St. Cuthbert’s Church has a long tradition of fine choral and organ music. Over 100 years ago in 1912 a very fine three manual pipe organ was installed. With regular maintenance and constant use it continues to be a very appropriate instrument to lead the congregation in hymn singing and provide the accompaniment for the service anthems or introits. Sunday and celebratory services and weddings are hugely enhanced by the ability of the organ to fill the whole building with beautiful music.
The choir members currently meet at 10.15 prior to Sunday morning service to prepare the praise list and forthcoming anthems.
Over the years regular charity and fundraising concerts were directed by Joan Gordon who held the position of organist and choir mistress from 1979 until 2014. For these events, additional members were recruited from other churches in the community and on occasion, professional singers many of whom became involved with music in the locality, returned to perform with their first teacher.
ORGANISTS from 1908
Information supplied by Joan Gordon
James Fulton 1895 – 1927
A very accomplished musician who had been organist prior to the move to the new church.
R. Barrett-Watson 1927 – 1929
Previously organist at Aboyne and at College and Kelvingrove U F. Church, Glasgow. After coming to Saltcoats, he gave a series of fifteen monthly organ recitals of a high quality at the close of the evening service. He also proved his ability in another capacity as Conductor of Dalry Choral Society.
Alex. M. Arnott 1929 – 1948
Always made it known he was not an organist – rather a Choir master! Each year he presented “The Messiah” changing very occasionally to other Oratorios with much local support for his Oratorio Choir of 90 members. The organists on these occasions were either Purcell, J. Mansfield or Thomas Sharples, P. T. Music Ardrossan Academy, who had gained B. Mus. Degree at 17 years of age in Manchester and had played for Huddersfield Oratorio Choir at an early age.
Lesley Thornton 1949 – 1962
His exceptional organ skills were recognized by Rev. Dr. Smart who was also an accomplished musician and together they developed the Choir’s choral skills. Occasional recitals involved Lesley’s friends from Ayr including Bryden Thomson, who became a notable Scottish Orchestral conductor gaining renown for his work at home and abroad. About this time the choir recorded many pieces for radio for the Evening Prologue and the fees received were set aside to build up a fund for robes which had always been an aspiration of Dr. Smart.
Jim Johnston 1962 – 1966
Maintained the tradition of fine organ music and good choral work with occasional recitals.
Lex Dunlop 1966 – 1978
Brought to the position his forthright, jubilant personality, combined with outstanding organ skills and choral techniques. In 1969 the B.B.C. made a number of T.V. programmes in the church. He conducted both “Songs of Praise” and involved Church Choirs of Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston with Joan Gordon at the organ who also accompanied a schools T.V. service with Ken Hetherington and Roy Howat from Ardossan Academy. Lex was at the organ in a 1977 B.B.C. Radio Scotland “Word for Living” programme led by Rev. Dr. Balls and the Church Choir. Mozart’s “Requiem Mass” was performed in 1978 with Professional soloists and an orchestra led by Stewart Robertson.
Christopher Brightman 1978 – 1979
Was organist for only a short period due to work commitments but was significant in affiliating the St. Cuthbert’s Choir to the Royal School of Church Music. Many new ideas and music can be derived from this source as well as keeping in touch with Church musicians across the country.
Joan Gordon 1979 – 2014
Maintains and sustains the tradition of musical excellence associated with St. Cuthbert’s Church. Continues with the support of choir members to present Sunday Anthems throughout the Church year as well as Annual Charity Concerts conducted by her daughter Suzy Hands with Professional Singers most of whom are former pupils. During her “reign” choir members have taken part in musical occasions in Glasgow Cathedral, St. Giles, Paisley Abbey and Ayr organised by the Royal School of Church Music. Her encouragement and enthusiasm over the years has consistently introduced young people to singing, piano and organ playing. Many have made professional careers at home and abroad.
Rosemary Smith 2014 –
A graduate of Joan Gordon’s organ tuition, Rosemary has assumed the role of organist and choir mistress with ability and enthusiasm. As a member of the soprano section of the church choir since her school days, she has a full knowledge of the choir repertoire but also is happy to broaden her selection of anthems. Members of the congregation are also encouraged to submit “requests”.