Local Face: Philip Burton

Back in the heady house buying days of 1988, Philip and Mary Burton were looking for something rather special. Wendover was the outer limit of their search and eventually provided the ideal: within sensible travelling distance from work and in the hinterland of a cluster of independent breweries – Philip is a connoisseur of beer.

When not walking Quincy, his black collie, Philip runs and is a regular participant in the Coombe Hill Race.

For a while Philip and Mary continued to attend St Albans Abbey, where they were married, but finally discovered St Mary’s Wendover. Peter Thomas was the very successful and innovative organist and choirmaster at the time and Philip helped him with preparations for Christmas 1990. Chris Shell took over in September 1991 who moved to Bible College in September 1992 when Philip took over.

Philip brought to the job a degree in music and experience as a concert pianist. An occasional organist for his father, an Anglican Vicar, he well understood the musical requirements. His work in Health Service general management brought skills essential to the running of a voluntary organisation.

When Philip started, the choir had 10 committed people. Now up to 40 can be called on for special occasions of whom 8 are men and 13 Juniors. There is a training programme for Juniors including a professional singing teacher working with Philip. The Junior choir is divided into intermediate and senior levels according to ability, aptitude and commitment. They also meet on Saturdays as required.

The choir is well-loved and respected by the congregation of St Mary’s and the general Christian community. Their repertoire is varied and challenging according to Season, Taste and Age. It has included Gregorian Chant, Baroque, Traditional Anglican, French, Russian, Taize, Ionian, South African and Modem such as, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson or Gorecki. Music is part of the Sunday morning service, at Evensong once a month, Weddings, Confirmations, and all the big Feasts: Harvest, Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and inductions for new vicars!

Philip and the choir benefit greatly from the skills of choir members who can take a section away to practice. The commitment of the whole choir is renowned, many members often coming straight from the train, without a meal, on a Friday night whatever the weather. The full choir sometimes has pre-service rehearsals at 9.00am on Sunday mornings. Part-time organists, Brian Freshney and Steven Judge help share the load.

St Mary’s Choir has been appearing in the Annual Epiphany Concert at St Anne’s since January 1994 and featured strongly in the first Liffre Church Twinning which coincided with St Anne’s Patronal Feast in July 1994 and in the Parish Council’s 100 year celebration. At ecumenical events members of participating churches also come under Philip’s leadership.

Philip is currently preparing St Mary’s choir for the joint Advent Service at 6.00pm on Sunday 3rd December in St Mary’s featuring Advent Carols and Readings and Carols by Candlelight at 6.00pm on Sunday 17th December in St Mary’s as well as the Christmas services. After the Epiphany concert, St Mary’s choir has been invited to sing at Candlemas in St Anne’s on Friday 2nd February, Confirmation on Saturday 3rd February and the Induction of the new Vicar of Wendover, Revd Canon Hugh Marshall on Friday 23rd February.

All this and Philip still has time to work full time for the NHS and occasionally lectures at local schools on Business Studies and Marketing. Aylesbury Music Centre sometimes uses him to accompany children for Grade 8 exams and candidates for the Audi Young Musician of the Year.