By taking us through a normal day in the life of an average parish church, we will explore how medieval churches were used on a daily basis and why they were therefore designed and built as they were – and then why they were modified as time went on (an aspect that frequently puzzled Pevsner) because ceremonies and music became ever more elaborate. We'll discover that we can still signs of this in our medieval churches in England for ourselves, as we are guided round a ‘composite’ church you’ll learn how you can do this for yourself with a bit of imagination and some basic knowledge. This will add hugely to your experience of a church building, bringing it back to life irrespective of its architectural style(s), setting, or comparative poverty or affluence. Even what may seem at first glance to be the smallest and most modest of churches can show us something of their previously busy sonic and sun-lit lives. At the other end of the scale, a large and well-staffed town church in a port or market town was the arena for an unceasing round of many different activities, from dawn to dusk.
This talk is given by Martin Renshaw. Martin is a musician, born in Leicester to a curate’s house in Cardinal’s Walk, trained as a singer at St Paul's Cathedral 1955-59 under John Dykes-Bower, then as the Cantoris tenor lay clerk at Canterbury Cathedral 1970-77 with Allan Wicks, and has spent his professional life singing as soloist or in small ensembles for festivals and other concerts : three voices (Canterbury Clerkes), four voices (Quatuor Raspiev, in Russian but based in France) and the Maîtrise de Bretagne, the Ensemble Vocal de Nantes and small church choirs in France and (currently) in London. He also sang with Kent Opera in the 1970s and was a member of the core staff of Shepway Youth Opera in the 1980s.
He has an Oxford degree in the English, Latin and Anglo-Saxon Languages and Literature, and has written many articles and lectured on organ history and more recently on medieval church and social history (see his ground-breaking web-site : Soundmedieval.org) and has to date published three books, with two more currently being written. This is in addition to having spent all his life since a teenager restoring and making historically-based organs, and – when time allows - playing them too.
He has saved about 40 fine English organs by restoring and exporting them to continental countries, chiefly France. He is also a French citizen and lives in London, southern Tuscany or southern Brittany, according to where work and lockdowns take him and Dr Victoria Harding, his life and research partner. He is currently a member of the Council of the British Institute of Organ Studies and is setting up a small Trust to put historic organs in unexpected places.