Gifts for all – the worship music of Barbara Honeyball Young

Barbara Honeyball Young offers something a little different, not only to Singing the Faith Plus but, more importantly, to the possibilities of our worship experience. Maybe it’s because her musical gifts have been nurtured mainly within Anglican traditions. Or maybe it’s because she knows how to develop an opportunity.

Since the early days of Singing the Faith Plus, Barbara, a composer and choir leader, has been making quiet contributions to StF+ and nearly all of these have taken the form of shorter sung responses that can be interwoven with prayers or sung in response to readings. Some of them include a little simple harmony but you don’t need a choir to sing them – though it is for a choir that many of them of were originally written.

Confirmed at age nine into the Church of England, Barbara’s early experiences of choir singing included the reflective polyphony of Byrd and Palestrina, and she has sung in choral societies and chamber choirs. However, it is thoughtful simplicity that marks her writing, much of which has been written with children in mind.

When she retired in 2008 from being a specialist music teacher in primary schools, she found herself missing her work with children, so founded a children’s choir at her local church, St Mary’s in Welwyn. (It was her husband Nick, a Methodist minister in the St Albans and Welwyn circuit, who suggested the choir’s punning title, “Welwyn Tune”!)

Sung responses - a good way of involving children in worship © 2016 iStockphoto LP

In order to give her choir some occasional involvement in worship, Barbara began to write responses for them. “They would be positioned in the middle of the church alongside the reader of the prayers, and would sing from there.” Children, literally, in the heart of worship. As a variant, for Come, Holy Spirit, come she added a part for the church’s hand bell ringers – another group that didn’t often get a chance to be involved in a service. These responses, she has been told, really help members of the congregation enter a time of focussed prayer.

Moreover, as a gift to services in which many of us sit, for the most part, “on the receiving end” of readings, prayers and sermons, Barbara’s well-crafted, small-scale pieces of sung liturgy offer accessible opportunities for fuller participation. Nor is a choir required to lead them. As with many of John Bell and Graeme Maule’s shorter songs and responses, a little time teaching the response before a service, or a primed soloist to lead the singing, will quickly have words and melody being sung confidently. In any case, responses, by their very nature, are for repeating – and how better to pick up a piece than through repetition?

Inspired to write, for the most part, in response to requests and particular needs, Barbara’s output has included songs for the weddings of her family and friends, and the gift of an annual carol for her previous church. “It gives me such a lift to write – I do feel inspired by the Holy Spirit, often for no apparent reason.”

Miracles of the natural world inspired Our great Creator's love. Image © 2016 cturtletrax via iStockphoto LP

On Singing the Faith Plus, we’re pleased to feature her Carol for Peace – a questioning, thought-provoking contemporary carol for Advent and Christmas, and her setting of Andrew Pratt’s Oyster Shells.

Most recently, using the same attractive melody as for “Oyster Shells”, Our great Creator’s love is an ideal response to the theme of Creation Time, as well as being a song designed for children – once again reminding us that worship can, with a little thought, involve all ages and respond to all needs.

Discover all of Barbara’s contributions to StF+ here.

Categories: Articles, Honeyball Young, Barbara (auth), Honeyball Young, Barbara (comp), Intercessory response, Meet the hymn writers, Responses, Short song.

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