Ovingham choristers scoop prestigious award

Margaret Turnbull, music director at St Mary the Virgin Church in Ovingham, Northumberland, said it was one of the proudest moments in her 50 years in the post

Choristers from Ovingham who have won awards
Choristers from Ovingham who have won awards

A group of teenage girls who perform in the choir of a North East village church have each won a prestigious award.

Margaret Turnbull, music director at St Mary the Virgin Church in Ovingham, Northumberland, said it was one of the proudest moments in her 50 years in the post.

Sisters Victoria and Sophie Halford along with Alex Skelly, Emily Flood, Emma Howarth and Bridget Ford, were presented with their awards after a service at the church yesterday.

The girls, aged 14 to 16, won a silver medal in the Bishops Chorister Awards, a national scheme run by the Royal School of Church Music.

Margaret said: “To have six members of the same choir win it at the same time is very rare. I can’t remember it happening before, particularly when you think of somewhere the size of Ovingham.

“If you think of the Newcastle diocese as a whole, you usually have one or two at a time.”

To win it, the girls were assessed on their singing as well as their knowledge of their local church and assessed by an outside invigilator.

Margaret said: “They’ve been in the choir between five and seven years.

“They come here on Friday nights between 6.30pm and 7.30pm and come to the Eucharist service on Sunday morning at 9.30.

“It’s been quite a commitment for girls of this age. It’s quite an achievement to get six teenage girls in the choir and keep them coming back for up to seven years.”

The Royal School of Church Music - originally named the School of English Church Music - was founded in 1927 and is the largest such organisation in Britain and has members worldwide.

The girls, who all live locally, received a medal and a certificate to mark their achievement.

“It’s great that they make a commitment to their church. Alright, they’re not here every week, you’ve got to be flexible these days, you can’t impose yourself on young people.”

The choir is well known in the community, often doing fund raising performances to benefit diverse charities and campaigns including helping the Cumbria Floods to those in the Philippines.

However in the next few months charity will have to begin at home as they will be featuring in concerts to raise money to fund a new heating system in the old church.

Margaret added: “I’m so very proud of the girls. It was lovely service today and one everyone who came along to really enjoyed.”

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