This was a Wren Music touring concert that sparkled with local interest took to the road in summer 2016. It featured new arrangements from the great Devon folk song collections inspired by photographs from the James Ravilious Collection – to see something of the production - click on the video to the right ....
Singing Her Story was a special concert developed by Wren to celebrate the unsung heroines of women’s history, and was a commemoration of International Women’s’ Day.
Sarah, Marilyn and Amy from Wren were joined by a specially recruited women’s chorus in a concert that was first performed at the Cygnet Theatre in Exeter then featured at Sidmouth Folk Festival before a final concert at the Baring-Gould Festival.
To see something of the production - click on the video to the right ....
Taking place in indoor venues in Okehampton, the festival is Wren Music’s annual celebration. A successful weekend of music and song was held, with concerts, workshops, the festival feast, music sessions, singing sessions, a folk orchestra, festival choir, youth events, morris dancing and ceilidhs.
The Festival is inspired by the folk song collecting of Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924), one of the Victorian era's great social historical researchers, who undertook the first serious and sustained attempt to collect the traditional songs of the English peasantry and workers, predominantly in west Devon.
The Festival was followed by the Baring-Gould Song School.
The Okehampton lanterns Procession is a celebration of both the local landscape and early spring.
Local folk songs are central to this project and volunteers help us work with a number of groups in the town to teach the songs, and there is a big sing-song and cream tea on Friday 3rd February. Then the images from the songs will inspire the imagery for some big and small lanterns alike ready for the procession on the Friday night.
Here are some of the past major programmes and events that Wren Music has run:
A great evening of fun and entertainment with North Devon Folk Orchestra, North Devon Folk Choir, North Devon Roots Band and Roots Acoustic. A special thankyou from us all to Nick & Becki for organising us! :)
Belmont Chapel, Exeter.
This was a day of music-making for members of all the Wren Orchestras.
A brilliant night was held at the South Molton Assembly Rooms. Dance music was by the Folk Orchestra of North Devon, with break time performances by the North Devon Folk Choir and the talented youngsters of Roots Acoustic.
Big thanks are due to Becki Driscoll for leading the orchestra and to Nick Wyke for calling the dances.
See more on the flier
Here is a review of the Sandra Kerr concert, written by one of our young musicians:
"Baring-Gould Folk Weekend is a small folk festival held on Dartmoor each October. This year Sandra Kerr was the special guest at the Family Concert which was held on the afternoon of Sunday October 23rd at the Charter Hall in Okehampton. Sandra Kerr is an award winning folk musician and song-writer who is famous for co-writing the music for the much loved 1970s children's TV series Bagpuss. She was expecting to have an audience that was largely made up of children, and was a little surprised to find that an adult fan base was present complete with soft toys of characters from this cult classic. They were all keen to hear some songs from their childhood, and introduce their own children to the magical world of the saggy, pink and white cloth cat.
Sandra Kerr decided to start her performance by playing the English concertina along to a Leon Rosselson song called Why does it have to be me? This little ditty written by the satirical song-writer for his five-year-old daughter depicts the world from a child's perspective with its endless rules and restrictions. This song went down well with the audience and they were all singing along with the catchy chorus. Sandra Kerr continued her set with her fun children's song of girl-power called Katy the Conqueror, about a little girl who beats all the boys at conkers.
However, the moment I was waiting for was when she picked up her autoharp and played the slow upwards glissando, which was used in the tv series as the sound of Bagpuss waking up. It was a magical moment. She then played The Bony King of Nowhere and Turtle Calypso, both from the Bagpuss series. Who could fail to be enchanted by these beautiful folk tunes? Unfortunately poor Sandra was suffering from a cold, which made it a little difficult for her to sing, but this did not spoil the audience's enjoyment of this wonderful performer and her heart-warming music. The only thing that could have improved this performance for me was if there had been more time for Bagpuss!"
Her Story 2 is a womens' choir created to celebrate International Womens' Day and Wren began this project in 2016. Choir leader is Sarah Owen and the choir is joined by songs sung by Marilyn Tucker, Sarah Owen, Emily Howard and Amy Wilson. The choir is open to women singers whether or not they are part of a Wren Voices in Common Choir.
This year's concert was a sell out and there will be a repeat performance at Sidmouth Festival this year on 6th August.
Review: "Devon singers celebrate women's work" by Avril Silk for remotegoat on 18/03/172
Wren Music celebrated International Women’s Day 2017 in style at Exeter’s Cygnet Theatre. A capacity audience, aged from eight months (take a bow, Indigo!) to eighty plus, watched Her Story 2, exploring the theme of women at work. The hugely talented Her Story project team members are: Sarah Owen, a vocal coach, choir leader, composer and performer; co-founder Marilyn Tucker, singer, songwriter, oral historian and storyteller; singer/songwriters Emily Howard of Torbay’s Common Folk Choir and Amy Wilson who grew up singing with Hocus, Wren’s youth folk group and a splendidly diverse women’s choir drawn mainly from Common Folk Choirs all over Devon.
We were treated to a treasure chest of inspirational songs and readings from across the world (including Italy’s lively ‘La Lega’ and Denmark’s catchy ‘Hosekonen’) and across the centuries. From the traditional English ‘Doffing Mistress’ to the magnificent Kate Tempest by way of Maya Angelou, with the blessing of Peggy Seeger, women’s voices rang out with stories of working together to effect change, reminding us of the positive work done by individual women like Mary Seacole; informal groups like the Devonshire Bidlake Farm landgirls in WW1 and Trade Unions. I very much liked Marilyn Tucker’s ‘Women of the union’.
Bang up to date was ‘I’m gonna walk it with you’ by Ellie Grace and Brian Clafin, which emerged during the Women’s March on Washington, opposing the present encumbrance in the White House. Marilyn adapted Peggy Seeger’s ‘Naming of Names’ to present a powerful, moving roll of honour of women of courage and integrity: Peng Wan-ru; Rosa Luxemburg; Murielita Dockendorff; Karen Silkwood; Jo Cox; Malala Yousafzai; Sandra Bland; Anne Frank; Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe; Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles, Susannah Edwards and Alice Molland; Harriet Tubman: Sojourner Truth; Rosa Parks; Emily Davison.
In the 1990s I was passionately involved with Somerset’s ‘Just Women’ feminist magazine co-operative. I remember celebrating the brilliant Chard Festival of Women in Music, and the Birmingham-based catalogue of women’s music, WRPM (Women’s Revolutions Per Minute) now archived at Goldsmith’s. In 2017 it gladdened my rather tired spirit to sit in one of my favourite West Country theatres and see women of all ages tending the flame and singing their hearts out; I was particularly delighted to see three school girls, full of talent and commitment, and the excellent, youthful Emily Howard, whose witty, tuneful songs entertained and impressed. I recognised the suffragette colours worn by the performers, but had forgotten the mnemonic - (G)ive (W)omen (V)otes – Green, White, Violet. Green, white and purple were the colours of the Women's Social and Political Union; purple symbolised dignity, white purity, and green hope. And oh my, do we need their message today.
Would I change anything in the programme? I would shorten the readings and tip the balance of the evening to hear more of the choir. I yearned for some blues, rock and country – but maybe that’s just me. Two of Emily’s three songs, although very, very good, didn’t follow the theme...
Every member of the audience will have taken away a particularly special jewel from the treasure chest. Mine was the beautifully arranged chant/round incorporating Holly Near’s ‘Gentle, Angry Women’, Sweet Honey in the Rock’s ‘Telling our Stories’ and Peggy Seeger’s ‘Reclaim the Night’.
‘Shore To Shore Revisited’ was a lecture, recital and concert tour given by Newfoundland’s Jim Payne and Devon’s Paul Wilson and Marilyn Tucker of Wren Music. Together they explored songs they have shared for over thirty years – songs that demonstrate the cultural and musical links between the county of Devon and the former Dominion of Newfoundland. Many people in Newfoundland, who took the Devon songs with them, can trace their ancestry to Devon. In this series, the three performers compared and contrasted various versions from both sides of the Atlantic.
You can find out more by clicking on the 'Devon Newfoundland Story' icon ..... or click here for the Devon-Newfoundland Story blog.
Stowford Centre, Chambers Close, Sidmouth, Devon EX10 9YL
Wren Music’s East Devon groups put on a successful Spring Concert and Ceilidh in Sidmouth on the last day of March. With an audience of 200 plus [rough estimate], the East Devon Roots Choir opened proceedings with a number of songs, led by Sarah Owen and accompanied by Geoff Gilbert on guitar. They were joined by the East Devon Folk Choir for a Japanese round (“Hotaru Koi”) before the adult choir did its own set, featuring the first public performance of a new song called Seize the Day, written by choir member Haydn Thomas. The decks were then cleared for dancing, to the cultured strains of the Folk Orchestra of East Devon, led in inimitable style by caller and band leader David Faulkner. The evening raised contributions towards Wren Music’s charitable projects.
The crowd was in, the stage was set in the Cygnet Theatre as a dozen guys from Wren Music’s all male chorus MenSing walked in singing and took their places on stage in a circle to open their first full concert.
As the evening unfolded it was clear that this was not just a shanty group – quiet, soulful harmonies mixed with solo-led pieces occasionally accompanied by guitar, piano or accordion.
MenSing have been singing together for just over a year taking in Sidmouth Folk Festival and events round Okehampton, before this watershed gig at the Cygnet. The concert drew some great feedback “inspiring balance in choice of politics, love and humourous songs” - “great focus and quality” - “some great voices in the group combining together” - “The camaraderie and support the guys showed each other on stage was great” – ‘they were so relaxed – seemed like they’d been doing it for years”
The concert consisted of English folk songs, new songs and songs which have caught their imagination. This special concert for Father’s Day was part of the DoubleBill series of folk events at the Cygnet and balances the popular Herstory women’s choir from Wren Music who performed at this venue for International Women’s Day in March.
The musical ideas for the group come a huge variety of sources including the Australian-based Spooky Men’s chorale and most significantly Sardinian singing friends like the all-male Sos Cantores.
“Their commitment and sheer musical energy blows me away” said choir leader Paul Wilson. “I have directed many choirs and singing groups over the years and this lot are definitely in a class of their own”
Choir members have said “I love the sounds we create” – “we’ve made firm new friendships” – “we’ve got so many exciting plans”
The Cygnet Theatre Concert took place on Friday 16th June at 7.30pm.