Thanks to much dedicated work from our new MD, Richard Fox, the choir has met virtually to produce a version of the Gloucester Wassail Song for Christmas, which is available to listen to here, or via the choir’s facebook page or on You Tube.
The Tetbury wassail tradition dates back more than 150 years “In early December for 3 weeks, finishing at Christmas, a band of about 8 farmworkers went wassailing. They toured round the outlying villages and then finished up with the town, going in pubs and private houses. The men wore fancy clothes, flowing robes, Arab hats, crowns, and masks, anything to make them look fancy… Their music was an old accordion, mouth organ, bones and triangle and they took with them the wassailing bowl and the Bull’s Head. The bowl was a large round china washstand bowl with wires round and trimmed with evergreen held by the wires around the edge of the bowl. This was filled with fruit and sweets – apples, oranges and bananas – to give to the children.
Much Wenlock Wassail
The choir is pleased to announce the appointment of Richard Fox as their new Musical Director. Richard has a wealth of experience and was latterly the Head of Music at Bridgnorth Endowed School as well as being a member of a local jazz ensemble ‘Band on the Edge’, a group which coincidentally included the choirs previous MD Paul Kelly.
Richards musical career began in Sussex where he attended University to study 20th Century Music and conducted the university orchestra. In his final year he was appointed as Musical Director of Sussex Musical Theatre Company in Brighton. A part time job with the local BBC radio station resulted in a three year spell hosting his own classical music show.
A career in teaching saw Richard teach in schools in five different countries, including comprehensives, grammar schools and also in the independant sector. As a musician he has composed a number of choral works, some of which have reached audiences as far away as Spain and Australia. Over the years he has been Musical Director and conductor of several choirs, theatre companies and operatic societies and has sung with the BBC Symphony Chorus and with the Telford based Gallery Singers, a chamber choir that has won both the North Wales Choral Competition and was awarded first prize at the Bath International Choral Competition.
Now retired from teaching and living locally at Ditton Priors Richard is looking forward to pursuing a range of musical activities and his enthusiasm and interest is clear … “I love teaching music – it’s a lot of fun and very rewarding. Music can have a profound effect on a person’s attitude, confidence and enthusiasm…I’m passionate about music…” The choir looks forward to a long, productive and happy working relationship.
The choir regrets to announce that Paul Kelly, their Musical Director, has decided to step down from the post after 10 years loyal service. Paul was appointed in 2010 and brought a wealth of experience to the post, having previously directed a variety of orchestras, choirs and bands. Paul was formerly employed as Director of Music at the William Brookes School until his retirement in 2005.
Pauls vision for the choir was to develop and improve acoustic tone and under his leadership the choir has moved forwards in its sound and range of music, building on what was an already extensive repertoire. The current programme of song reflects a more modern twist and always attracts very positive responses from audiences.
Some of the highlights of Pauls tenure as MD includes tours of Ireland, Gateshead, the Lake District, Tyne & Wear, South Wales and Cornwall. The choir took part in the Olympics ‘Welcome Songs’ in 2012 when it was filmed by Central TV and a new milestone was achieved in December 2016 when the choir announced the release of its latest recording ‘Spirit of the Edge’. Last year the choir was pleased to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Paul and his family plan to relocate to the Orkney Islands, but in the meantime Paul will continue to support the choir while a successor is sought, for which the choir is grateful and expresses its heartfelt thanks for his work, while wishing him every success for the future.
It is with sadness that the Choir regret to announce the death of David Strefford last week, which was due to health issues unrelated to the current ‘Coronavirus’ pandemic. ‘Streff’ as he was known to his friends had been a chorister for many years and had served on the choirs committee as Chairman, Vice Chairman and Welfare Officer. In the latter role, which he had carried out for some 16 years, his dedication gave comfort to many choristers and patrons, who were grateful for his support and advice, carried out with a true Christian spirit.
Streff was Church Warden for Eaton Constantine, a role he had fulfilled for many decades, stepping in to help with services and generally supporting the work of the Church. In his working life he was an Agricultural Contractor and could often be seen about the countryside, maintaining hedgerows and working in the fields. He was a larger than life figure and will be sorely missed by his fellow choristers and the wider community. The funeral service attended by close family takes place on Monday 6TH April; it is anticipated that in due course there will be a memorial service which the choir hopes to attend.
If you are looking for something new to kick start 2020 the choir is having a ‘come and try it’ event at the William Brookes School so why not come and have a go. You don’t need to be able to read music and the evening will be designed to make it easy to sing along.
Its good to be part of a singing group and its no surprise that singing is good for your health. Turn over a new leaf and give your singing voice a chance!
See you at 7pm on Tuesday 7th January.
Saturday 2nd November saw the choir return to St Marys Church, Albrighton one year after a well received concert at the venue. The programme of music again covered a wide range with popular music from the 60’s and traditional pieces including the Latin ‘Ave Maris Stella’ and the Louis Armstrong classic ‘Wonderful World’.
Several solo performances added to the mix and made for another successful concert judging by the many positive audience comments received at the close of the evening. The well attended concert raised much needed funds for this picturesque church and its hoped the choir will return again to Albrighton in the near future.
On Saturday 26th October the choir travelled to Church Stretton for a remembrance concert to mark the 75th anniversary of the ‘D’ day landings. Organised by the Church Stretton & District branch of the Royal British Legion the evening was a great success and raised more than £1000 with proceeds going to the RBL poppy appeal.
The event included the placing of a wreath by Army Cadets, an address by Major (rtd) Roy Lloyd and a mixture of songs and readings which included ‘For the Fallen’ and ‘D-Day Dodgers’ and is one which will live long in the memory.
On Saturday 14th September the choir travelled to the pretty village of Ditton Priors and the church of St John the Baptist, to sing at the marriage of Rita Cresswell and Dennis Griffiths, who are both long standing patrons. The entrance of the bride was heralded to the sounds of ‘The Rose’ and the Perry Como song ‘And I Love You So’ was performed during the ceremony. The Welsh classic ‘Calon Lan’ signalled the close of the service as the bride and groom made their way down the aisle.
The newly weds kindly invited the choir to participate in the reception where the speeches and traditional notices included further singing completing what was a very special day. The choir is now busy rehearsing for a concert at ‘The Edge’ in Much Wenlock on Saturday 19th October when the renowned Jazz Pianist Keith Nichols returns to the town to perform more classic jazz numbers with the choir adding its own magic to make for an evening not to be missed. Profits from the concert, which is sponsored by A.Ryan & Son, will go to charities supporting the work against cancer. The concert kicks off at 7.30pm and tickets can be obtained either from The Edge Box Office 0333 666 3366 or at Penny Farthing in The Square, Much Wenlock.
On Saturday 29th June the choir was pleased to welcome the Abertillery Ladies Choir to the town in a joint concert held at the William Brookes School. Wenlock choir previously travelled to South Wales 3 years ago for a concert in Abertillery and this was a return visit.
The Abertillery choir was founded in 1911 and is dedicated to producing music for the enjoyment of others. Over the years the choir has supported a wide range of community events, Eisteddfodau, festivals and concerts many raising much needed funds for charity.
The Saturday concert proved to be a great success covering a wide range of musical pieces both old and new. A buffet and refreshments with some after concert singing rounded off the evening and ensured our guests were treated to a true ‘Wenlock Welcome’.
On Saturday 6th July Much Wenlock choir travelled to the pretty village of Little Stretton for an evening concert at All Saints Church. The two hour programme saw the choir perform several new pieces in front of a packed audience. The choir would like to thank the organisers, not least for the refreshments provided in the church grounds post concert!
The choir now travel to the village of Chetwynd this coming weekend for a concert at Chetwynd church, on Saturday evening at 7.30pm
The choir travelled to Cornwall over the May Bank Holiday weekend, to take part in the Cornish International Choral festival, which saw choirs from all over the world visit the county to compete or sing for pleasure.
The weekend was blessed with fine weather and a stay at the Ship and Castle Hotel in the picturesque seaside town of St Mawes, shown in the scene opposite.
The festival has become the largest event of its type in the world and showcases some truly exceptional singing including a performance by a youth choir from Lithuania who our choir were fortunate to see in action at a concert in St Austell on Saturday night, where Much Wenlock also sang. Much Wenlock choir performed at three other venues over the weekend – Trebah Gardens, a fabulous garden centre covering 29 acres with its own amphitheatre –
A youth choir in perfromance at Trebah Gardens
Porthleven Methodist Church, at an evening concert and The Eden Project, where the choir performed in one of the domes on Monday morning, before returning to Shropshire.
Choir at Eden Project
The Lithuanian choir went on to come third in competition with African and Russian choirs securing first and second places.
This was the ninth festival and hosted 60 choirs performing at 40 locations across Cornwall.
Its a highly successful and well organised event – the choir would like to express its thanks to the organisers, and also to the committee and tour group, whose tireless work made the trip possible.