In the beginning…
Noël Tredinnick was appointed as Director of Music at All Souls Church in the Summer of 1972, charged by the then rector, Michael Baughen, to make use of the instrumental talent in the church to form an orchestra alongside the already-existing choir and to introduce contemporary music for the congregations to sing – so within a few years the All Souls Orchestra was born!
The All Souls Orchestra first emerged as a musical entity in a rather primitive form (odd mix of clarinets, trombones and violins!). Despite that within a short space of time, as there was nothing else like it at the time, the Orchestra was soon in demand beyond the bounds of the church to play for Christian rallies and conferences (such as a CYFA rally at the Royal Albert Hall and NEAC at Nottingham University and the Psalm Praise launch). Rapidly the PP 77Orchestra even gained experience of television exposure through ‘Songs of Praise’ programmes, and recordings.
The Prom Praise formula first saw the light of day in All Souls in October 1977, containing the now familiar mixture of orchestral repertoire, music for solo vocalist, and lots of audience participation. The first event outside of All Souls was at Sheffield Cathedral in 1978; this was soon followed by visits to Bury St Edmunds, Oxford, Spitalfields and so on.
For the first few years in the life of Prom Praise different solutions had to be found to support the ever-growing popularity of the event. When it all became too much for the Vestry staff at All Souls, Today Magazine came to the rescue and took on both the role of administration and financial support. So it was they that enabled Prom Praise to move out of All Souls, which was becoming overcrowded, and produce the first ‘professional’ Prom Praise in the newly built Barbican concert Hall in the City of London on 12 November 1983 which became an annual event for the next few years.
After Today Magazine stepped down in 1986, Langham Arts was brought into existence to support the continuing ministry – their first task was merely to book and arrange the debut at the Royal Albert Hall in 1988!
This was the start of a very stimulating and exciting time which included some broader creative endeavours with tours of ‘On the Light Side’, involving actors and singers; ‘Christmas Spirit’ with Riding Lights Theatre Company; and the popular ‘Big Band Praise’.
Prom Praise went from strength to strength with what has become one of the Royal Albert Hall’s regular diary entries, taking at least one event pretty much every year since 1988, alongside continuing invitations to many great venues around the county. They even got some Prime-Ministerial endorsement when Margaret Thatcher attended both the Barbican and early Royal Albert Hall events.
During this time they had a number of ‘celebrity’ guests including Cliff Richard, long-time friend of All Souls and the relationship with Graham Kendrick resulted in the two enormously successful Kendrick Collection albums.
The first ‘Prom Praise’ recordings came out during this time with ‘Crown Him’ from the Wembley Conference Centre and in 1988 the Royal Albert Hall concert was recorded, the first of an on-going series right up to the present day. They also attracted the attention of BBC Radio 2 who took the event for their Easter schedule over three consecutive years.
This period also saw the Orchestra going beyond our own shores for the first time, with a very exciting invitation from the Billy Graham Organisation to present two pre-crusade events in the concert hall of the prestigious Moscow Conservatoire in October 1992.
A period of working to strengths as Prom Praise continues to fill venues with new audiences around the country – the most recent addition being a début in the marvellous new venue The Sage Gateshead in 2006, when the evening performance sold out so quickly we were persuaded to put on a matinée as well!
Also during this time there were a number of special opportunities to take the ministry overseas, with notable journeys to Bulgaria in 2000 and 2001, the Holy Land (2002) and Oberammergau (2003) and the First Presbyterian Church in Athens, in 2004 (as part of their mission during the Olympic Games) and 2005.
New faces also joined the guests during this time including internationally-respected opera singer Jonathan Veira, American gospel singer Crystal Lewis, the African Children’s Choir; rising rock singer and worship leader Doug Walker; and for the 2007 anniversary event, Stuart Townend and Chris Eaton. 1999 saw an outstanding event with the celtic-rock group Iona.
Since 2002 an exciting outreach to the younger generation has grown up in the Prom Praise for Schools project with amazing events at the Royal Albert Hall. The project continues to flourish and is now planning a seventh event at RAH in March 2015.
Recording ministry has continued by adding visual to the audio, when the Songs of Praise team came to use the1999 concert for a programme was were able to produce a full-length video, which has more recently been converted to DVD, and in 2007 the 30th Anniversary event was recorded for CD & DVD (available, along with other more recent titles, in the shop).
2008 – present
The work goes on as invitations continue to pour in with new venues every year, both in the UK and overseas. 2008 saw a part of the Orchestra take a four venue tour of Greece stretching from Alexandropolis in the North to Athens in the South in partnership with the Greek Evangelical churches wishing to offer a gift to their communities; in 2009 another group took All Souls music to Syria with concerts in Damascus and Aleppo. Since 2010 we have been developing an ever strengthening connection in rural France to support the ministry of the minority churches there.
Other special guests have been added to the rosta, as a number of well-known guests have joined Prom Praise events, including Keith & Kristyn Getty, Lou Fellingham and Phatfish, X-Factor finalist Beverley Trotman, Graham Kendrick and most recently at the 2014 event Martin Smith and Paul Baloche (recordings available in the shop).
In September 2008, Langham Arts America was launched. This American sister was brought to life to help the UK team expand the ministry of the All Souls Orchestra even further afield and is an exciting development.
The story goes on – we’re not finished yet!