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Welcome to St James’ Church, Louth, a new corporate member

FCM is delighted to welcome St James’ Church, Louth, which has become our newest corporate member.

The Parish Church of St James, located in the heart of the beautiful Lincolnshire market town of Louth, is a sizable building and is crowned with the tallest medieval parish church spire in England.  Whilst now in a quiet corner of the country, it was for many centuries an important focal point for the local area and consequently a good deal is known about the life of the church in the time up to the reformation – in which it played a key part.  It was notable for being the flashpoint of the Lincolnshire Rising in 1536, which in part was a reaction to the feeling that so much of what was held important might be lost to Henry VIII’s reforms.  This included music within the liturgy, and we know that the choristers of the song school, supported by the guilds, sang alongside the various clerks and singing men.

Although after the reformation this tradition was to suffer, the church maintained its choral tradition well into the 19th century.  This came to an end in 1857, when the stipendiary singers were dismissed, and a voluntary choir of tradesmen was formed to lead singing in the liturgy.  With the opening of a new organ in December of 1857 the new choir was supplemented by singers from Lincoln Cathedral to sing full choral services.

From the middle of the 19th-century onwards, this voluntary choir of men and boys was at the heart of worship at St James – being joined by a separate choir of girl choristers in the 1990s.  As with many churches, the choirs at St James’ have seen some inevitable variations in their fortunes and for much of the last decade the choral tradition has been maintained almost entirely by a small group of girl choristers with a group of hugely dedicated adult singers.  Over the past few years, the church has invested in building up its musical resources, and in 2014 made a joint appointment of a Master of the Choristers in collaboration with a local school.  Since that time the existing girls’ choir has grown in both confidence and numbers, and more recently been joined by the nucleus to form a group of boy choristers.

Today, the normal pattern of choral services during term-time is for the girls and adults to sing at morning services on Sundays, with an adult consort singing every Sunday evening – joined by the boys roughly every other week.  Increasingly, the choir is helping mark the celebration of weekday festivals, and their offering in worship has contributed to a growth in people attending services beyond the now conventional ‘Sunday morning slot’.  Over the past few years, members of the choir not only been contributing to the worship in Louth, but have enjoyed singing with other choirs – joining local choirs from Grimsby Minster and Newark Parish Church, and singing in Lincoln cathedral.  With these foundations in place, the Church Council is currently exploring how to consolidate its existing resources and planning how further growth can be encouraged and enabled in the future – so that hopefully the long-standing tradition of this beautiful church can be ensured for generations to come.

As well as the commitment to pay the salaries of the Master of the Choristers and Organist, the Church Council has established an Endowment Fund to help secure the long-term sustainability of music in the church’s liturgy.  Together with some small historic charitable trusts, this forms the basis for a new charitable body which is being established with the prime aim of supporting the music of the church and developing its choir.