Heyford Singers – July 2019

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Below is a seemingly random list of ideas, events and comments. Please read on and we shall join up the dots and gauge the connections, if you haven’t done so already!

  • Whilst waiting to be served in a renowned hardware shop in Stony Stratford last week, I glanced over the notices posted on the shop door. There was a delightful poster promoting, and inviting people to join, a new community choir being formed in the town. How wonderful is that! It seems that there are choirs and community singing groups springing up all over the country.
  • A headline in a recent newspaper article read “ ‘It gives me genuine freedom within’: the prison choir that reforms lives. The article, and indeed similar radio and television reports, goes on to praise the achievements of the Liberty Choir, which performs at the V & A in London. There are similar ventures happening all around the country.
  • The children from Bliss Charity school choir delighted the large audience who crowded into the village hall on fete day, singing amongst others songs, the one quoted above.
  • “We Are The World” was also sung by the children from Bliss, and thousands of primary age children at the 2019 Young Voices Music Festival. This is a very special and unique annual gathering of children from all over the country, who learn the songs in their individual schools and then come together to sing in their thousands, at the O2 Arena, the NEC, etc.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, but just as enjoyable, will be the Heyford Singers joining in with Nether Heyford’s Holiday at Home venture at the end of June. The theme this year is “Cruising”, so what watery songs does Mary have on her list for the choir and audience to sing?
  • Although I could go on I ought to finally mention my 30 year old nephew who, along with a large group of friends, is so excited about his impending trip to Glastonbury (I do hope the rain holds off for them all!). Amongst the many groups and artists he plans to watch is Kylie Minogue – to sing and join in with “I Should Be So Lucky”?

Well if you haven’t already worked out the link between these items, it is that of singing together, belonging to a group of people who also love to sing, and ultimately to achieve the benefits that brings to your own sense of well being. We are so fortunate to have in this village a community choir led by Mary Rice, whose musical history and abilities are renowned, and accompanied by our resident “master of the black and white keys”, Graham Kinnersly. We practise once a week from September until December for our Christmas concert, and then from January until May for our spring concert. The summer months are free for families, holidays, gardens, sport and leisure!

The choir is very much part of the local community and prides itself on having always been so. Most of us live in the village, although we have recently welcomed several new members from the surrounding area We have a delightful mix of male and female members, of all ages. And we have fun! That social event of meeting up once a week to learn new songs, sing old and familiar ones, ultimately then to perform before our families and friends, provides a warm sense of belonging, sharing and huge enjoyment.

On our first rehearsal in the autumn, Friday 6th September will be an Open Evening and everyone is very welcome. All you need is to enjoy singing, no need to read music, and definitely no auditions or solos! Come and meet us, watch, listen, join in and I guarantee that you will go home feeling energised and happy, having sung, laughed and made new friends.

If you feel that you would like to know more then please do contact Mary Rice, myself or someone you know who is already part of this community choir. There are also some information leaflets in the foyer of the village hall.

Jill Langrish

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If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

www.heyfordsingers.org

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.

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Jill Langrish

Heyford Singers – June 2019

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The Heyford Singers spring concerts are over for another year, music scores have been returned to folders, storage cupboards or libraries, but the words and the music live on in our hearts and minds. The concerts were lovely and the choir really enjoyed singing the selection of songs chosen by Mary for this programme. Comments from our capacity audiences were warm and appreciative, not least for our new style and colour of concert dress. Thank you.

But it was also a sad occasion, for during the days leading up to the concerts we learnt that Isabel Brown and Carol Baker had died. Both were loyal and committed members of the choir, and true friends to us all. To this sadness was also the loss of family members, and friends in the village. However the coming together to sing gave everyone the chance to share our grief and sadness at the loss of these very special people in our lives. Like a gathering after a funeral, “a wake”, there is something very cathartic in being with others to link our own sadness, our tears, our loss and our wonderful memories, with those of our friends. Whether it be through singing, listening to music or just talking, the long process of healing begins.

I have on several occasions written about the value of music in our lives, and likewise of being part of a choir or similar organisation. The contribution it makes to our emotional, social, mental and physical health is inestimable. And to this I would add that of experiencing grief and loss in our lives. The tears may fall but being together “helps to ease the pain”.

Thank you to Graham and Kate, and Kath for coming to the concert. It was very brave of you. It allowed us to pay our special tribute in song to those we have lost.

Jill Langrish

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If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

www.heyfordsingers.org

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.

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Jill Langrish

Heyford Singers – May 2019

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Heyford Singers’ spring concert, Friday 10th May and Saturday 11th May, is entitled THIS IS MUSIC. Three simple words, a strong title, but nevertheless open to different meanings or interpretations. If you say it by stressing the “This is..” it becomes emphatic, celebratory, rather like a joyous claim on a beautiful October day of “This is autumn!” If you dwell on the last word, “music” it takes on a more personal tone, evoking individual enjoyment, preferences, memories, etc. For music is both a universal, and a personal and private medium. It can include small groups, whole nations or just a single person in their own musical world.

We all have our favourite types of music – anthems, blues, classical, drum and bass, electronic, folk, gospel, hymns, Irish, jazz, etc, etc. We may listen or participate, we may sing or dance, we may compose or improvise, we may share or prefer to be solo – whichever way, music has the power to embrace everything. It bookends our lives, from early songs and nursery rhymes to the hymns and favourite tunes that accompany our departure from this world.

At the recent Heyford Singers AGM Mary Rice (our Musical Director) wrote of her
hopes and thoughts as she planned the songs and content of the forthcoming spring
concert …….

“Our coming spring concert is about music in many of its different forms and emotional moods and, to some extent, its history and the things it can help to achieve. It is a powerful force and can influence many aspects of life if we let it. We need to be able to make that force such a tangible thing that the audience can feel it. Hopefully, in that way they will also understand it. Earlier I referred to the choir as a singing family. This isn’t something that many choirs can claim to be – it doesn’t just happen, it has to be worked at. Harmony is a precious commodity in every aspect, which we must continue to nurture as we go on. The more we make it obvious that we actually know and like one another the better we will sing and the more people will want to join us. I am very proud that I belong to such a family and want to thank you all for making the Heyford Singers what it is. Keep up the smiles, the caring, the friendship and the good work and the world, as they say, is our oyster!

“People all over the world, join hands, start a love train, love train…….”

From “Put a little Love in your Heart”

A beautiful sentiment and one to which we can all aspire!

So what music might you be entertained by at the concert, THIS IS MUSIC ? I have already written about “Amazing Grace” (February issue) and “Look at the World” (March issue) but there are others to tempt you with! Gospel songs and spirituals feature in the form of “Were You There?” and “Rivers of Babylon”, the exciting and much loved “A Million Dreams” from The Greatest Showmen, and protest songs of “We Shall Overcome” and “Lean on Me”. Words from traditional Irish blessings set to music by Jay Althouse becomes a beautiful lyrical song, “A Blessing” ending with, “May love and laughter light your days and warm your heart and home”.

The song featured at the top of this article has been written and composed by Heyford Singers’ very own talented piano accompanist, Graham Kinnersly, and it will have it’s special premiere at our concert. “Our Love Will Last Forever” is a love song, with words and sentiments that are beautiful and simple. Whether you listen to, or sing this song, it can bring a lump to your throat, a tear to your eye, and make your heart skip a beat.

Such is the power of music!

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If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

www.heyfordsingers.org

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.

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Jill Langrish

Heyford Singers – This is Music! – May 10th & May 11th

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If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

www.heyfordsingers.org

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.

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Heyford Singers – April 2019

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Occasionally we have to make choices, and unfortunately they turn out to be the wrong ones ……with ensuing consequences! On a beautifully warm late February morning I opted to do some clearing on the allotment site, instead of doing the weekend shop. A long and determined bramble, a tumble and I was in A&E with a broken arm! Like any illness or injury the world can change in a split second; routines, plans, simple everyday activities taken for granted, are suddenly part of a difficult course to be navigated each day. And I humbly acknowledge that there are many folk who face far more demanding challenges in their roads to recovery; I admire you all for your determination, resilience, bravery and cheerfulness.

In my small recuperative world, restricted from more energetic activities, I have read a great deal, enjoyed some fascinating programmes on the radio, listened to music and watched spring unfold, albeit through tempestuous March days. Which brings me to the song heading this article, “Look at the World”.

It is probably my favourite song from the modern classical music repertoire, and I, like many other members of Heyford Singers, was delighted when Mary chose to include it in the programme for the spring concert in May. It was written by the English composer and conductor, John Rutter (1945 – ), who has had a long association with Clare College, Cambridge – first as a student, then Director of Music, later as parent, and recording producer for their famous choir. He has composed a vast number of songs, anthems and choral works, including commissions for the Queen’s Jubilee and recent royal weddings. This particular song was written in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Council for the Protection of Rural England.

“Look at the World” is sung to the most beautiful tune (listen if you can), but it is the words and sentiments that capture the beauty of the world and the changing seasons.

“Look at the world, everything all around us. 

Look at the world and marvel every day.

Look at the world, so many joys and wonders. 

So many miracles along our way.”

Blossom and buds opening on awakening trees, a riot of colour as the bare soil gives way to a profusion of spring flowers, the birds busy prospecting for suitable nesting sites, and the morning chorus gathering force – so much that is wonderful at this time of year, and all captured in the verses of the song.

I know that I have mentioned it many times before but we are so fortunate living in this beautiful English village, with its close and caring community, surrounded by a rural landscape which embraces fields, hills, farms, woods, a river and a canal, plus various historical and cultural features. If you need to see a world beyond your own immediate needs and troubles what better place is there than this?

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Heyford Singers are busy with their rehearsals for the spring concert,

“THIS IS MUSIC” on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th May.

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Tickets at £7.50 for adults and £4.00 for under 12’s , will very soon be available from Keith Rands-Allen (01327 340741 or 07971 786912) and if recent concerts are anything to go by, they will sell out very quickly!

We do hope that you can join us, to hear amongst other lovely songs, the beautiful “Look at the World” by John Rutter. More details about the concert programme in the next Prattler issue.

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If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

www.heyfordsingers.org

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.

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Jill Langrish

Heyford Singers – March 2019

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Let’s begin with a question this month.
When you read the words above, or think of the song Amazing Grace what springs to mind?

Memorial services or funerals? Gospel choirs? Joan Baez?
Barack Obama reciting then singing these words?
American civil rights meetings? Aretha Franklin?

Rewind nearly two hundred and fifty years to the early 1770s and a man called John Newton. He grew up with no particular religious convictions but his life was to take a series of twists and turns that impacted on his beliefs and attitudes to life. He was conscripted into service for several years into the Royal Navy and after leaving this he became involved in the Atlantic slave trade.

A violent storm in 1748, during which he came close to death, caused him to
undergo a spiritual conversion. His slave trading employment continued until 1754 when he left seafaring to study Christian theology, was ordained into the Church of England and became curate of Olney in Buckinghamshire. In co-operation with the poet William Cowper he began to write hymns. Amazing Grace was written to illustrate a sermon on New Years Day 1773, and was then published in 1779. For many years it was sung either unaccompanied or to a wide variety of melodies.

Amazing Grace isn’t a song of theology – it was John Newton’s own heartfelt expression of gratitude to God, who he believed had helped him turn from his former wicked life to fight against the ills he had practiced. Later in life, Newton became a supporter and inspiration to William Wilberforce who lead the fight to pass the British Slave Trade Act in 1807.

For many years the song settled into relative obscurity in England, but in the early 19th century a large religious movement swept the US (known as the Second Great Awakening) marked by the growing popularity of churches and large gatherings of people. In 1835 it was finally linked to the tune “New Britain” to which it is usually sung today.

In the 20th century the song became a regular for gospel and folk artists, but with the popularity of recorded music and radio, “Amazing Grace” crossed over from being essentially a gospel song to secular audiences, thus allowing artists to perform it in thousands of different forms.

Folk singer Judy Collins recorded it in the late 1960s, and the song took on a
political tone, often included in marches and protests against the Vietnam War. Joan Baez claimed that it was the most requested of all her songs, acknowledging that she hadn’t realised that it had started as a hymn, for Amazing Grace had “developed a life of its own”.

Amazing Grace has understandably been sung at some very noteworthy and prestigious venues over the years, as well as numerous protest marches and political gatherings. It has become a song that inspires hope in the wake of tragedy, a “spiritual national anthem”.

It was performed at the famous Woodstock Festival in 1969. In 2015 President Barack Obama famously recited, then sang the hymn at the memorial service for Clementa Pinckney, one of the victims of the Charleston shooting. Opera singer Jessye Norman, performed it at the end of a huge outdoor concert to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday. She stated, “I don’t know whether it’s the text – I don’t know whether we’re talking about the lyrics when we say that it touches so many people – or whether it’s that tune that everybody knows.”

The choir of Heyford Singers will, in their small way add to the history of this unique song, by including it in their forthcoming spring concert, Friday 10th and Saturday 11th May.

We do hope that you can join us then.

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If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

www.heyfordsingers.org

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Jill Langrish

Heyford Singers – February 2019

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Its that rather gloomy ‘hibernating” time of year, when our indoor companions are memories of Christmas festivities, family gatherings and the long hot summer days of 2018. As I write this, members of Heyford Singers are still enjoying their winter break, but preparing to return to rehearsals for the spring concert (May 10th and 11th). I thought I would therefore take this opportunity to write about another side of Heyford Singers – the incredible amount that has been raised and donated to various charities over the years. Following the recent Christmas concert we sent two cheques of over £225.00 to The Brain Tumour Charity and New Life the Charity for Disabled Children, a not inconsiderable sum!

This is how it works, and has done since the choir was formed seventeen years ago in 2002; during rehearsals choir members put their pennies and pounds into a sealed box which is opened a couple of weeks before the concert, and counted. This money is used to purchase all the raffle prizes for both concert evenings, with the occasional top up from funds if necessary! Meanwhile choir members offer suggestion for charities that are special to them, or that relate to local or national issues. We each vote for our two preferences. The money taken during the concerts from the sale of raffle tickets is divided between the two chosen recipients. The recent Christmas concert charities I have already mentioned above, in 2017 we donated to Medical Detection Dogs and The Carers Trust, in 2016 to Live at Home and Reach For Health, in 2015 to Tommy’s Fund and Dementia UK, and in 2014 to the British Legion and Alzheimer’s Society. Donations in earlier years have gone to such organisations as Special Baby Care unit, Northampton General Hospital, SHAME, East of England Air Ambulance, Meningitis UK, Singing For The Brain, and there are many, many more worthy recipients that I could list! We are understandably very proud of having been able to support so many wonderful charitable causes over the years!

The spring concert is slightly different in that Heyford Singers made a decision, when first formed, to annually support both the local Parish and Baptist church. This as also by way of a thank you for allowing us to perform our concerts in St Peter and St Paul Church (before the choir became too large in numbers), and for the good neighbourliness and use of equipment by the Baptist Church. This has continued to this day and each May we are proud to help and support the churches in our local community.

There are also other instances when Heyford Singers feel privileged to support charities and organisations. Whenever one of our fellow singers dies, or a close family member, we always donate to the family’s chosen charity. David Smith had been so well cared for in his last few months that a donation, in his memory, to the Emergency Assessment Bay of Talbot Butler Ward, was most fitting. Bob Wilson’s tireless commitment (with Alwyne) towards Northampton Live at Home scheme, enabling older people to stay living independently in their own homes for as long as possible, with the best possible quality of life, was a very special recipient from the choir. I could continue ….

As a choir, of mixed ages, lifestyles, experiences, even where we live and work, we delight not only in coming together to sing and enjoy music, but in so doing, raising some pennies to ultimately help those less fortunate than ourselves. To date we have raised and donated over £14,000 !

As the song says ………

Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

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If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

www.heyfordsingers.org

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.

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Jill Langrish