Baring-Gould meets Mahler and Vaughan Williams!
An excellent Orchestra Day was held on Saturday 2nd March at Belmont Chapel in Exeter, with more than 60 musicians attending.
The Wren Music Orchestra Leaders, Becki Driscoll, David Faulkner and Jon Dyer, planned a very special event with guest tutor professional conductor Jon James. Jon is based in Bristol and has worked with all Wren’s music leaders developing music skills and their conducting skills.
The theme for the day was “The Lark in the Morn” and groups worked as a large ensemble, as smaller groups and finally a creative music workshop - all inspired by this quintessential English Folk Song from the Baring-Gould Collection.
The first session of the day saw the entire ensemble learning two versions of The Lark in the Morn under Becki’s direction, before splitting into three groups – Jon leading an Irish reel (The Dawn), Becki going back to the 18th Century with a Playford Tune, and David leading L'Alouette, a 16th Century bransle from Lorraine in France.
The afternoon started with a performance of each of the pieces to the others in the group (including half the assembled company doing the Bransle dance!) before gathering again under the inspiring musicianship of Jon James. Jon had come prepared with three ideas to introduce and embellish the Lark tune – and this is where Mahler and Vaughan Williams were introduced. Mahler’s lone note opening of his 5thSymphony being one inspiration and Vaughan Williams’s ‘Lark Ascending’ being another.
Jon had different sections of the orchestra creating different effects – shimmering fiddles, long bowed notes on the cellos, the flutes ascending and descending like larks – and seamlessly created an orchestral piece based on the Lark that we had learnt (in the morning!). It was a treat for the orchestra members to work under someone of Jon’s classical experience and brilliant, off-the-cuff creations; and Jon said how much he enjoyed working with musicians who don’t have to have the ‘dots’ in front of them(!).
The final performance brought together the day’s learnings and led to highly positive feedback all round.
"By the hands of women life's pattern unfolds
And day by day her story is told
Weaving the fabric of time
Women thread the needle to prove the point"
- From the opening song of the Her Story concert 2019
The Her Story project goes from strength, and in March 2019 we hosted two sell-out shows in Exeter and Torquay.
The choir was launched in January (no auditions or experience necessary), and over 40 women joined for rehearsals led by Sarah with Marilyn and Amy.
Over the course of just five rehearsals the choir learned eight songs on the theme of fabric and textiles.
The show was entitled 'Thread the Needle, Prove the Point' and addressed the different ways in which women's history is documented outside of history books.
Highlight songs from the choir included Si Khan's Aragon Mill, the traditional song The Doffing Mistress, as well as lots of newly written songs on the theme.
Another highlight was the professional trio from Wren's performance of a traditional Lithuanian linen producing song, called Šiaip sėjau linelius.
We look forward to hosting the project again in 2020. If anyone is interested in taking part, please get in touch to be added to the mailing list.
Accomplished Devon-born singer and guitarist Martin Scragg collaborated with Wren Music’s 21-voice male singing group, MenSing, to bring an evening of powerful, radical and sociable songs with plenty of chances to join in.
Wren Music’s Paul Wilson, the musical director of MenSing, led the choir in a range of songs from the traditional English (Turpin Hero) to world roots (Senzenina from South Africa ) to contemporary classics such as Crossing the Bar and Cousin Jack. Accompaniment instruments included guitars, accordion, piano and some more exotic relatives.There were lots of positive comments on the night and since then from audience members, theatre staff and others.
Choir leader Paul Wilson played one of the songs while setting up for a school workshop and
two teachers stopped to listen, asking who the professional choir was. Quite a few of the
comments were on that level - ‘very professional’ was the comment of choir leader
Matt Norman who was in the audience.
Martin said “I thoroughly enjoyed it and the men sang fabulously. The audience also enjoyed it
judging by the comments I had at the end of the night. It’s a pity it was only for one night,
however we should get together again sometime.”