Memories of The Lichfield Choristers

Who knows the song "Why Build a Wall Round a Cemetery when No One Wants to Get In?". No? You don't know it? Well you need to take your mind back to the mid 1970s and recall TV programmes like Nationwide and That's Life. If that doesn't help, then you perhaps weren't living in Lichfield at the time and won't remember four slightly irreverent singers from Lichfield Cathedral Choir who called themselves The Lichfield Choristers.

One of the four, Bob White, came along after our AGM on 24th February, armed with pictures and musical memories of the group who achieved a brief national fame, though some, especially those more senior members of the cathedral community took a quiet, but, one suspects, dim view of their antics.

They started off by singing at the long lost Arts Centre , singing Stock Market returns to Gregorian Chant, turning Lichfield Council Byelaws into song and generally composing interesting ditties to well known tunes. Try imagining a song about Guy Fawkes set to Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks. or the Government's advice on Heating and Lighting Restrictions during the 1970s three day week set to John Brown's Body and you'll get the idea.

First, it was local TV who spotted them, leading to last minute dashes to Pebble Mill to record items for topical BBC news programmes. Then they moved to national TV. Appearances followed on That's Life, Nationwide and radio and TV programmes for which trips to London had to be fitted in with both their "day jobs" as teachers and their commitments to the Cathedral Choir. British Airways persuaded them to record songs for "easy listening" on Concorde flights. More and more songs were composed, some using words from instruction manuals some with new lyrics, but set to familiar tunes.

Bob explained that all this activity didn't make them rich men. BBC fees reached the dizzy heights of 7 per person in the 1970s. (Some muttering about Jonathan Ross was heard at this stage from the audience). Then the bombshell arrived. One of the group, Peter Noyce, the composer of the witty lyrics and an assistant organist at the Cathedral was told that his services would no longer be required. He was forced to leave Lichfield and the group's geographical separation proved to be an insurmountable problem to their continuance. Perhaps this presentation had little relationship to the Society's objectives, but it was a welcome break from some of the more weighty issues with which the Society finds itself confronted. Oh, by the way, the other two members of the Lichfield Choristers were Mel John and Bob Boyd. Now do you remember them?

Roger Hockney
February 2010