The text of the history section is from the Parish History, written by Des Keohane. The printed version is available from the Church for £3.50 and may be requested by post, at extra cost for postage. Any amendments or additions are welcomed – please send by email to Fr Andrew
Instrumental Music at Gregory’s
As recorded earlier, St Gregory’s has a long tradition of choral music accompanied by the organ. Today that tradition is maintained in the Sung Mass at 11 am on Sunday and at all the major liturgies in the Church calendar under the direction of our Organist and Choirmaster Alec Unsworth.
Alongside this tradition, another has developed over the years in the playing at Mass of a wide range of wind, string and percussion instruments. This first manifested itself in the Folk Masses which began post-Vatican 2 and continued for several years (see pages 27 and 64 ). They mainly involved young people and, as they moved away, Folk Masses declined and disappeared.
However, over recent years a new, regular and sustained use of instrumental music has been established. This owes much to Rosemary Sefton, our regular organist at the 9 am Mass on Sunday. Rosemary started with her own children playing mainly recorders to the accompaniment of the organ, and this group grew to include other young people and a wider range of instruments. At first, the instrumentalists only played on the first Sunday in the month but, as they have grown in numbers (now nearly 20 strong) and proficiency, they began the current practice of playing every Sunday as well as on some special occasions. Most members are secondary school or University students, young people in their 20s with a few older players.
Their playing involves many instruments: guitars, drum, trumpet, euphonium, recorders, flutes, clarinet, saxophone. They play all the music of the Mass. Their commitment and high standard do us a great service.
Yet a more recent development from the Sunday group is the Saturday evening Music Group. This group includes some of the same members but also other musical parishioners of all ages. It plays for Mass on Confirmation Preparation days as well as on other occasions. Its range of instruments includes guitars, violin, double bass, piano, flutes, recorders, ukulele, tin whistle and drum, and the group also includes singers. On Saturday evenings they play below the Shrine to Our Lady and use keyboard accompaniment. Their choice of music includes modern/recently composed items and they practice enthusiastically. The highlight of 2009 was proudly leading the music for the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Walsingham. More recently still Maria Heath and members of the Evangelisation Team are providing musical accompaniment nearly every Saturday evening, greatly enhancing the musical experience of Sunday Mass at St Gregory’s.
The introduction of Sacramental Preparation Programmes within the Parish has been an important spiritual development. It reflects the growing uneasiness both in parishes and in the schools themselves, burdened as they are with National Curriculum demands, at sacramental preparation being given in the schools. Dedicated teams of clergy and lay people, drawn from our parishioners, now undertake this work.
Preparation for First Holy Communion
For many years a parish team prepared children from non-Catholic schools for Holy Communion. The team now undertakes preparation for all the children of the Parish making their First Holy Communion.
Confirmation Preparation Programme
Confirmation preparation has also become a Parish provision. The initial offering of classes on a Friday evening presented problems to parents and pupils owing to the heavier homework commitments now of Year 7 students at the school, and, with the closure of the Middle Schools, the students are in their first year at Secondary School with social pressures making evening attendance difficult.
The new Confirmation Preparation Programme is moving towards a four-year curriculum, in which there are three sessions each year, Autumn, Spring, and Summer, running on Saturday afternoons from 1 pm until and including Mass at 6 pm. The scheme is a rolling programme over the four years, where the objective is not so much as to deliver a body of knowledge as to incorporate the young people in the life of the Church through worship, activities such as Justice and Peace, international aid and development, social action, prayer and Scripture reading.
Improvements to the Church 2008-2009
The Heating System
As has been noted earlier in this History, the heating of the Church has caused regular problems over the years. In more recent times, too, on too many occasions breakdowns and technical problems have left the church unheated and bewildered the “experts” called in to deal with it. Finally, the firm B.R.Own, heating engineers, was called in and provided a most effective and reliable service but they were dealing with an elderly and inefficient boiler. The chilly Autumn 2008 brought matters to a head. On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the congregation was asked whether they would be willing to pay £1 each every week for six months to pay for new boilers. The proposal was accepted pretty much without dissent and the order was placed with B.R.Own on the following Monday morning. Two Condensing Boilers in tandem were installed at a cost of £6 000. Remarkably, the entire work was done in three days and the boilers were commissioned on Christmas Eve. The system is proving both efficient and reliable.
The Sound System
Another problem over the years had been the loudspeaker system and various attempts to improve it had been made, but with limited success. The height of the church gave some difficulty and the need to switch microphones on and off could cause problems. To improve audibility a completely new system has now been installed, which runs entirely on radio microphones. There is a control desk in the choir loft and other sound sources can be incorporated into the system such as an iPod. The installation was undertaken by Phoenix Soundworks of Earls Barton, on the recommendation of Bernard Hewett of the music group Phineas Fogg. The cost was £1 700.
The Toilet Area
This amenity, situated off the vestibule, serves both the Church and the Parish Centre. It provides the usual toilet facilities but also a facility designed for the Disabled. There are also baby-changing facilities. The plans for the area were drawn up by our parishioner, Architect Anthony Healey. The toilet area needed completion by the provision of tiling and new lino on the floors. This has now been done thanks to another parishioner, Pat Franks, who did much of the work himself and monitored work done by contractors. There was a significant anonymous donation which covered the cost of the lino but the cost, in addition, was £1 800. It is to be noted that this cost and the cost of the Sound System (above) was paid by the Parish whilst still raising money for the Organ Fund.
Saturday Evening and Sunday Masses are now relayed to the vestibule so that Mass may be followed by anyone, who, for whatever reason, is unable to be in the body of the church.