Suffolk student writes hymn inspired by St Mary’s Church in Ufford
In St Mary’s Ufford the organ music swells. Lee Merritt, director of music, is teaching some members of the church choir his latest hymn.
The 31-year-old said: “I have been the director of music here for about two years. It involves preparing and providing music for church worship and events. I play the organ here every Sunday and also teach and mentor the church choir.”
Lee, an Open University mathematics student, has had a love of music for as long as he can remember.
He said: “I gained a scholarship to King’s Ely where I sang in the cathedral choir. I play the piano and organ.”
Playing the church’s electric organ – it has a pipe organ as well – Lee is practicing his latest hymn “Ufford”.
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He said: “The tune is called Ufford and I wrote it for the congregation in mind. I wrote it in the church. When you sing in a choir it goes to the very centre of who you are and when people get together to sing they do so with their souls and inner convictions. Music has huge social, communal and spiritual significance.”
In the key of E flat major, the hymn is Lee’s second. He wrote “Ipswich” earlier in the year and is now working on a third.
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He said: “I always get the feeling that when people rehearse in a choir they are recharged, repaired and restored. There is more going on than simply singing the music.”
The choir, which was started by Lee, has just over 20 members. Lee said: “Hymns have been written for hundreds of years so it is not surprising that more hymns are being written than ever before.”
But while he’s able to come up with the music and harmonies, Lee admits the words are not his forte – so step in Andy Mason.
Together Lee and Andy have pooled their skills.
Andy, a retired doctor and well known in the county for his work as a front line responder with the Suffolk Accident Rescue Service (SARS), said he finds it easier to write words rather than music.
The hymn starts with the phrase “At the rising of the dawn.”
Andy described the creative process: “I knew Lee and we decided to combine forces. We worked out it is best for Lee to come up with a tune and then for me to put words to it, the process doesn’t take me long once you get going. Though I do like to tinker with the words a bit afterwards.”
Andy said he is currently preparing an acrostic hymn – a style in which the first letters of each line spell out a relevant word or phrase.
Choir member Bill Brammer, a retired bio chemist, said he has been impressed with Lee and Andy’s hymn writing.
He said: “I really enjoy the camaraderie of the choir. I have been very impressed by the quality and accessibility of the hymns they have written.”
Karen Eyres, an alto, joined the choir when it started in October 2013. She said: “Choir practice has helped restore my voice. I have always enjoyed church music and I think Ufford is a lovely hymn and easy to sing.”
Lee said he hoped the hymn would inspire others in their journey of faith.
He added: “I hope it will inspire others, of this church and further afield, and bring alive the good news of the Gospel.”