How do people do daily blogs? One or two a year is quite enough!
Lots of great singing events have been going on again this year but it’s been a bit of a year; anxiety about ageing animals and mother has prompted me to take a year off from organising concerts and workshops in 2015. But my two community choirs are my lifeline and keep me on the straight and narrow! Thanks to all of you who come along and support them and help keep me sane!
TALES FROM THE CHOIRS
Tenbury Library Choir (TLC) and Ludlow Larks are going strong and both performed truly splendid, fully booked concerts in the summer. In June TLC sang in Tenbury Methodist Church on a lovely summer’s evening followed by tea and cakes in the little garden there. Larks did a wonderful concert in aid of the Mahaque Well Fund and raised about £800. Joined once more by the Men From Off from Bishop’s Castle, the concert has become a very well supported annual event in Ludlow. TLC has been closed to new members for several years because of the size of the room we sing in, upstairs in the library, but details of Larks dates can be found on www.jollypages.co.uk/larks or www.oak-barn.co.uk
Started by choir member, Ailsa, the Mahaque Well Fund now has sunk four boreholes in and around the village of Mahaque in Mozambique. At the end of this year’s concert the video of Ailsa’s 89 year old friend, Jean, doing a skydive for the fund was shown at the back of the hall. Very inspiring and eye-moistening stuff!
In July several members of both my choirs joined with lots of other singers and community choir members for the annual singing picnic at Winstanstow Village Hall. Organised by Mary Keith from North Shropshire, it’s a great way to meet and chat with other choirs and learn songs together. The shared food laid out on several trestle tables is a site to behold! The date is fixed for next year at July 19th.
The following weekend is our annual singing camp (see below).
Some members of Larks enjoyed a great weekend near Hay on Wye in October, walking, eating, singing and laughing! We managed a beautiful walk to a waterfall near Talgarth and had a sing in the splendid church there, after visiting the Mill café.
SINGING THE GORGE
In May, I was invited to lead a singing walk in Ironbridge Gorge by the Severn Gorge Countryside Trust. Cadi Price, who runs the events and courses at their Ironbridge woodland site, drove me round a few weeks earlier to recky some of the wonderful places in that inspiring landscape. We visited the Coalport China museum, the tar tunnels, the Rotunda in Sabbath Wood with its magnificent vista, Blists Hill Museum and the Museum of Iron. Ironbridge Gorge is fascinating. I was looking for good acoustic and atmospheric places to sing and my friend, Gen Tudor from Radio Shropshire came with us and recorded as we walked around. Some of her recording was featured on Radio 4’s Pick of the Week and a few weeks later I was invited to appear on Mid Week, live from Hay on Wye! (My brief career as a radio raconteur seems to have come to an end, but it was fun while it lasted.)
I settled on several places to lead a group of 12 people in song in the Gorge; under a viaduct, the squatters cottage and corrugated iron tabernacle at Blists Hill, the Rotunda, through woods scented with laburnum and wild garlic and the huge bottle kilns at Coalport Museum which was like singing in a cathedral. I taught several songs before the walk, sitting in the woods, including a round I had written for the day called “Iron and Coal Made this Place”, a recording of which is now played at the museum for visitors.
Despite having vowed to have next year off, I couldn’t resist the invitation from Cadi to lead another on on May 15th 2015. The Gorge is a very special place and I have already written another song to celebrate the working men and women of that industrial landscape.
For several years I have been saying I will have to stop organising the summer singing camp as it’s getting harder and harder coping with my arthritis, but somehow the thought of not seeing our regular attendees and friends and meeting new folk makes me too sad to contemplate! This year was definitely going to be the last, I thought, but great support from an excellent team and all the help from participants has made me want to do it all again in 2015! I am hoping to find a group who will take over all of the lunch time catering and to set up the village hall. The rest is easy! Tahira made us a wonderful Saturday night supper and on Friday we had a veritable feast of shared food. Ros Thomas, Sue Harris and I taught songs on Saturday and Sunday and Friday night we had a shared song teaching session with big thanks to Liz, Fiona and Emily from Oxford. On Saturday afternoon Sue lead a singing walk over meadows and along green lanes to the Heath chapel. It was the hottest day of the year and a very sweaty, tired bunch arrived at the chapel for fruit juice and cake before a sing in the cool of the Norman Chapel. I think the camp was the best ever; relaxed and full of good humour and moments of sadness as we sang Ali Burn’s “May you see Diamonds” to remember Sue Tellier who had attended the camp for seven years. So next year we hope to do it all again on July 24th to 26th!
A few weeks earlier, at the end of June, I organised a concert for a women’s Georgian ensemble, Tabuni, in the Heath Chapel. A wet, cold evening, I was panicking about the field parking arrangements but all was well. The church, built and virtually unchanged since 1099, was packed with folk in the little box pews and on rickety chairs, to hear a fantastic concert from these four inspiring singers with a selection of three part polyphonic songs. The choir performed for expenses only and gave a generous donation to the Heath Chapel roof fund. Alas, no one from the local community was there to hear such splendid music ringing out over the adjacent medieval deserted village. The lack of support for Arts events in rural areas astounds and baffles me.
In early October I once again hosted Northern Harmony from the USA….one of the best world music choirs on the scene. This time they did an afternoon workshop as well as an evening concert both fully booked and greatly enjoyed. I found the catering for the choir and organising the event a bit much and have decided that if I do it again, I’ll get someone else to do the cooking and hall preparation. Must learn to delegate!!
Another event I would be loathe to give up is the annual “Amazing Places to Sing” weekend, now known as the “Church Crawl”. This was the fourth year and once again the weather was kind to us. We sang in two lovely old Churches on Saturday, Silvington and Stottesdon and started off in a wonderful primitive Methodist chapel at Blackford, on the side of the Brown Clee Hills.
On Sunday, bathed in Autumn sunshine we sang in the Heath Chapel and Clee St Margaret Church and ended in the vineyards of Clee St Margaret, accompanied by the mewing of a Red Kite! A lovely group of people and a great way to end a busy year and to contemplate my year off!
OUT OF THE LAND
One of the most enjoyable singing projects I’ve been involved in for many year has been “Out of the Land our Stories are Born”. Over two years ago I asked my poet friend, Gill McEvoy to collaborate on our third song/poetry project, this time telling the stories of three historic South Shropshire women; Sarah Burton, midwife, Molly Morgan, twice transported to Australia, and Katherine More, whose children were forcibly removed from her and sent on the Mayflower to the New World. Gill wrote some wonderful poems and narration and I wrote songs or used traditional folk songs in this 45 minute program. I started rehearsing a choir of about 20 women from all over Shropshire and Wales in Sept 2013 and we did our first performance in Clee St Margaret Village Hall in 2014 on September 27th . It was very well attended and enjoyed by all and we did our second performance at Clungunford to a sell out audience, who again loved it. The choir and readers both sounded wonderful and my heart felt thanks go to all of them and of course to Gill. We have two more dates in April and June (as part of Ludlow fringe festival) and then may put the project to bed, but not before we have a big party!
I’ve been singing in this West Gallery choir now for about 4 years. Led by Sue Harris, it is a mixture of instruments and voices singing the old church music of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, by the village bands. They were replaced by organs and choristers, but thank goodness, many people have researched old archives and there is now a huge repertoire of this roistering good music. If anyone fancies joining, we are always happy to see new members. Ability to read music to some extent is an advantage, but not necessary. We meet in or near Bishop’s Castle on the fourth Sunday in every month, except July and August. Do get in touch with me if you want more information.
Thank you to all of you who support the choirs, concerts and workshops and keep singing!
Polly December 2014