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The First Mid-Shires' Quires' Day, 30th April 2005

by Tony Singleton

Reprinted from an article in West Gallery No.34

The weather forecast had been optimistic but the skies were grey and it was drizzling as I set off from Oxford with Edwin and Sheila Macadam for Byfield in Northants. When we arrived at the village hall, there were several members of the host quire, Immanuel's Ground, waiting for the hall to be unlocked and keen to start on their assigned tasks. Within minutes, the "Immanuel's Groundforce" were organising chairs and tables, setting out cups and saucers, and the urn was heating up.

Sheila Macadam leading
Sheila Macadam leading 'West Bromwach'.

Most of the 75 people who had booked for the day had arrived and were refreshed by 10am when the call to order came. 'Immanuel's Ground' and the 'Bedford Gallery Choir' attended in force and several familiar faces from other established quires were present. There were about a dozen people entirely new to West Gallery music but they were well supported by a veritable orchestra of 22 instrumentalists! After a few necessary administrative details (where to find the life-jackets, etc), Edwin led "Warwick" by Samuel Stanley followed by Ken Baddley leading "Bedford" by William Wheal. Sheila then led another Stanley composition, "West Bromwach" (sic) aka "Stonefield", all excellent plain tunes, surely enough to please Francis Roads. It was these three leaders ("groom, bride and best man") who led us through the forty page music anthology prepared for the day, drawn from music published by Midlands composers or found in manuscripts in Midland archives - music by Beesley (Oxford), Dobney (Warwick), Eagleton (Coventry), Jarman (Clipston, Northants), Key (Nuneaton), Moreton (Birmingham), Joseph Watts (Fenny Compton, Warks), and J H Watts (Dunstable).

By the mid morning break, the sky had cleared and the sun was shining so we were able to enjoy our tea and coffee outside and admire the beautiful views across the recreation fields with the spire of the parish church amongst the trees in the distance. On our return to the hall, we started work on the one item which departed from the Midlands theme, which was the anthem "Euroclydon" by William Billings, a particular favourite of mine. This inspired setting of a text from Psalm 107 merits a lot of work and so, to reduce the learning curve, Edwin and Ken had wisely spent some rehearsal time with their respective choirs before the day. Consequently, a very acceptable rendition was achieved in under an hour.

It was also heart-warming to see the inclusion of two funeral pieces :-), 'Job's Meditation' by Jarman and an anthem by Joseph Watts using the text from Psalm 39, a very manageable two page arrangement so typical of country composers of the mid 18th century. Another of Watts' compositions, a setting of Psalm 100 OV, led to some discussion as to whether it had been barred correctly as the stress of the text in one section did not coincide with the stress of the music. Edwin considered whether it should be led in the marked 3/4 time and was even heard to say "I think I will lead it how I like" but stuck to 3/4 when a voice from the tenors asked if they could sing it how they liked.

In the "graveyard slot" immediately after lunch, Ken led a six-page anthem by a Mr Dobney with the text "I will praise thee O Lord" from Psalm 103, which he had reconstructed from two manuscript sources from Bedford and Marsh Baldon (in Oxfordshire). It proved to be quite straightforward and the hearty hallelujah chorus at the end added to its appeal so that it was reprised at the end of the day.

Kn Baddley leading
Ken Baddley leading 'Anthem from Psalm 103'.

In view of the number of new and/or relatively inexperienced singers present, the music was well chosen and varied, although there were few symphonies for the massed band to show off their skills. All the music had been satisfactorily worked through by 3:30pm and there was time for some reprises, including an unaccompanied attempt on "Euroclydon", which went well. An excellent day was enjoyed by all and a date for the next one announced, so it looks as if this will become an annual event and a well-deserved addition to the WG calendar.

Music files:
Job's Meditation by Jarman of Clipston, Northants
Psalm 100 OV by Joseph Watts of Fenny Compton
Ebenezer New by John Moreton of Birmingham



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