Oddsong is an a capella choir that sings matins at St Mary's Church, Salcott, Essex CM9 8HL, at 11am on the fourth Sunday of every month.
Matins (or mattins) was the first of the nine offices of the monastic "liturgy of the hours". In the Church of England, matins is commonly taken to refer to the service of Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer. This dates back the time of the Tudors, and its Shakespearean language is 'sublime' — or 'obscure', depending on your viewpoint.
The service of morning prayer has three canticles — the Venite, the Te Deum, and the Benedictus or Jubilate — which are commonly chanted, as is the psalm appointed for the day. (There are dozens of different chants to choose from, many of them rather hypnotic.) Add to that two sets of responses, an anthem, and two or three hymns, and the service offers plenty to sing and plenty to listen to.
Matins at St Mary's usually lasts just over an hour, and coffee and biscuits are available afterwards — or feel free to make a strategic retreat if you prefer.
You can confirm that the service is going to take place, and see what else is happening across the benefice, by looking at the notice sheet for the current week.
About St Mary's, Salcott
St Mary the Virgin, Salcott-cum-Virley, to be precise, is a Grade II* listed 14th-Century-and-later church in a small Essex village located on the salt-marsh: the name 'Salcott' (salt-cottage) refers to the historic production of sea-salt. St Mary's itself is only about 50 metres from the tidal water which intermittently graces Virley creek.
In the past, Salcott was habitually flooded by the sea, and no doubt the villagers became used to that. Less expected must have been the Essex Earthquake of 1884, which partially destroyed St Mary's. Surprisingly, the perpendicular-style tower remained intact, but the nave had to be rebuilt, and the Victorians took the opportunity to extend the chancel.
The church has a pipe organ in the base of the tower, but it is of marginal utility and we do not disturb its slumber. An electronic organ is apparently on its way, and we will cheerfully ignore that too.
The acoustics are good, despite the length of the chancel, and — if you discount the occasional flypast from Stanstead, and a bit of local activity — the church is blissfully quiet: just the wind soughing round the tower on a blowy Sunday morning.
Oddsong was formed in 2016 because no organist was available for the monthly evensong (geddit?) services in Tollesbury and Tolleshunt D'Arcy churches. That is why we are an 'a capella', or unaccompanied, choir — although we have a cheap and cheerful treble recorder to give us the pitch and play the tune for the congregation.
In 2017, evensong services in Tollesbury and D'Arcy were discontinued, and we transferred our allegiance (within the benefice) to Salcott: first to sing evensong; and then we were promoted to matins.
The number of Oddsingers fluctuates, but there are usually about half a dozen of us. The photo above shows the line-up in Summer 2018.
We don't do a lot of recording, but here are a couple of excerpts from the run-throughs for Christmas events in 2017 and 2018 — which we captured in St Mary's for, er, training purposes. These tracks, made with a little audio recorder, are warts-and-all: no retakes and no subsequent doctoring.
2017: Puer natus in Bethlehem
We would be very pleased to hear from anyone who is interested in joining Oddsong. We have no formal requirements: you may not sight-read particularly well — singers have different ways of picking up a part — but you do need to be able to get up to speed with several new pieces of music each month. Rehearsals currently take place in Tollesbury weekly, on Tuesday evenings.
At the moment we have no altos, and so we seek out suitable three-part music. We were never happy with the standard settings of the matins and evensong responses — especially the bizarre falling cadence on "joyful". There are many fancy settings of the responses available, suitable for posh choirs, but not much that's easy to sing unaccompanied. So we have written our own three-part responses. If you are in a choir with no altos, and would like to try them, here are PDFs of the first and second sets. XML files are available on request. And perhaps we will record ourselves singing them some time. . . .
To find out more about Oddsong or matins at St Mary's Salcott, please contact John Woodwark.
This page was last updated on 11 February 2019.