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WGMA at Sidmouth Folk Week, 5th - 11th August 2006

by Charlotte Bailey

Reprinted from an article in West Gallery no.39, Autumn 2006

A concert by the West Gallery Quire from Crediton, supplemented by a few WGMA members, started the week's events in Sidmouth church. Claire Willman kept us all together and she and Alan gave a potted history of the music, interspersing it with amusing anecdotes and managing to advertise all the workshops which we would be doing in the church the following week. The music was generally WG classics but some were from Devon manuscripts, which kept us all on our toes looking for variations in harmonies and trying to follow Claire's dynamics. The anthem, "Taken from the 3d Psalm" by Hugh Bond of Exeter, was conducted by Alan as Claire unexpectedly had to sing in the duets. The only modern composition was Crediton by Bruce Randall to Psalm 108 words, arranged in WG style with symphonies, fuguing bits, repetitions - the full works and much enjoyed by all. It was a great start to the week with an unexpectedly large audience for a morning concert. The rest of the day afforded us a chance to join in the rest of the festival, there being fewer opportunities later.

On Sunday we started with the first of our traditional sessions singing on the sea front. The bus shelter welcomed us and we made a good collection from passers by. Singing for an hour every morning from the Red Book and Psalter with occasional Shape Note pieces was a joy, even on the one day when it rained. We found that passers by joined in and some of them came along to the workshops too. The WGMA flyers were taken by many people so we hope for some new members.

We got up early on Monday to listen to Sheila Macadam's talk entitled "In Forraine Land - New England Psalmody". She explored the cross-Atlantic influences on both traditions of psalmody and kept the audience riveted with the breadth of her knowledge and interesting slides interspersed with sung examples of the music; an excellent presentation which set a standard for the week.

Performing at the sea-front shelter
Happy days are here again - the sea-front shelter

Following the morning sing on the sea front the workshops started in earnest:
Shape Note at mid-day was ably led by Steve Fletcher with help from Sheila and Edwin Macadam and Tony Singleton who in their Babylon Lane guise showed us how it is done. I finally got the shapes sorted out as did many others and there was a strong core of new enthusiasts.

left: Babylon Lane
demonstrate Shape Note

right: Peter Wilton leading the
Gregorian Chant workshop

Peter Wilton

West Gallery at 2pm was led at a cracking pace by Tony Singleton, Mike Bailey, Toby Parker, Alan Weeks, Edwin and Sheila Macadam. Barely had we got one piece under our belts than we set off on another. Each day had reprises to give newcomers a chance but there was a solid core of over 50 participants every day so we achieved a lot. Non-sight-readers felt well supported and the massed ranks of concertinas particularly enjoyed all the sharps and flats!

Gregorian Chant at 4pm was a challenge for newcomers having to read and interpret strange notation and get the Latin right. Peter Wilton led the music, which ranged from 1345 to 1774, the earlier pieces being monophonic and the later ones homophonic. He has a voice well suited to church music and it was particularly popular with listeners, who found the gentle chants mesmerising and soporific.

On Friday all the participants joined together in the church for our own mini Concert to show off some of the pieces we had learnt over the week. The audience enjoyed it, judging by the applause and there was even a £20 note in the collection.

West Gallery Workshop

Later in the afternoon we joined the Workshop Showcase. It is amazing how much we managed to put into 5 minutes for each workshop, and it was a good way to let more people hear our music.

The other highlight of the week was the Sankey and Moody sing on the Tuesday evening. Sarah Lewin played the reed organ (having practised on it for weeks and even in the church cupboard), Mike Bailey the flute, and Rollo Woods the concertina. The congregation had a book of words and music and we all joined in. What a glorious sound (at least by verse two when we'd got the hang of the tune and the harmonies)! Thank you to Ken Baddley for sharing his selection with us, which together with David Slater's selection made a great compilation. Next year we will aim to sing all of them in the time.

We are lined up for another appearance next year - the Verger has already invited us in the church newsletter.

Photos: Charlotte Bailey


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