Dr Bertalot’s report

From Dr. John Bertalot,
MA, D. Mus, FRCO(CHM), ARCM, Hon. RSCM,
Assistant Regional Director, RSCM,
RSCM Advisory Board Member.

john.bertalot@googlemail.com
www.bertalot.org

August 20, 2000

To
The Reverend Canon G. W. Markham, MBE, MA, Hon. RSCM
The Trustees of Morland Choristers’ Camp
and to
Professor John Harper, Director General, RSCM,
Ms. Jane Hiley, Courses Manager, RSCM
Mr. Gordon Appleton, Regional Director, RSCM,

REPORT: MORLAND CHORISTERS’ CAMP, AUGUST, 2000

It was my privilege to be invited, by Canon Markham and the Trustees of Morland Choristers’ Camp, to make an inspection of the camp from Wednesday evening, 2nd August through Saturday morning, 5th August, 2000. In his letter to me, dated 2nd December, 1999, Canon Markham asked me to assess the camp’s established practices and to make suggestions for improvements, and, as a representative of the RSCM, to observe at close quarters what is done at Morland Camp.

Morland Camp was founded, 30 years ago, by Canon Markham who was, at that time, Vicar of Morland. His background as Chaplain to the Forces during World War II – he was with Montgomery at Alamain – and his love of music led him to establish this camp to enable singers in local church choirs, both young and old, and those who listen to them, to find God through music.

He has done this with outstanding success. This year’s course was made up of 22 staff (plus domestic staff), and 86 boys, girls, young men and young women who came from as far away as Kent and Sussex. It speaks volumes for Canon Markham’s vision that almost all the senior staff began their association with Morland Camp when they themselves were children.  The award of an MBE this year for the tireless work he has done in founding and sustaining this camp for so many years has given his innumerable friends and admirers cause for much rejoicing.

 

David Jones, the General Manager of the camp, has attended 24 courses, Anthony Shaw, House-father, 23, Nicholas Willmer, Health and Safety Officer, 22.  Andrew Sackett, one of the two directors of music, began his association with the camp 14 years ago when he was sub-organist of Carlisle Cathedral, and Carleton Etherington, organist of Tewkesbury Abbey, began his association with Morland Choristers’ Camp four years ago as course organist.

This was Andrew Sackett’s last year as MD – he has done a great work here and will be surely missed.

David Jones

 

One senior member of staff, who has attended over 20 Morland camps and given much in return, confided to me that the course meant so much to him that, ‘I just don’t know what I would do without it!’

The village of Morland, with its Saxon church, is set in most beautiful Cumbrian countryside some 20 miles south of Carlisle. The boys and girls return year after year to experience again the joy of making superb music in an incomparable environment.

And so the younger singers at Morland Camp, who range in age from 9 through 15, are joined not only by the older teenagers, (16-17), who are junior leaders, by senior singers (18-19), and by senior advisors (20-22), but also by dedicated adults – including the house father and chaplain – who sing both the church and secular music with their whole hearts.

Tony Shaw and Rev. William Hogg

 

 

The younger teenagers are a fine role model for the boys and girls; the older teenagers provide an admirable role model for their younger brethren, and the adults, who enter so fully into every activity with zest and total dedication, provide an incomparable role model for the younger men and women. The balance of age groups could not be better. Sarah Newman, with Mark Jordan at the piano, led the singing of her specially written secular ‘cantata’, Michael’s Story, thrillingly. This told the story of a boy who is attending his first Morland Camp – with quasi authentic dialogue: ‘My group leader was really cool!’ and with superbly chosen ‘pop’ songs. It was an immediate success and deserves repeating.

 

 

The dedication of every singer was very apparent to me – they gave of themselves wholeheartedly and joyfully, and they reached an amazingly high standard of singing. Thus they form a choir of well over 100 voices.

 

 

 

 

 

The experience of watching their rehearsals and hearing them sing is unforgettable. Unbounded joy and hard work filled the hall for Sarah’s cantata. It was terrific!

A secular concert was given on the Saturday evening in Penrith, and the course ended with two fully choral services in Morland church on Sunday.

 

The standard of singing for Choral Evensong in Carlisle Cathedral on the Friday afternoon could not have been higher. It was one of the most thrilling choral services I have heard. Andrew Sackett conducted his choir with joyful authority, expecting, and getting, the best from his well-rehearsed singers.

 

Carleton Etherington played and accompanied superbly (he is reputed never to have played a wrong note during his four years as course accompanist!) Canon Markham led the spoken parts of the services with inspired authority, and the several solos were sung with confidence, giving much delight to the large congregation, which was made up, largely, of choir parents.

 

Many facets of this camp impressed me:

Everyone joins in all activities with co-operative enthusiasm. Not only with the music-making, but also in moving chairs, setting up, tidying up, keeping robes tidy, maintaining sleeping quarters neatly, and enjoying interacting with one another, whatever their age difference, during breaks.

Superb planning. The reason why the camp runs so smoothly is due not only to the keen anticipation of all who have attended previous camps, but also on account of the meticulous planning by Canon Markham and his team. Not only is the application form a model of efficiency and clarity, but Canon Markham’s army training ensures that no detail is forgotten. The boys and girls are divided into teams – usually six per team. Each team has its own daily duty – and these duties are rotated throughout the week. Posts of special responsibility include hall warden, church warden, lawn games, lost property and shopkeepers. Everyone knows what to do, and does it with a will, so that everything runs smoothly. I was also mightily impressed by the care taken for the children’s well-being: three members of staff are always in touch through walkie-talkies, both day and night.

 

The librarian, Chris Perring, who has attended this course for 15 years, not only looks after all the music and lays it out with the names of each chorister written on the folder. As each chorister, when s/he is auditioned at the start of the course, is not only graded musically, but also measured for height, Chris and his assistant, David Cameron-Mowat, can arrange that the shorter singers are placed in the front rows and the taller in the back!

 

An excellent course music-book had been printed for every singer, with all music (save the Harwood canticles and Stanford’s Te Deum in Bb) for all three services – with the orders of each service meticulously detailed, including said prayers, creed, etc., so that all singers would know what is coming next. Such is a measure of the efficiency of this outstanding course.

 

Chaplain.. The Revd. William Hogg, whose son, James has attended 8 camps and is campsite manager, added much to the course through his joyful Christian presence and the thoughtful manner in which he led morning devotions and Compline. Carrie Thompson, assistant house-mother, (10 camps), led a quasi Iona candlelight service one evening which was very beautiful and attracted well over 20 participants of all ages.

Graces. A feature of all meals was a grace, prepared and sung by each team in turn. Every one was different – every one was jubilant, and all are worthy of being recorded for posterity. ‘It’s a long way to eat our dinner’ (Tipperary) was one of the more traditional offerings!

Catering. Outside caterers were engaged, who provided tasty meals, served punctually and cheerfully, with the aid of the team on duty. Two cleaners were also engaged.

I was much encouraged to learn that, in these days when boy choristers seem to be getting fewer in church choirs, the male/female ratio of younger and older choristers, (excluding staff), was exactly equal. The mix of children was also remarkable. Choristers from three cathedrals – Durham, Lincoln and Carlisle – sang alongside children from churches where there were but few young members.

 

Morning inspections  After breakfast the girls’ dormitory, which doubles as the rehearsal hall, is inspected by a member of staff. The girls are assessed by teams – each team being awarded points which are added to their overall score for the week.

 

I was mightily impressed by the neatness with which the girls had stowed their kit – so as to make the hall readily available for rehearsals – and also by the kindness and perception of those who were doing the inspecting. Every girl and every team entered into the spirit of this element of the course with dedication, good humour and pride.


 

The same went for the inspection of the boys – who camp in army tents in the garden of Morland House. Here again the boys took great pride in preparing for their inspection – one boy even saluted the inspector, Michael Landshoff, in a smart military manner – and, like the girls, many teams lined up in order of size to present a neater display.

 

Showers had been set up for the boys, and also for the girls, and the whole experience of camping added considerable zest to the whole week.

 

Memory Canon Markham sets a competition for every child each year. This year team points were awarded to children who could repeat to Canon Markham, ‘Glory to thee, my God, this night’ (10 points), one of two poems by George Herbert (20 points) or ‘Blest pair of sirens’ by John Milton (30 points).

 

Points for memory, public speaking and inspections were marked up daily on charts in the dining room and prizes were awarded for the winners at the end of the course.

I commend Canon Markham for insisting that every singer should wear ‘Sunday best’ for the service in Carlisle Cathedral. I confess that I felt quite dowdy, being the only adult who didn’t wear a suit for that occasion (not having read the rules sufficiently carefully beforehand!) Not only did the adults wear suits and dark shoes, but so did the teen men – who clearly took both pride and pleasure in wearing their up-to-the minute fashion suits. The boys wore clean white shirts and ties, and all the young ladies looked delightful, too, in their many colours. In these days when it may seem old-fashioned to expect the young to dress formally for church, it is clear that this was no imposition for the Morland choristers, but yet another opportunity to raise their self-esteem which they clearly relished.

Mr & Mrs Freddy Markham Particular gratitude must be given to Freddy Markham, chairman of the Trustees, and Suzie Markham, through whose gracious hostmanship the camp is welcomed into the house and grounds of their historic Morland home for a week once a year. This must cause considerable inconvenience to their family and business lives, and yet they do it willingly and enthusiastically. Without this annual grace the camp would surely cease to be.

It was a tremendous privilege and joy to inspect Morland Choristers’ Camp 2000. My admiration for all you do and seek to achieve, and for everything you are, is unbounded. You asked for ideas for improvement and I am therefore sending you some suggestions, though – as this report indicates – these should be seen in the context of my overall delight at the outstanding quality of the camp. You inspire all who participate in your great work, and I was truly blest by being with you. Thank you!