Kerensa Briggs, written for the Patronal Festival in 2019.

In 2019 the choir recorded a CD of Christmas music, A Babe is Born with Priory Records. A sample track can be heard below.  The works recorded include “Come Thou, Redeemer” by former composer-in-residence, Emma Davies, and arrangements by the current Director of Music.

For more information or to enquire about joining the choir, contact Dr Stephen Bullamore on choir@stmnewark.org