Heyford Singers – November 2020

HeyfordSingersNovember2020

A tribute to Joan Hanley

Nearly forty years ago on a preparatory visit to Nether Heyford before our move here (Bliss Charity School for one son, playgroup for another, and the all-important allotment) we wandered into Manor Park to have yet another look at our soon-to-be home, when we met Joan Hanley. She chatted to us, extolling the praises of this village, its friendly community and its facilities, undoubtedly a lovely place to work and bring up a young family. It was the beginning of a long friendship with this very special lady. But there is much history to Joan, and it begins many years before our first meeting …

Joan was born in December 1925 in the small Yorkshire village of Bubwith, where she later attended the local primary school, before moving onto a girls’ grammar school in Selby. Although Joan’s father and brother both enjoyed singing, the “cronky” piano with its untuned sound was the only instrument in the house. However Joan showed an early interest in learning to play the piano, received lessons from the village church organist and achieved Grade 8 before going off to train as a teacher in Ripon, studying music and history. It was here that Joan’s organ playing moved to a higher level, taught as she was by Dr Moody, organist of Ripon Cathedral. For two years she was the resident college organist, and on one occasion was invited to play the Cathedral organ for a special event!

Her teaching career began in 1945 at a primary school in Fulford, York where she taught for seven years, now also taking on the permanent post of church organist in her home village. In 1954 Joan applied for her third teaching post,”a first assistant (female)” at Willow Park Junior in Pontefract, which had 500 pupils and was the largest primary school in the West Riding. She got the job and worked alongside Arthur, who also taught at the same school. They married on 27th December 1954. The ensuing years saw Joan taking on more responsibility for music in school, playing the organ and accompanying choirs. She and Arthur joined Pontefract Choral Society, soprano and tenor respectively, and it was here that they developed their love, and experience, for great choral works as well as attending numerous music concerts.

When their daughters, Judith and Pamela arrived, Joan gave up teaching to be a stay at home mum. But as ever music teachers were much revered and Joan was frequently invited back into the classroom, to take music lessons, begin recorder groups, form school choirs and play for assemblies! Joan’s dedication to music in children’s lives was strong and varied! On one interesting occasion there was an evening’s entertainment of Sooty and Sweep with the ever-popular Harry Corbett; when the accompanist failed to turn up for the show Joan stood in at a moment’s notice – another musical accolade!

In 1974 Arthur took up a job with the Northamptonshire Inspectorate and the family relocated to this county, moving into the newly created Manor Park in February 1975 where extensive floods greeted them on their first day! It was to be a very long, settled and happy time for Joan and her family. She taught at Grange Junior School for ten years, and also at the Saturday morning Music School in Daventry. I am sure that there are many people reading this who will fondly remember their Saturday morning music classes with Joan, recorder playing, singing, etc. As a family we were always so grateful for Joan accompanying our son Jeremy on the piano and practising with him for his violin exams, his success in part attributable to her encouragement… and patience!

During my years of teaching at Bliss School I hold lovely memories of Joan playing the church organ for numerous carol concerts, leavers’ services and Harvest Festivals, as well as the occasions when I took my class of little people down to the church and she would let them press the organ keys or pedals! Her passion for music, and her love of children was very evident in her kindness, her delightful sense of humour and the ever-present twinkle in her eye. There are families who have christened their young children, walked down the aisle to be married, or bade farewell to those who have died – all to the musical accompaniment of Joan playing the organ in our local village church.

In 2003, shortly after Heyford Singers was formed, Joan joined the choir as an alto, where she remained a loyal and valued member until age and mobility applied their inevitable restraints. Her legacy with the Singers will live on in every new member who joins “ for the love of music and singing”.

Joan’s last few years were spent in a local care home, until she died in August at the grand age of 94! Her funeral, which was a beautiful and very personal occasion, taken by Reverend Stephen Burrow and Sue Morris, reflected all the aspects of music which Joan so loved – Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring (played on the organ), If with all your hearts (from Mendelssohn’s choral work, Elijah) and My Favourite Things (from The Sound of Music). We will miss Joan, her smile and sense of humour, her love of children, and the musical accompaniment that she gave to so many of our lives. We are all the richer for having known this lovely lady.

I would also like to dedicate this article, and indeed this issue of the Prattler, to all those friends and family members, within our village community, who have died in recent months. Sadly the restrictions of Covid 19 have prevented us sharing the grief, the tears and the hugs that we would normally give so freely. But they all live on in our hearts and leave us, each and every one, with such precious memories.

Take care as we enjoy the beauty of these late autumn days and we look towards the hopes of a new year. Stay healthy and content, take care of one another, and may music feature somewhere in your life every day.

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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Heyford Singers – October 2020

HeyfordSingers_ThePrattler_October2020

In the last Prattler I posed the question, “What do you think is likely to be the nation’s favourite film theme?” The result was, by a huge margin, the theme to Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. It is a hauntingly beautiful piece of music, composed and conducted by John Williams with Itzhak Perlman playing the violin.

The film is based on the Booker prize winning book published in 1982, written by Thomas Keneally and originally titled Schindler’s Ark. It tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi party who became an unlikely hero by saving the lives of more than a thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. A non-fiction novel that is at times unbearingly moving as it describes actual people and places, with fictional events, dialogue and scenes added by the author.

Poldek Pfefferberger, a Holocaust survivor, initially inspired Thomas Keneally to write the book and then following its success, used his friendship with Steven Spielberg’s mother, to eventually persuade the renowned film director to tell Schindler’s story on screen, and portray the horrors of Hitler’s attempts to make Europe judenfrei. The result was a film that almost “stunned’ the cinema going public . Its bleakness was emphasised by being shot primarily in black and white, with one particularly traumatic scene where a red coat is used to distinguish a little girl caught up in the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto.

John Williams composed the music for the film, and it is reported that he was so overwhelmed by the film that to write a suitable score would be too challenging for him. He said to Spielberg, “You need a better composer than I am for this film”, to which the director responded, “ I know. But they’re all dead!” How fortunate the world of music is that John Williams took on the task of composing such a beautiful and haunting soundtrack.

Like many other people I clearly remember going to see the film when it was first released in 1993. When the credits rolled and the violin played its solo piece, we saw the faces of the real people who had featured in the events depicted in the film. The entire audience sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity, no one wanting or willing to break the spell of what we had watched and experienced together. It was, and still is, one of the most moving and collective responses that I have ever known.

A few years ago we went, during a cold bleak winter, to Krakow and amongst several other memorial sites, toured one of the factories owned by Oskar Schindler. A visit to the sites of the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps was very emotional, an important pilgrimage towards a greater understanding of such dark days in our recent history.

Even today and many years later, I can never hear the music of Schindler’s List, without it evoking all those memories and experiences, the places, the people, the book, the film.

Such is the power of music

Take care as we enjoy the beauty of these autumn days and we look towards a new year lives. Stay healthy and content, take care of one another, and may music feature somewhere in your life every day.

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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Heyford Singers – September 2020

For the last seven years I have written articles for the Prattler and each September the focus has been the same, the joy and anticipation of the autumn return to rehearsals for Heyford Singers members, and for the return to clubs and other organisations for lots of other folk. Sadly this year it is not the case, for whilst the enthusiasm is there, the unpredictability of Covid 19, our small indoor spaces and the vulnerability of participants, has led committees to be understandably cautious and to delay their return until 2021. Singing in groups is high on the list of restricted activities, so whilst it is good that children will be going back to school this month, the thought that there will be no rousing choruses of “Big Red Combine Harvester”, throughout the country, is sad.

But music continues in all our lives. It is a means of relaxation, a relief from stress, it provides skills to be practised and shared, and above all it gives us enormous pleasure and enjoyment. We were fortunate in the last few weeks to acquire a Sonos speaker, and “Alexa” has set up permanent residence in our home to the delight of the grandchildren. One asks her for yet another joke, another for yet another rendition of “Wheels on the Bus”, and a third for Radio 1, Radio 1 and even more Radio 1! We laugh and enjoy this shared experience, even when we mistakenly find ourselves listening to Radio Malawi or the Breakfast Show from Nova Scotia! However when the little people have gone we have found even greater pleasure in creating our own playlists, exploring musical memories, our wideranging musical tastes, plus favourite songs. We may not have managed our Desert Island Disc choices (despite several attempts to whittle the number down below fifty!) but we have successfully, and very enjoyably, created themed listening choices – instrumental jazz, political folk songs, UK musicals, Bernstein, film themes, etc and we haven’t even touched on classical music, the Beatles and the 1960s, music to dance to, or opera yet! Great fun and it shows that music is alive and well in this household.

Quiz question. What is your favourite film theme tune?
What do you think is likely to be the nation’s favourite choice for this No 1 spot?
Film themes was an interesting play list for us to consider, and it unwittingly coincided with the Radio Times vote for the nations all-time favourite film theme. Will it be ET, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, The Dambusters, Titanic, Harry Potter , Lord of the Rings?

I shall reveal the Answer in the October issue for those who don’t have the Radio Times.

Take care as these summer days gently ease towards autumn and we look towards a new year and new beginnings. May the days be warm and sunny, may you stay healthy and content, and may music feature somewhere in your every day.

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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Heyford Singers – July & August 2020

HeyfordSingersJuly2020

Quiz question
When did the song above hit the No 1 spot in the music charts?

I think most people reading this article would agree that if a lockdown had to be imposed, there is no better place to experience it than by living in Nether Heyford. The ready access to beautiful open countryside which surrounds the village, the large village green and open spaces within the area, have enabled folk to enjoy exercise and being outdoors whilst appreciating nature in all its glory as the seasons have changed. Praise too to the local shops which, in times of queues and shortages, have kept the local community continually supplied with food and other goods, whilst the take-aways and book swaps offered by the pubs have provided relief and pleasure.

As the lockdown measures gradually ease it has been a delight to see small groups of pre-school children walking around the village, and the quieter, but still noticeable sounds of children back at Bliss School. The Pizza Van is ‘back in town’, hungry customers patiently waiting for their orders whilst they sit and play on the green, and there is now a steady march of twos or fours towards the tennis courts and playing fields.

In the days and weeks to come we will hopefully see more signs of this cautious awakening, the church and chapel offering the opportunity for quiet reflection and prayer, if not yet large group gatherings or celebratory events, additional sporting activities at the playing fields, and maybe pints enjoyed in pub gardens!

Our little village hall, both a visual and metaphorical hub for the local community still remains closed… except for the wonderful work of volunteers who gather there weekly to sort and distribute food boxes to older and less mobile people in the village. They have, and still continue to do, a sterling job – thank you to each and every one!

I do miss the ‘business’ of the village hall, the full car park evidence that inside people were socialising, exercising, honing their skills and learning – W I meetings, bowling, yoga, Pilates, and taekwondo, gardening and flower arranging, sewing and patchwork, singing, films, quizzes and parties. Our local meeting place is very much the centre of village life and all that we enjoy. Sadly it has been unable to bask in our appreciation of its value, now and in years past, as the 60th anniversary celebrations also fell victim to the Covid 19 lockdown. But I have no doubt that Alwyne (Chairman) and all members of the village hall committee and friends are working hard to ensure that as soon as it is safe and wise to do so, we may again enjoy all the benefits the village hall offers.

Quiz question answer. This was the No 1 hit, and best-selling single, when the village hall was opened on 8th May 1960 by Lord Spencer, and maybe danced to at celebrations that evening or weekend. It remained at the No 1 spot for 7 weeks!

Appropriately now I give you our village hall Chairman’s choice of music should she be cast far away on a desert island, where there is no village hall, no nasty virus, but also no community to be part of!

Thank you Alwyne

I wish everyone a safe and sunny summer, which I hope will slowly and carefully return us to our busy vibrant community!

Desert Island Discs – your choices – Alwyne Wilson:

I usually prefer classical music, especially baroque, but at the moment whilst I’m wading through an extremely tedious and time-consuming list of admin tasks for my family, I feel I need some diverting company – hence this list of vocalists:

Mamma Mia! Of course.
Aled Jones – I’ve been a fan since his choirboy days.
Barbara Dickson – always wished I could sing like her.
Katherine Jenkins – ditto –
Hayley Westenra – ditto – (In my dreams I can sing both soprano and alto)
Alfie Boe – some friends of mine met him many years ago and became friends. I feel therefore I have an affinity with him.
Neil Diamond – Fantastic! Makes an old lady very happy.

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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Heyford Singers – Desert Island Discs – June 2020

Desert Island Discs – your choices

Below is another selection of favourite music chosen by one of our readers. We
thoroughly enjoyed reading and listening to this choice, so thank you Mick.

Jill Langrish

Mick Watts’ Desert Island Discs – May 2020

I never realised quite how difficult it would be to choose just 8 pieces of music – almost every piece brings back memories of certain times and places. I have chosen 8 classical pieces and 8 more popular compositions and as the choices are so tenuous have placed them in alphabetical order. If pushed for just eight I would choose those with the *.

*Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor
Abba – I have a Dream
*Carly Simon – No Secrets
Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major
*Dire Straits – So Far Away
Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms
*Joaquin Rodrigo – Concierto de Aranjuez
Dire Straits – Money for Nothing
*Ludovico Einaudi – Divenire
Dire Straits – Sultans of Swing
*Steeleye Span – Thomas the Rhymer
Fairport Convention – Sir Patrick Spens
*The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again
Ludovico Einaudi – Andare
*Wagner – Overture to Tanhäuser
Ludovico Einaudi – Oltremare

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3 in C Minor is arguably the best piano composition of all time. Such virtuosity required to play. First heard it live at the Birmingham Symphony Hall, conducted and played by Vladimir Ashkenazy. A bit disappointing really as he was seemingly not able to give his full attention to either the orchestra or the piano and his antics rather distracted from the overall performance. But then, quite recently, I heard both piano concertos 3 and 4 played by Krystian Zimerman with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein, which were absolutely sublime and would be an extremely hard act to follow. Those are the recordings I have chosen.

On the other page so to speak is the contemporary concert pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi. I have several of his CD’s and had tried, with limited success, to replicate some of his compositions on our piano. My excuse is that he must have a very large finger span. Anyway, I went to the Birmingham Town Hall to see his concert with my elder daughter and having fought our way through a jam packed Christmas market only just made it in time. It was as expected a brilliant performance and it was just as if his hands were hovering over the keyboard yet this magnificent sound was produced. I would need to play 8 hours a day for 10 years of lockdown to come close.

What can I say? Virtuoso guitar performances by Mark Knoppler. Just magical. We used to put the Brothers in Arms audio cassette on when we travelled down to Devon when the girls were quite young. They always said “can we have the Whoo Hoo song” (The Walk of Life) and they laughed and giggled for ages. It certainly delayed the cries of “are we nearly there yet”. With so many people in enforced isolation the song I have chosen could be rather apt but the Brothers in Arms track would be just great as a finale.

The sheer volume generated by The Who is almost enough to blow your brains out. A classic.

And the Overture to Tanhäuser by Wagner always makes my neck hairs stand up.

Last year we went to The Stables at Wavendon near Milton Keynes to see the 50th Anniversary tour of the reformed Steeleye Span, wondering if they may have lost a bit of magic. We need not have worried as they were great. Jessie May Smart, the classically trained violinist in their latest line up brought a new dimension to the band and harmonised well with Maddy Prior. Again a difficult choice of their repertoire – The Wife of Ushers Well and 700 Elves just losing out.

Carly Simon is in another class act – she had such a vocal range. A recent TV programme entitled ‘No Secrets’ was indeed apt and showed that she certainly led a full, uninhibited life as many of her songs portray. Her voice is still fantastic.

Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez is for me one of the most relaxing guitar pieces ever. You can close your eyes and be transported.

Mick Watts

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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.

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

Heyford Singers – June 2020

HeyfordSingersJune2020

Quiz question (for we are all into quizzes now)
Where and when was the song above played, sung along to, and greatly enjoyed?

It has been a truly beautiful spring and early summer. And despite other restrictions we may have, there is no doubt that nature in her true glory, has softened the anxieties of the past few weeks. Sitting watching the sun set in the early evening, we are often serenaded by a blackbird who routinely perches on a tree in our garden. How privileged to have this free daily concert!

If the flowers and trees have provided the rich tapestry of spring and early summer, it is the birds that provide the musical accompaniment. From very early in the morning these feathered choristers can be heard, outside our bedroom windows, cajoling us into action. Like eternal optimists their songs have the ability to brighten each day. The robin’s song is beautiful and joyful, as if sung with all his heart and soul, and unlike other birds can be heard all year round. The full-throated melody of the blackbird is one of our best loved songs; as soon as green shoots appear he bursts into song from dawn until dusk. A tribute to the fact that size is not everything, the tiny wren has a lively and full-throated warbling song, whilst that of the great tit resembles a squeaky wheel! The much loved visitor to our gardens, the blue tit, has a loud and high pitched song which ends with a long rapid trill. Were you fortunate to hear a cuckoo this year? For me the best of all is the rich, high pitched song of the skylark as he soars upwards in a blue summer sky before plunging downwards …. and the melody stops, as if on cue! I have yet to hear a skylark this year, but as the lockdown eases and we venture further, both in distance and into longer summer days, I hope to enjoy what the poet George Meredith described as “ a silver chain of sound”.

If I have to wait a little longer for that real skylark song then there will always be the beautiful “The Lark Ascending” by Vaughan Williams, to listen to again … and again, and now rightfully acknowledged as one of the nation’s favourite pieces of music.

If I want another music genre to celebrate the joy of our feathered friends, there is the wonderful compilation between Yehudi Menuhin (violin) and Stephan Grappelli (violin and piano) entitled “Strictly for the Birds” – “ A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”, “Lullaby of Birdland” and “Bye, Bye Blackbird” amongst the many great tracks.

So back to the song quoted at the top of this article and the quiz question.

Answer During the 1980s and 90s at Bliss School a little teddy bear, called William Bliss, travelled the world in the company of a pilot friend of headteacher Alan Watson. Every time William arrived in a new destination he sent the school a postcard to be read and shared by everyone, and this was heralded by playing and singing the song above. Happy memories, but also happy thoughts that soon we may all enjoy places and people who are further afield. Until then keep safe, keep well and keep smiling.

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.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Heyford Singers – Desert Island Discs – May 2020

Desert Island Discs – your choices

In response to my request to readers last month I have had a few replies. I am going to begin with the one from Keith Rands-Allen, and for this reason… as many of you may know Keith experienced a horrific road accident two summers ago. It has been a long and, at times difficult journey, back to full health and mobility. But his determination and resilience to “return to normal”, together with the support of Julie, his friends and family, is surely something that we all aspire to in these difficult times.

Jill Langrish

Keith Rands-Allen’s Desert Island Discs – 29th March 2020

I’ve always been a great lover of Jazz music since my early teens. When my friends were listening to Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley I was listening to Acker Bilk and Chris Barber, and the love of Jazz has stayed with me to this day. If you come to our house you will invariably find Alexa playing the American radio station Jazz24.

So these are the musicians and their recordings that have accompanied my life:

Singin’ the Blues by Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra with Bix Beiderbecke on
cornet. (1927): Bix was one of the finest and most influential trumpet players of his age and a great influence on many Jazz trumpeters who followed him. Like many Jazz musicians he died tragically early in 1931 aged 28. His playing in Singin’ the Blues stands head and shoulders above the other musicians and his tone (“like shooting silver bullets at a bell”) melodic phrasing and rhythmic invention are exquisite.

Tiger Rag by Chris Barber (1953): This was the record that turned me on to Jazz. It was in a record collection in a house that I holidayed in around 1956 and I couldn’t stop playing it. The banjo player is Lonnie Donegan who later became very popular in the Skiffle craze.

Two Sleepy People by Fats Waller: Fats was a great favourite of my Dad. Fats was
a fine pianist, composer (Honeysuckle Rose) and singer with a wicked sense of
humour.

What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong: Louis possessed two amazing
instruments – his trumpet and his voice, and this is a wonderful recording of his voice in later life after he’d been forced to give up blowing. His timing and phrasing are perfect. It’s also a favourite of Julie’s.

Jungle Town by Ken Colyer: Ken was an irascible British trumpet player and band
leader who insisted on sticking to the original purity of New Orleans Jazz. Having been partly responsible for the Trad Jazz boom of the sixties he came to despise its commercial excesses and went his own sweet way playing to small audiences in small Jazz Clubs. This recording has Ken playing (in a school hall in Edmonton) a fine trumpet line, but I think is notable for the last few choruses which demonstrate ensemble Jazz playing at its glorious raggy best!

Fine and Mellow by Billie Holiday: This was recorded for television and is available as a video on YouTube. It’s notable not only for Billie in relaxed voice but also for the galaxy of Jazz stars that accompany her including (In order of solos) Ben Webster (tenor sax), Lester Young (tenor sax), Vic Dickinson (trombone), Gerry Mulligan (baritone sax), Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax), and Roy Eldridge (trumpet). Billie and Lester hadn’t worked together for some time and the expression on Billie’s face when Lester plays his wonderfully cool solo speaks volumes.

Bill by Cleo Laine: This comes from the musical Showboat which Julie and I saw (to mixed reviews! ) in the West End. I can’t listen to this with a dry eye. It’s a sloppy sentimental tune but Cleo’s interpretation is wonderful. The lyrics were originally written by P G Wodehouse.

Concerto for 2 Violins by Bach: This is just liquid beauty. They say that if Bach had been alive today he’d have been a Jazzer, which is why I think he is probably my favourite classical composer.

Then there’s all the stuff that I’d try to grab as the ship was sinking and smuggle ashore: Vissi D’arte by Maria Callas, Potato Head Blues by Louis Armstrong, how could I leave out Barbra Streisand, or something by Duke Ellington or Count Basie? And then there’s Art Tatum and Miles Davis, and I can’t leave out something by that fine guitar player Gary Potter. It’s so cruel having to choose! Oh God, I’ve just played Nimrod again – how can I leave that out?

Well, there we have it. I’ve put a date on it because if I had to choose again
tomorrow I would no doubt change something.

The book I would take? I’m not a great reader, but The Complete Works of
Shakespeare would be useful – I would keep the sonnets and the rest would come
in handy for lighting fires.

And my luxury? Probably a saxophone (alto or tenor) with a supply of reeds. I could then learn to play the thing properly and play along with my Jazz heroes. Or better still – a fully loaded I-pod complete with a solar battery charger and earphones!

Enough of this torture! It’s time to send the list to Jill.

In the unlikely event that anybody would like some or all of these tracks on a CD I’d be happy to oblige.

Keith Rands-Allen

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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.

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

Heyford Singers – May 2020

HeyfordSingersMay2020

A very Happy Birthday to all who celebrated birthdays during April (or since this current lock-down began). It was probably very different from how you’d expected or planned, without gatherings of friends or family to celebrate your day. Mine began with a 7.00 am telephone chorus of “Happy Birthday” from all my grandchildren, which fortunately I have kept it as an answerphone message for when I want to hear their joyful voices again.

We honoured Isabel Billingham, a very special lady in our community and in Manor Park, for her 90th birthday, with neighbours and friends gathering in the road to sing “Happy Birthday”, accompanied by Keith Rands-Allen on his saxophone. It was a really lovely occasion.

As this most beautiful of springtime unwinds, we are being treated to a daily
symphony of birdsong, from early morning until dusk. We now have the time to stop, to listen and to marvel at the different melodies being performed around us. The silence is also very obvious. Was the world so noisy and full of busy sounds that we have bypassed the magic of silent moments in our lives?

The quieter but distant hum from the motorway, or the less frequent trains hurtling north or south, are a reminder of those who have to travel to work, to keep us safe, healthy, fed and our utilities maintained.

When the telephone rings now it invariably means that a family member or friend
wants to have a chat, no need now for quick texts of emails, but to share and talk about ourselves and our days at home. Similarly I love to hear the 2 metre social distance “Hellos” or conversations as we pass other folk out on their daily exercise routes pass – suffice it to say that we have all made many, many more friends during this period than we would have done driving along in our cars.

I leave the most moving sound of all to last… that of the weekly Thursday night
applause for all those who are supporting us through these strange times, everyone in the hospitals, care homes, shops, schools, all those who deliver and collect for us. That simple act of clapping together, everywhere and by everyone, is truly amazing and heartfelt.

Keep safe, keep well and keep smiling.

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.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Heyford Singers – April 2020

HeyfordSingersApril2020

A few weeks ago we went to see a wonderful production of “The King and I’” at the Milton Keynes theatre. The story and its history, the songs and music are familiar to us, but we were intrigued by the scenes that focused on Anna demanding her own house! For those new to the story, it is about an English governess, Anna who is contracted to teach the numerous children of the King of Siam. The promise of having her own house doesn’t happen, so during those long months Anna focuses on teaching only songs, rhymes, stories, historical and geographical information all about houses, and homes, until the king finally relents!

Fast forward a month and it seems uncanny that we are all now looking towards spending considerably more time in our own houses, our own homes, away from other people. A house is bricks and mortar, but a home is what we fill it with, it is what makes it unique, our personal choices, our comforts, our memories, our family links, etc. And in the days ahead we have the opportunity, and time, to perhaps selfishly indulge in all these personal attributes. Radio, television, the phone and the computer connect us with the outside world, and that is very important. But so is giving ourselves time for other things, and I don’t necessarily mean clearing out the loft or a massive spring clean! There are books to be read, hobbies ‘laid aside” when too busy with other tasks, promised letters to distant friends or family, collections of photographs to be organised, and so on.

But let’s consider the music, the songs, even dancing that could entertain us in the weeks ahead. Here are a few idle thoughts, even a few challenges, to keep those little black notes dancing in our heads and in our lives …

  • By all means keep up to date with radio and television news, but it can become all embracing and somewhat depressing, so why not change channel and listen to music for a while. It is medically accepted that listening to music has a very calming effect and can make you feel more relaxed.
  • Step out of your comfort zone for a short while and listen to a different form of music to your usual preference. Folk, jazz, pop, classical, country and western, light opera – give it a try!
  • Sort out those CDs that are acquiring dust on the shelves, play them, turn up the volume, and sing along! It is wonderful how the words of Beatles songs come roaring back, a real feel good factor.
  • Or if you secretly regret never having been given apart in the film of “Mamma
    Mia” (or another musical) now is the opportunity to play the DVD or the CD,
    and sing, sing … and dance along.
  • Is there an instrument lying forlornly unplayed in the house, bypassed for busier pursuits? Get it out, play the ivories or the strings, and make music!
  • If you want something more quiet and contemplative think of that desert island. What eight special pieces of music would you choose to take, and why? I’m sure that most of us, at one time or another, have compiled our own list of favourite music. You could even send them to me – what a lovely idea for the May Prattler!

We’ve all probably seen the delightful video of Italians standing on their individual balconies and singing. Then there have been the various, and some quite imaginative ways to sing or dance through the 20 second hand washing time. And no doubt other inventive musical activities will come about in the days ahead. So keep playing, listening, singing, dancing and enjoying music – it is a rich world and it is so good for the soul!

Heyford Singers has understandably postponed all its rehearsals and spring concert in May. The title for the concert was “Let Us Entertain You” and we will again……soon!

Take care, look after yourselves and each other.

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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Heyford Singers – March 2020

NetherHeyford-HeyfordSingers-March2020

This month we follow the journey of a passionate, war torn, emotional story – from book to film, play to musical stage show, radio to TV series, and eventually to Heyford Singers’ spring concert 2020.

‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. It was originally divided into five volumes, each volume then divided into several books, totalling 365 chapters! It is a blazing pageant of life and death at the barricades of the political and social revolution in nineteenth century France. The story follows the life of Jean Valjean, released after serving 19 years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. He later breaks parole, and police inspector, Javert, determines to hunt him down and return him to prison. Factor in beggars, factory workers, “ladies of the night”, a bishop, an innkeeper and his wife, a young child, rebellious students, the police and young lovers, and the ingredients are set for a truly emotional, turbulent, and epic story. Victor Hugo drew his inspiration for the book from what he saw and heard in Paris, recording impressions in his diary. In 1846, he witnessed an altercation between an old woman scavenging through rubbish and a street urchin; he personally gathered information about working-class people’s wages and living standards, about life in a convent, the toil and drudgery of different industries, the battle worn lives of those who had recently fought at Waterloo.

Thirty five years after the book’s initial publication the Lumiere Brothers made a short film of ‘Les Miserables’; the film industry then seized upon this epic story, resulting in over 50 versions having since been made for the screen!

In 1985 The RSC and the theatre impresario, Cameron Macintosh joined forces to produce a musical stage show of ‘Les Miserables’, and the music, songs and dance sequences took the story into a new dimension. Those who have seen the stage show will remember how the music surges through the theatre as chairs, tables, cartwheels and barrels are used to create the changing sets. Rousing songs such as “Red and Black”, “Do You Hear The People Sing” feature beside the tear jerking “I Dreamed a Dream” and “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”. There are many more memorable songs and tunes.

In December 2012, the world’s longest-running musical was brought to the big screen in Tom Hooper’s sweeping and spectacular interpretation of Victor Hugo’s epic tale, although the general consensus was that no amount of cinematic spectacle could replace a live stage performance.

In 2015 the BBC commissioned ‘Les Miserables’ as a radio drama with Joss Ackland and Roger Allam, 25 episodes lasting nearly six hours in total, and during which the many themes were explored in the greatest detail.

At the start of 2019 there was the long awaited BBC serialisation of ‘Les Miserables’, directed by Andrew Davies and starring Dominic West, David Oyelowo and Lily Collins. The six hourly episodes enabled a very long and complicated book to unwind slowly so that viewers could appreciate the true scope of the events ……… without being distracted by the songs!

Maybe you have read the book, seen the stage show, listened to the radio series, or watched a film of ‘Les Miserables’? We each have our particular preference for the way that the story is told.

Heyford Singers humble contribution to this inspiring story is to perform a few of the wonderful songs from the musical version during our forthcoming spring concert, entitled “LET US ENTERTAIN YOU” on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th May. We do hope that you will be able to join us, and continue along the journey of this most wonderful story …… ‘Les Miserables’

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.

____________________________________________________________________________________