West Sussex memory man David Bathurst is preparing his latest feat – to sing more than 400 hymns without a glimpse of a hymn book.
Over the weekend April 29-May 1, David, of Yapton, will attempt to sing all 401 hymns in the BBC Songs Of Praise Hymnbook from memory, supported by a team of organists.
The hymnbook includes a fine range of hymns old and new, David says. He is confident everyone’s own favourite hymn is to be found within the collection.
The attempt will take place at St George’s Church, Eastergate, and will be in aid of the Friends of Sussex Hospices. David will be singing between 9.30am and 5.30pm on Saturday, April 29; between 12 noon and 5.30pm on Sunday, April 30; and between 9.30am and 5.30pm on Bank Holiday Monday, May 1.
He will sing blocks of 25 hymns interspersed with 15-minute breaks and a one-hour lunch break in the middle of each day. He will sing the hymns in the order they appear in the book, but with sufficient notice would be up for the odd encore or could even sing a different tune to that planned, David said: “Everyone is welcome to come along at any time during the weekend to listen and to sing along to their favourite hymns and ask one or more to be dedicated to a loved one.
“I have always loved hymns. I was brought up on them from a very early age.
David is no stranger to feats of memory, having recited, among other things, the entire New Testament from memory in Boxgrove Priory in 2014 and the entire works of Gilbert & Sullivan in Arundel Priory Playhouse in 2004.
“I learnt the New Testament from memory, the last big memory challenged I did three years ago, and I thought this would be a good one, not beyond the scope of human endeavour. I chose the BBC Songs Of Praise Hymnbook because it was manageable. There are some with nearly a thousand, This one has got 400, but it has got the favourites. If you asked anybody in the room what their favourite hymn was, the chances are it would be in this book. For the challenge, I have resolved to keep the book as far away from me as I can, but obviously the organist will need a copy, and I am going to have a few books scattered around the pews for people to join in with the refrains if they want to. There are some refrains that go on for quite a long time. None will be cut whatsoever. It is going to take me two and a half days to do.
“The challenge with this one is learning not only the words, but also the tunes. When I did the New Testament, if I paraphrased something, it did not matter too much. But with this one, if I make a mistake, I could actually throw the whole thing off balance. If I try to fit too many words in or start with the wrong line, then I could lose the whole thing! I would estimate it’s about 50,000-60,000 words, which doesn’t sound an awful lot but with tunes to remember on top, it’s a fair old challenge. I’ve never heard it being done before. I did take part in a sing through the entire New English Hymnal in May 2013, but that was with words in front of me, and with other singers.”
Refreshments will be available throughout. Admission is free but there will be a retiring collection for the Friends of Sussex Hospices. If you would like to sponsor David, find out when your favourite hymn will be sung, and/or ask David to dedicate a particular hymn to a loved one, call him on 01243 551467 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donate at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/DAVID-BATHURST.
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