In the mid 19th century the singing at Moira Wesleyan chapel was led by the singers and a small band of musicians who would probably be found in the balcony. Common instruments used by musicians at that time were the fiddle, bassoon, clarinet, double bass and flute. Some of the musicians may have received little tuition but even if the playing was not perfect it would have been with enthusiasm as would the singing!
The singers and musicians were subject to tight discipline and in 1863 the following rules were drawn up.
Moira Wesleyan Chapel Singer Rules
- That the Choir does not exceed fourteen in number;
- That each person is expected to be in their place before Divine Service commences;
- That when a meeting for practice is agreed by the majority each Person is expected to be at their place at the time they shall fix or give sufficient reason why they are not;.
- That each person is expected to behave themselves in that orderly and decent manner the sacredness of the work any piece requires;
- That each person is expected to do their duty to the best of their ability when present and not to be trifling;
- That no-one shall be allowed to take an additional one to add to the Choir unless due notice be given and agreed by the Majority of the Singers;
- That no-one shall be allowed to solicit assistance for any occasion from any other place or places but the Singers only and that if the majority agree;
- That anyone wilfully absenting him or herself three whole Sundays or six times of service in three months without a satisfactory reason to the majority shall no longer be considered one of the Choir;
- That if any difficult matter occur which cannot be settled completely by the majority of Singers to satisfaction of it shall be decided by a Teacher meeting;
- That if anyone who plays an instrument of Music in this Choir shall be known to visit a place of Amusement for the purpose of playing there shall no longer be considered as one of the Choir;
- That anyone known to be in the habit of getting Drunk shall not be allowed to remain among the Singers;
Accompanying them was the following Notice.
Wesleyan Chapel Moira
(The Travelling Preachers and Trustees of the aforesaid Chapel)
“We do herein give notice to any Person who engaged to play the Bass Fiddle at the aforesaid Chapel that he will be expected to attend afternoon and Evening each Sabbath day to play the aforesaid instrument and it is also expected by us that it be taken good care of by that man who plays it and we expect it to be kept exclusively for the use of this Chapel and not to be lent or let anywhere else nor to be used for any profane purpose but Sacred music only and if we at any time find any just cause to demand it of him it is expected on such a demand to be delivered to one of the Travelling Preachers who at the time may be travelling in this circuit.
The musicians were later replaced by the harmonium or organ and the expression singers completely disappeared.
The strong musical tradition that started in the old chapel continued into the new one, Moira Centenary, with the formation in its opening year of the Moira Male Voice Choir in 1932. Prominent in its formation from the men at Centenary was its first conductor, George Sherratt. He was the grandson of Thomas Sherratt who was one of the singers in 1863 and a signatory to the Notice.
With falling numbers and, in common with the vast majority of nonconformist churches, the chapel choir leading the singing at Sunday services disappeared many years ago. Sadly, there is now no Moira Male Voice Choir either, the decision to disband after 85 years having been taken in 2017.