Country quires in the West Gallery period varied in number: we aspire to have between sixteen and twenty-four singers, i.e. four to six on each part. The music is not vocally demanding, and the top (treble) part can usually be sung, if necessary, by women who consider themselves altos rather than sopranos. We normally both rehearse and perform with instrumental support for all the parts, but we also enjoy singing without accompaniment in the right circumstances. The singers are usually arranged in a square or horseshoe, so that they can hear and see the others; anyone may volunteer to conduct, and we try to respond to members’ suggestions of pieces to sing.

There are no auditions. We do some simple voice training when we can. People who need to ‘find their voice’, or are not confident at sight-reading, get every possible encouragement.

Country choristers
‘Village Choristers Rehearsing an Anthem for Sunday’ by Edward Bird of Bristol (1810)
(often called ‘The Country Choristers’)
shows a quire extraordinarily like ours, with cello, bassoon, violin and oboe, and both male and female singers in four parts.
Original in the Royal Collection, available online on their website