Provincial press releases

Musical vicar retires on a high note

A Rhondda vicar who has put music at the heart of his ministry is organising a final community singing festival to mark his retirement.

Father Paul Bigmore, who has been Vicar of Ynyshir for more than 20 years, is holding a traditional ‘Cymanfa Ganu’ as a farewell celebration at St Anne’s Church, on Saturday (March 25) and everyone is invited.

The festival will be compered by the broadcaster Roy Noble and the guest musical director will be Timothy Hill.  It will feature the Pendyrus Male Choir, the guest organist Jeffrey Howard and the soprano soloist Salli Kingsbury.

Included on the programme will be six hymns written by Father Paul to old Welsh melodies, taken from his recent book, “Songs of Praise – the Valleys Sing”. While the service is free, all funds raised will be donated to two local schools, Ynyshir Community School and Ysgol Gynradd Llwyncelyn.

Choristers from Canterbury Cathedral visited St Anne's Church in 2009 as part of the Music in the Community scheme
Choristers from Canterbury Cathedral visited St Anne’s Church in 2009 as part of the Music in the Community scheme

During his ministry at Ynyshir, Father Paul set up the Music in the Community scheme to revive the once legendary musical heritage in his parish. As part of that he has organised concerts, recitals, master-classes and competitions to engage, entertain and educate local people over the past 20 years. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the scheme, Fr Paul organised a concert at Canterbury Cathedral for local choirs and then hosted a return concert at St Anne’s featuring the Canterbury Cathedral choirboys.

Father Paul said, “I hope this last Cymanfa Ganu will be a big community event and that people will come along and sing with gusto. I am deeply grateful for everyone’s constant support and warm encouragement over 45 years of my music and ministry. I will always be eternally grateful. I really believe that music rekindles the heart of communities and I hope in my retirement my musical scheme will continue to grow and thrive.”

The service will mark the end of an era, not just for Father Paul, who is retiring early due to ill health, but also for St Anne’s Church, which will close later this year after 130 years.

Father Paul said, “Sadly we live in an age of declining congregations and of ageing buildings which are so expensive to maintain. The closure of any church is always a very poignant occasion for so many people as their lives have been involved in its ministry for generations. However, I am confident St Anne’s will leave a legacy of faith, hope and encouragement in the hearts and minds of all the people it has served over the years.”

The Cymanfa Ganu will take place at St Anne’s Church, Ynyshir, on Saturday, March 25, at 2pm. Doors will open at midday.