There is no clear record of the early days of All Saints' Church Choir, although it does appear that when All Saints' Church was founded in 1959, there was no choir. However, by 1960, some of the founding members of the Church formed a choir consisting entirely of adults.
Sir J.O. Afolabi, who joined the Church in 1960 and is still in the choir, was one of the founding members while, about that period, B.G. Smallman was the Organist/Choirmaster. He held the position of Choirmaster till about 1964 - 65 when Frank Waters took over. A comprehensive table of those who have served as Choirmasters and Organists is shown at the end of this chapter.
The main service was on Sunday evenings and that was the only service at which the Choir performed. For accompaniment, the only musical instruments available were a harmonium presented to the Church by the University College Hospital about 1961 and a small piano. In 1968, a small pipe organ was purchased at a total cost of 1600 pounds sterling with a ten year guarantee. It was sold to St. John's Church, Akinmorin for N10,000 around 1984, while the harmonium was presented to the National Museum, Ibadan in 2004 with a brief write-up on its history and operation.
THE CHOIR AT THE MORNING SERVICE
A note in the records of the Church indicates that on December 14,1970 the matter of the Choir singing during morning services had been discussed by the choir and an agreement reached that a regular morning service choir should be formed with member from the congregation as the nucleus. This agreement would ensure a steady choir, particularly during school vacation period when the Queen's School girls were away. The new choir would be organized without detriment to the evening choir.
From 1971, All Saints' Church had a full-fledged choir at its morning services, without detriment to the quality of the singing at evening services. It is well known, and comments are always made, to the glory of God, that All Saints' Church has always had a serious choir with a high standard of performance. The factors one may adduce for this are:
- The importance given to the Choir by the Church Committee, now the Church Council, and the entire congregation over the years, and therefore the moral and financial support the Choir enjoys.
- The teamwork between the Clergy, Choirmaster and Organist Who jointly shape the liturgy peculiar to the congregation of. All Saints' Church.
- The dedication of the Choirmaster, Organists and members of the Choir, both old and young.
- In addition to its dedication, the Choir has always operated as one big FAMILY and a team. This unique tradition, which has been sustained through generations of choristers, has contributed tremendously to the harmony that All Saints' Church Choir enjoys.
The teamwork mentioned above appears to have evolved into a tradition which various officers of the Church, particularly a succession of Church Ministers, have observed and encouraged. For ordinary services, the Minister draws up the Order of Service, but on special occasions, e.g. Easter, Adult Harvest, All Saints' Day Anniversary & Christmas Carol services, the Choirmaster, in consultation with his team, drafts the programme with appropriate anthems and hymns, while the Minister adds the psalms, Bible lessons etc. and gives his approval before printing.
All Saints' Church has retained the orthodox form of Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian services which involve the singing of traditional hymns from various hymn books, psalms to Gregorian chants, vesicles and responses etc. Anthems and oratorios composed by great masters are also sung by the Choir. These demand the Choirmaster's mastery of the musical, his competence to teach the Choir and produce the piece as desired. They also require the competence and dexterity of good organists to play them. All Saints' Church has been fortunate in possessing these resources. The Choir has an extensive library of various hymn books, Psalters and anthems which it has acquired over the years.
In the early days, the main hymn book was Christian Praise. It has now been replaced with Hymns Ancient and Modern. All Saints' Church Supplementary Hymns and Choruses was introduced in 1999. The enlarged second edition was donated by Prof. and Mrs. Falase in 2007 to mark their 40th wedding anniversary. The music edition is currently being compiled.
THE PIPE ORGAN
The Church has a Walker mechanical tracker action pipe organ (purchased in 1983 for N80,000.00) as well as other instruments to accompany the Choir's various performances. The need for a new Church Organ was realized about 1975 initially. The idea of expanding the existing organ was mooted, but it soon became clear that the cost of its expansion would be exorbitant. Hence this idea gave way to the acquisition of an entirely new organ.
In selecting this new organ, care was taken to choose one that has a mechanical (tracker) action, rather than an electrical action type which is more troublesome and expensive to maintain. When compared further with the present organ, the new organ obviously is bigger, has a larger number of pipes (954 c.f. 244), a wider variety of tones and systems for coupling swell to great, great to pedal and swell to pedal organs. Like the present organ, it has two sets (great and swell) of manual and a set of pedal notes, total notes numbering 91. It was built and installed by J.W. Walker & Sons Ltd .. a reputable English firm of organ builders who are familiar with the Nigerian environment.
The organ is now worth well over N20 million and is being well looked after through routine maintenance and periodic overhaul.
TRANING OF YOUNG ORGANISTS
Many modern-day churches have replaced traditional hymns with choruses and other such simpler forms of music. Many of these tend to be repetitive and do not have a formal harmonized structure. They thus make less demand on the skill of organists, many of whom have devised their own informal styles and soon lose whatever skill they had owing to lack of challenges. This in turn has had an adverse effect on the quality of church music and worship.
It is to combat this that an organization called "Association for the Promotion of Church Music in Nigeria" (ACHMIN) was founded. To remedy the dearth of good organists, following a presentation at the Annual General Meeting on June 30, 2004, All Saints' Church approved the proposal for a scholarship scheme to train young organists.
Pursuant to this, the Church Council established a Scholarship Board to:
- Formulate policies on the award of scholarships to train young organists.
- State guidelines and criteria for the selection of candidates.
- State the terms and conditions of the scholarships.
- Manage and execute the scheme with the approval of the Church Council.
So far, four people have benefited from the scheme, two of whom are already employed as organists in churches in Ibadan.
THE CHOIR BYE-LAW
All Saints' Church Choir is about 80% adult and has been so for many years. This is so because of the high turnover of boys and girls who to our great joy, leave for higher institutions. PRAISE GOD! Good conduct and behavior rely largely on self-discipline. Nevertheless, it was considered necessary to state. Formally, a set of rules to regulate Choristers' behavior; some form of code of conduct as it were. In 2001 the Choir bye-law was drafted with contributions from members and the congregation. This was given a legal structure by Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, now SAN and President of the Nigerian Bar Association. It was thereafter submitted to the Church Council for ratification after certifying that it conformed with the Church constitution in its entirety.
OBJECTIVES OF THE CIHOIR
The bye-law states that the objectives of the Choir shall be the following:
1. The organization, training and maintenance of an effective Choir.
2. The promotion of Christian religion through songs.
3. The protection of all Choir musical equipment and property including hymn books.
4. The promotion of good relations among members of the Choir.
5. The promotion of free exchange of ideas and cooperation between the Choir and similar organizations
6. The creation and maintenance of an endowment fund for the proper observance and discharge of any of these objectives.
Other aspects of the bye-law deal essentially with membership of the choir, meetings, finance, offices to administer the various operations of the Choir, mode of election into these offices, duties of officers, tenure, rules and regulations on meetings, conduct of choristers, etc. The bye-law is designed to ensure a well-disciplined Choir befitting the high standard and image of All Saints' Church.
CONTRIBUTION TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF ALL SAINTS' COLLEGE
The Choir takes seriously its responsibilities to all the development projects of the Church. To date, the Choir has contributed a substantial amount of money raised from its festival and other sources towards the movement of the College to its permanent site. A piano costing N 180,000.00 to help towards the College music progamme and four fence panels costing N200.000.00 have also been donated by the Choir.
All Saints' Church Choir is committed to sustaining and improving its high standard. One of the biggest constraints to this objective is the high turnover of young voices which are more amenable to training, pitch, and other qualities of production. To overcome this, in 1989 a plan of succession was conceived whereby children between 10 and 13 years of age were auditioned and trained to form the Junior Choir. There were about 20 regular choristers. The exercise was so successful that in that same year, they participated in the All Saints' Day Anniversary Festival and end- of-year Carol Service. They were, thereafter, progressively absorbed into the adult choir.
In January 2001, the Teenage Ministry services commenced, following a presentation at the Annual General Meeting. For children in their teens, it served as a bridge between the Sunday School and the adult church services. As a result of its success and, in particular, its spiritual development of these adolescents, parents prefer their children to go to the Teenage Ministry on Sunday mornings rather than to sing in the adult choir. Our idea of catching them young thus appears defeated. Although the children may choose to join the adult Choir after graduation from the Teenage Ministry, and some of them do, they are by this time already on their way to tertiary institutions. The Teenage Ministry has its own Choir, which has participated in some adult activities. Some graduands from there have joined the adult Choir and we shall continue to encourage others to do so even if their stay is brief.
Other sources of recruitment especially for male voices are All Saints' College, the University of Ibadan and the Ibadan Polytechnic. Initially there was good response but the scheme was soon frustrated by transportation problems. This requires a solution.
In order to improve the capacity of the Choir and their quality of performance, training in the rudiments of music is offered, while voice training is also given routinely.