Churches queue up for karaoke hymn machine

“Traditional churches will, no doubt, favour the “pipe organ and piano” settings or perhaps even try the “big strings and harpsichord”, but the more adventurous will be able to experiment with driving drum beats and horn sections.

Built-in Midi and MP3 players mean that music directors can add their own songs – hymns or rock favourites – to the standard repertoire.

And clergy beware, the Hymnal Plus can also lead parishioners in prayers and recite pre-recorded sermons.

Worried by the shortage and ageing population of organists, churches are beginning to snap up the machine, which costs £1,900. The 15th century St Mary the Virgin church in Mudford, near Yeovil in Somerset, was one of the first customers. The parish does have an organist, Christine Whitby, but she is in her 80s and sometimes wants a week off.

Bill Watkins, a church warden and now “hymn DJ”, will have his fingers on the remote control when it makes its debut next month. He said: “We don’t want to replace Christine with this box of tricks but it will allow her to take a break or to stay away without her feeling guilty when she is feeling under the weather. There are no young organists on the horizon, which is a nationwide problem so one day it might be all we have.”

Mr Watkins is impressed with the flexibility of the machine. If the congregation is struggling to hit a particular note, he can change the pitch at a touch of the button. If a rousing finale is required, he could alter the tone, volume or style.”



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