St Andrew’s Choir – A Proud History

There has been a choir at St Andrew’s Anglican Church South Brisbane for most (if not all) of its 142+ years. In this article, Margaret Powell recounts some of the highlights of the last 70 years.

During the 1950s and 1960s, St Andrew’s Choir had quite a reputation.  The quality of the music was such that the room now used by the bell ringers was set up as a recording studio and used regularly by the ABC and 4KQ for fortnightly radio broadcasts. Click here to view a sample radio broadcast program.

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1950s. St Andrew’s Choir after a Sunday morning service

A Three Choirs Festival was held in June 1958 on the 75th Anniversary of the dedication and consecration of St Andrew’s Anglican Church South Brisbane.  It combined the choirs of St Luke’s, Toowoomba, the Church of England Grammar School Chapel, and St Andrew’s. 

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The three combined choirs who performed at St Andrew’s during the Three Choirs Festival, June 1958

During Rev Evan Wetherell’s incumbency, Ted Salisbury was choirmaster and organist.  Michael Wentzell led the choir for a short while when Rev Bill Carter was rector and Michael was followed by Ian McKinley. 

Under Ian’s direction the choir became skilled at singing unaccompanied psalms and anthems.  Sung services by well-known composers such as Stanford and Wood were a regular part of the worship in the 9.30 am Sunday services and at Evensong.  During Ian’s time as choirmaster, a large-scale refurbishment of the organ took place and the choir featured largely in concerts Ian organized to raise funds for the organ project.  As well, the choir regularly took part in Royal Society of Choral Music (RSCM) events. 

Tom Aitken continued the music tradition when he replaced Ian early in Rev Tom Wood’s incumbency.  Near the end of Rev John Arnold’s time as rector, Roland Bartkowiak accepted the position of organist /choir master and continued under Rev Alan Moore until December 1998 when Margaret Powell was appointed Director of Music Ministry.

Margaret was St Andrew’s organist and choir director for 13 years. A young Queensland Conservatorium student, David Jenkin, ably assisted with the organ playing and accompanying the choir from 2008 to 2011. Then, during 2012 until September 2013, David led the choir and played the organ while Margaret continued choosing the music for the services.

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The formal dress robes of St Andrew’s Choir have changed over the years

St Andrew’s Choir has always played a significant role in Good Friday, Easter and Christmas Eve Services.  St Andrew’s Day is a highlight each November.  Additional singers from the congregation are invited to join the choir on these occasions.  Mention should be made of the 125th Anniversary Service in which Ian McKinley’s anthem, “Choose Life” was presented by the choir and St Andrew’s Community Orchestra. It was inspirational!

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Ian McKinley and Margaret Powell after the performance of Ian’s anthem “Choose Life” at St Andrew’s, 2003.

Significant concerts involving the choir, additional singers from other choirs, and on a couple of occasions the Orchestra Corda Spiritus, raised funds for the restoration of the organ, the first stage of which was completed in 2010.  Such concerts were HymnFest (2004), JoyFest (2005), ThanksFest (2008) and Heartfest (2009).

With David Jenkin’s departure for overseas study, Sophie Jung was appointed organist in September 2013.  Margaret continued leading the choir until 2019 when Cherylene Taylor was appointed Music Director for the 8.30 am Sunday service, and choirmaster. 

Today, St Andrew’s Choir leads the singing during the 8.30 am Sunday services and continues to contribute much to the Good Friday, Easter and Christmas Eve Services.

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St Andrew’s Choir leading the Christmas Eve service, 24 December 2020

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