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Saturday, 24 May 2008

Trying the patience of Canon Byrne

"Sidcup John" wrote the following in the comment box on Hymn to St John Fisher. This fascinating reminiscence from over 50 years ago might be worth some space in the next school magazine:
I have just discovered these interesting comments about the School Hymn to Saint John Fisher.

I attended 1950 - 1960. In the early 50's (Soon after the date of the Coronation, but unconnected with that event) Mr McHugo (music teacher) selected a number of 'golden- voiced' boys (including me), who were then marched to the common room to be met by the Canon, Father Waugh (Deputy Head), Mr Agnew (Secretary) and Malachy 2 (Red Setter).

We were asked to sing the Hymn.

I think that it was by way of a venture to test our suitability for later recording by a professional sound man, who was a friend of the School. Although, it may have also been connected with a proposed performance to be given in front of Bishop Cowderoy (as he was then) and also a Sidcup man. I understand that Saint John Fisher, at one time, had a property near to the site of the present day Saint George's Cathedral so, it would have been fitting for the Hymn to be sung there.

The Canon struggled to record our not-so-golden tones over a period of weeks. At the end it was just the Canon and we boys. Even Malachy had been escorted out, for wailing. I wonder if the School has any surviving remnant of the recording?

I do not know when the Canon wrote the original Hymn but, he adjusted it several times whilst we mangled it. The music had been written by another, possibly Sayers, but this was also modified a little in an attempt to accommodate our range. We all struggled to fit the meter to the tune. But, as I remember, the music did not appear at all difficult; although it did seem a bit slow to me.

I kept my copy of the Hymn with the Canon's markings and alterations for several years but, I no longer have it.

There were additional lines in my copy. I assume that, if it was revamped at a later date, these were considered unsuitable. They appeared to worry the Canon. He was not sure they would be appreciated or understood by school boys.

At the time, the exercise did not fill us with joy (I think we would have even preferred a run to the 'Iron Gate').

The Canon was not filled with joy at our performance either.

His normally endless patience was sorely tested. He was a great man and it is a shame that we boys were too young to appreciate his fine writing.
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