Heyford Singers & Allotments – September 2019

We’re neither pure nor wise nor good;
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house, and chop our wood,
And make our garden grow.
The final chorus from “Make Our Garden Grow”
from “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein 1955

Normally Jill Langrish writes a piece for the Prattler on behalf of the Heyford Singers and Mike, her other half, waxes lyrical about the joys of allotments, orchards and all things green. For this September article we thought we’d combine what little talent we have and write about the effect that both music and growing things can have on making us feel good. So this article is a sort of a dialogue; a chance for us to share that sense of contentment, happiness, belonging, achievement, and well being that we believe comes from both activities. Easy? Just read on……

Jill. Music is a very social activity. Whether you play in a band or orchestra, sing in a group or a choir, sit or stand in the audience for a concert, you are sharing that unique experience with lots of other people. You are helping to contribute towards the collective outcome, a shared achievement. As well as the social benefits of music, it also contributes hugely to our physical and mental health. There has been considerable research recently about the value of doctors giving a “social prescription”. In July, Naomi Paxton hosted a BBC Proms panel discussion on music and wellbeing with epidemiologist Dr Daisy Fancourt and GP Dr Simon Opher. Both are enthusiastic advocates of social prescribing and of using music to support health.

“Social prescription is a fairly new idea,” says Dr Opher. “A doctor might give a normal
prescription for a medicine, but they can also give a prescription for an activity.
That could be singing, music, art, poetry, exercise or anything – but not a medicine.
Music can help everyone, but it can specifically help certain conditions – and we
know this from research. One of the areas of the brain that really lights up when you
listen to music is the pre cortical area. That’s one of the last areas that is damaged
with dementia – so people with dementia, for example, retain their ability to enjoy
music. I’ve seen more effect with music for patients with dementia than any kind of
medication.”

Mike. Gardening, whether it be wandering round the tiny patch of ground outside your back door or maintaining an allotment or huge vegetable patch, vastly improves both our physical and mental health. And the sort of evidence that applies to music is to be found in abundance when it comes to digging and weeding. Kathryn Rossiter, CEO of Thrive, one of the UK’s leading charities in disability and gardening says that

“as well as the strong therapeutic value of gardening it can help people connect with others, reducing feelings of isolation. It makes us more active, gaining both physical and mental health benefits.”

Jill. Then there is the intellectual side of music. Listening to a new song or unfamiliar piece of music demands attention, it keeps the brain’s cells active. And whether it be trying to make sense of all those dots and squiggles in music notation, learning new songs, understanding the different voice parts, learning and playing an instrument, all these are essential in keeping the “little grey cells’ active.

Mike. Now this is a generalisation, but doctors believe that gardeners have lower
levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, leading to improved sleep patterns, relaxation and mental wellbeing. Although sometimes I think it is just exhaustion that makes me sleep!

Jill. And what about the fun side, the enjoyment of it all. During August there was
delightful series on the radio entitled “A Singer’s Guide to Britain” which explored different aspects of British culture through the songs we sing. In the first episode the presenter said that, “a song is like an imaginary magic carpet. You climb aboard and it flies off, it takes you on an adventure”. Now this can be interpreted in so many ways. Special places, special people or special memories are all evoked by the song. It is powerful stuff.

Mike. That first snowdrop can make you feel really good. The flowering of the rose you pruned, a lettuce you grew from seed, the blackbird singing just for you. These are small things but all positive and have healing powers that medicine sometimes tries to mimic. It is no surprise that, like music, doctors are seriously considering prescribing gardening as a cure for some conditions. Monty Don, the man that appears on our TV screens on a Friday evening accompanied by two dogs and who isn’t bad at gardening either, says in a telling way that “When you plant something, you invest in a beautiful future amidst a stressful, chaotic and, at times, downright appalling world”

Apologies if we have just taken this opportunity to indulge in our two great passions. It doesn’t matter if you think you can’t sing a note in tune (something we dispute) or you kill everything you plant (also disputable), there is so much to be gained from both activities. A good way to start would be to join Heyford Singers and/or get an allotment.

Jill. The next rehearsal of Heyford Singers is on Friday 6th September at 7.15 pm in the village hall. It will be an Open Evening and everyone is very welcome. 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.

Mike. If you are interested in trying out an allotment contact either Sue Corner on
01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707. We can offer a range of allotment
sizes, to suit every need. Help is also on hand to offer advice and encouragement.
There you are, two articles in one

Jill & Mike 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 – September 2019

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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 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.

____________________________________________________________________________________

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 – 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