CHURCH CHOIRS in CAPEL
By Adrienne Bishop
In common with almost every other parish in the United Kingdom, the benefice of Tudeley cum Capel with Five Oak Green (now known as Capel United due to the Ecumenical Partnership it has with the United Reformed Church on Badsell Road) has had a long tradition of music making. The churches of St Thomas a Becket in Capel, All Saints in Tudeley and St Luke's in the village have all had choirs to enhance church services as has the United Reformed Church. The choir of the United Reformed Church won awards in the Choral Contest Challenge Shield which was run by the Tunbridge Wells and District Sunday School Union.
Prior to the twentieth century and for some time into the middle of that century, the local press would be on hand to record with great enthusiasm the various church events ('a capital programme of vocal and instrumental music', reported the local paper in December 1893) in the parish including the annual choir outings to Hastings or Folkestone and Dover. The children would travel by train to their seaside destination and on return to Tonbridge, tired and probably sun burnt, they would be collected by the horses and carts owned by local farmers, some of the descendants of whom continue to farm in the parish, and taken back to their homes. Even private parties held at parishioners' homes for the choir members would be recorded in the local paper. Whist Drives were regular fund raising events and dances were held at Goldsmid Hall.
In such a rural area, Harvest plays an important part, not only in village life but in the life of the Church with the Plough Service, now known as Rogation Sunday, to bless the crops and Harvest Festivals to give thanks for that year's Harvest being held annually throughout the benefice. Along with the usual Sunday services - both Sunday morning services as well as Evensong - special services would have been accompanied by the choirs of the benefice, led by a Choirmaster and accompanied by the Organist.
the parish was a hop growing area, there would have been Choral Evensongs to
mark the end of the hop picking season and to wish those who had travelled from
London for the season the very best and to hope they would return the following
Many residents will remember Herbert Dolding who took over as Organist in 1929 at the age of 18. He was the son of George Dolding, himself a member of Tudeley Church Choir, and he accompanied church services until his retirement in 1991 after sixty two years in the post. Herbert Dolding was presented with a gift by the then Incumbent, the Reverend Francis Minay on attaining fifty years in the post. He was 68 at the time and said to be "considering retiring soon".
Many residents remember with affection their time with one of the church choirs, whether singing solely for one of the three or being part of a combined choir for festivals.