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Art Gallery

This page is devoted to the depiction of West Gallery singers and musicians in contemporary paintings, engravings, and pen and ink sketches. Please send pictures with details of provenance (and/or webpage links) to the webmaster - see About Us page.

Engravings and Sketches

The Country Choristers

"The Country Choristers", 1773 by John Goldar, engraver (1729-1795).
They appear to be performing from a box pew at ground level, and have an audience in the gallery.

Village Choir

"Village Choir" - Print by Samuel H.Grimm, ca.1770. The men have the pitch set by a pipe and the artist has made a point of showing distorted facial expressions as if to suggest the music is inferior.

The Village Choir

"The Village Choir" from "Old Christmas" from the Sketchbook of Washington Irving, drawings by Randolph Caldecott, and engraved by J.D.Cooper, pub.1886. The caption reads "The orchestra was in a small gallery, and presented a most whimsical grouping of heads". There are some quotes from this book HERE

The Old Orchestra

"The Old Orchestra" by W. Parkinson. Used to illustrate "Old Country Life" by Sabine Baring-Gould, pub.1890.
Baring-Gould refers in the text to an ophicleide being played so it it seems likely that the artist, unfamiliar with the instrument, substituted a tuba. Here's Gordon Ashman's amended version:

The Old Orchestra revised

The Village Choir 1863

"The Village Choir" by A.Hunt, published in the Christmas Supplement of the London Illustrated News, December 1863. The artist has a rather grand idea of the size of the average village church.

The Singing Gallery

Fontispiece from The Singing Gallery by Lucy L.Cameron, pub.1823.

Victorian Choir Rehearsal

"The Village Choir Rehearsal" in Victorian times, possibly taken by the vicar's wife and village schoolmistress. The old wind and stringed instruments have gone - the end of an era!

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Paintings

The Village Choir

First exhibited in 1847, by Thomas Webster (1800-86), and probably his most famous picture. It is thought to have been inspired by the choir of Bow Brickhill church in Buckinghamshire. One website has the image laterally inverted!The Village Choir

It was so popular that it was also produced as an engraving - but with some less important characters removed!

Webster Engraving
The Village Choir sketch The Village Choir Study

A preliminary sketch and a study show how the idea for the painting developed in Webster's mind.

The Village Choir

"The Village Choir" by John Watkins Chapman (1832-1903), who was a generation later than Webster. Did he paint this scene from his own (childhood?) experience or did he borrow from Webster's painting? The clarinet player shows a resemblance.

"Country Choristers", 1810 by Edward Bird (17721819), an English genre painter, who spent most of his working life in Bristol.

Country Choristers
Village Choristers

"Village Choristers" by John Massey Wright (1777-1866) shows a rehearsal by a church choir in someone's parlour but they seem to be surrounded by half the village who are less than interested!

"The Lamport Choir", ca.1825, was painted by the village schoolmaster, George Clark (1790-1826), of Lamport in Northamptonshire. This is a remarkable historical document as it is probably a good likeness of each choir member. The cellist is the painter and each person depicted is named on the reverse of the painting. Interestingly the choir in this church is not performing from a gallery; they appear to be using a space at the rear of the nave.

Lamport Choir
Philharmonic Rehearsal in a Farm

"A Philharmonic Rehearsal in a Farm" by John Evan Hodgson (1831-1895) a well-known native and resident of Amersham, Buckinghamshire, showing the church choir assembling (some still arriving) in a farm kitchen - much warmer than the church during the winter months!

 

So enthusiastic was one gentlemen about his singing (church choir or glee club?) that he had a snuffbox painted with a scene showing his favourite activity (below).

painted snuffbox
Halifax Church Choir

"The Halifax Church Choir practising at the Ring o' Bells Inn" by Thomas Farrar, dated 1796.

Online resources say that a Snetzler organ was installed in the parish church of St.John in the 1760s and that a semi-professional perfomance of Handel's Messiah took place at that time. This strongly suggests that the painting is either a fictional representation of a much earlier church quire (or of a country church nearby?), or of a group of musical amateurs rehearsing for a concert. Any more information would be gratefully received.

The painting is in the collection of the Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council.

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