Early days at Holy Trinity

Ireland’s reminiscences on the distinguished organist Sir Walter Alcock (1861–1947) (right) shed light on his early days at Holy Trinity Church in Chelsea.  He describes the church as ‘fashionable’, perhaps not surprising given its location on Sloane Street, with its proximity to Chelsea’s shops and restaurants.

Walter Jones, 1995/196 Sloane Street (colour litho)

Early in 1897 Ireland was invited to become assistant organist at this church, which had the reputation of a fine musical service. At the time he was on holiday in the Isle of Wight with his sister Ethel, a trip cut short in order to fulfil this offer. He met Alcock at Holy Trinity after the Easter evensong, having attended the service and finding himself ‘immensely impressed with the splendid choir of forty first-class boys and twelve men singers of the finest sort’. Alcock took Ireland to the church’s 4-manual Walker organ for his audition, and appointed him on the spot. At that time there was a daily evensong with the boys only, followed by a daily practice. This must have played a role in Ireland’s declaration that St Luke’s should have a daily practice when he moved there in 1904 (see blog post on 19 September 2013). Ireland attended all the rehearsals, writing:

‘Alcock had an extraordinarily easy way of getting the best results from the boys. He always began with a series of vocal exercises, followed by attention to chanting and hymn-singing, before he attacked the elaborate work which had to be done’.

There was no choir school, but instead the boys, mostly the servants of local gentry, were selected from the Holy Trinity church school. Every year Holy Trinity rewarded them with a fortnight’s vacation at the seaside, for several years attended by Ireland himself. The church attracted high society weddings, an example of which is seen below:


Ireland retained very fond memories of these early days at Holy Trinity, which he described as ‘delightful times I shall never forget’.


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