Martin Top: The Unbuilt Choir Gallery

In our archive exist plans to build a ‘choir gallery’ from what I believe to be about 1898. This would have meant that the western wall (the gable end opposite to the manse) would have had a school room attached to it and an area open to the chapel from which a choir could have delighted the worshippers with their singing. It certainly looked very grand and would have meant that our current gable, which is rude and grey, would have been rather more attractive, even though there would have been no gap between the building and the lane. For whatever reason (a more detailed inspection of the various documents might reveal it), the chapel decided not to proceed and erected the current upper room as a Sunday School in 1908.

In our Chapel History we are told that in around 1897:

Two visitors from the executive of the Home Missionary Society inspected the premises and said to Mr Duerden the place needed some improvements and suggested a series of alterations, the cost of which they thought would amount to about £70. They further said that if the chapel would take up the scheme the Society would give them £5 towards it.

£70 seems rather cheap for this level of construction, but the History of the Dales Congregational Churches remarks:

In 1898, the Church was renovated at a cost of over £323, without debt.

I suspect the choir gallery was a fine idea for which the funds were not forthcoming. Had they proceeded, it would certainly have made ours a grander building and it would have provided some extra space that we would now be filling. They might have opted for a plainer programme, more fitting the chapel’s modest coffers.

Although the great Oliver Cromwell marched into Ely Cathedral to put a stop to services with choirs, I am rather fond of them. Although disliking the performance element of a choir singing in worship, hearing a hymn or song sung well and harmonised is truly beautiful. We may have no choir gallery, nor even a choir, but I would urge all worshippers to sing well and sing loudly (the two not always being compatible). A hymn mumbled is a hymn destroyed; public worship droned is heaven disrespectedl. We may not all be able to harmonise (though I especially thank God for those who do) but we may all make a joyful noise to the Lord.

Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I, even I, will sing to the Lord; I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song. Judges 5:3