Heyford Singers – March 2020

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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.

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Heyford Singers – February 2020

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It is a cold, damp and rather dreary day in January, one of those days when time seems to be edging oh so slowly towards spring, although to be fair there are minute signs appearing everyday. One of those days when you look forward to the year ahead, whilst the memories of 2019, including the recent Christmas celebrations, still linger. We know that January is named after Janus, the Roman god of ‘beginnings, gates, transitions, time, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past.’

If we look back on 2019 for Heyford Singers it was, as in most families or organisations, a mixture of sadness and good times. In September we gained thirteen new singers in the choir, increasing our membership to over 60! They are very welcome indeed and include young mums from the village as well as older experienced singers who have worked with other choirs. The result is a very positive and vibrant atmosphere at rehearsals, even if space and stage management does become an issue!

At the end of the year, as Christmas approached, Heyford Singers were very actively involved with several, local community ventures. We had a second delightful entertainment from our resident pianist, Graham Kinnersly entitled “A Musical Mystery Tour” in which our knowledge of music and songs from the recent and distant past was tested. It was a lovely afternoon and sent us off in a festive mood, not only because we had collectively raised £460.00 towards the Emmanuel Benevolent Fund, which supports the Weston Favell Centre Food Bank. That same evening some of the choir went to sing at the Bliss Charity School Christmas Fayre.

This was an absolute delight, especially when young children joined us to sing some of the carols.

Our annual Christmas concert, Christmas Is … followed in early December and we performed to sell out audiences, who we hope enjoyed the Christmas music and singing as much as we did! Once again we were really pleased to be able to support charitable organisations, sending £175.00 from raffle ticket sales to both the Air Ambulance and Dementia UK.

Carols on the Green was a new venture for the choir (see Mary Rice’s article), and despite awful weather earlier in the day it was a lovely, memorable evening, which we hope you enjoyed as much as we did! We are looking forward to this becoming an annual Christmas event for Nether Heyford.

Several choir members sang at the church’s Service of Nine Lessons and Carols on Sunday 22nd December, heralding the true beginning of Christmas. I think that those who sing with, and support, Heyford Singers, would say that they have thoroughly enjoying contributing to the “feel good factor’ of our local community, through a variety of music and songs.

We have looked back to 2019 …………… and now to look forward to 2020.

Our Spring concerts are planned for Friday 15th and Saturday 16th May. Rehearsals have begun on Les Miserables, Mama Mia, Fields of Gold, You Raise Me up, and many more – very exciting!

We have also been invited to perform a fund raising concert in Bugbrooke Church in the spring, yet another special contribution towards our village communities.

Then there will be the 2020 Christmas concerts as well, but enough for now as it is time to brave the rain and wind and look around the garden for emerging snowdrops and spring bulbs!

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 – “Lookin’ for Men” February 2020

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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 – December 2019

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In recent days vast swathes of the country have been engulfed by incessant rain, followed by flooding, and creating eerie, watery landscapes. Venice likewise has experienced unprecedented rain and high tides, a sad and beautiful, submerged city resembling a scene from a disaster movie. Across the world, to the east and west, firefighters are battling with bush fires that move and burn with an intensity that is almost too hard to comprehend. Global warming is evident in so many guises! Record high temperatures this past summer and record low temperatures during the winter of 2018.

It was the later that inspired Graham Kinnersly (Heyford singers’ resident pianist and composer) to write the song quoted above, and which will premiere at the forthcoming Christmas concert, ‘Christmas Is……’. Marooned at home for a few days as the “Beast from the East” struck, Graham’s creative talents took over, melody, words, humour, even a dash of politics, all centered around the notion of global warming. The choir loves this song, the Russian tune, the wintry feel and the sense of menace!

The first half of our concert is devoted to Night of Wonder, Night of Joy, a set of beautiful songs and readings that relate the story of the first Christmas. The nativity continues into the second half of the concert with the choir singing One Small Lamb, O Holy Night and then Pacem, which will be accompanied by a young solo violinist (a family member). This is always a very moving piece to sing and listen to, made even more so by the haunting tune played out on the violin.

Then the mood changes and we celebrate Christmas in words and music with songs of sheer joy and exuberance ……Sleigh Bells (with the ladies “jing-a-ling-alinging!), White Christmas, Graham’s Snow From Siberia and Christmas Is, from which we take our concert title.

Christmas Is ……..what to you?

One of the most moving features of our Christmas concert is that of choir and audience, joining together to sing Christmas carols. That is always very special to us, and we hope to you too.

I do hope that you are able to get a ticket and share what promises to be a wonderful evening with us.

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Carols on the Green

On Friday 20th December at 6.30pm, as the working week and school term ends, as families and friends begin to celebrate the Christmas holidays, we have a new initiative in Nether Heyford, an idea originally muted by Mary Rice. It is to come together on our unique village green, to sing some lovely Christmas carols, to celebrate our close community, and to enjoy all this with friends, families and neighbours. We do hope that you can join us, and that the weather is not too cold, too wet or too windy, and if it is then we shall just adjourn and raise the roof of the village hall with our singing!

Nether Heyford Carols on the Green Heyford Singers

Everyone in Heyford Singers wishes you, your families and your friends, a very Happy Christmas and a happy, healthy 2020.

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 – Christmas Evening 13th & 14th December 2019 – SOLD OUT

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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 – Graham’s Musical Mystery Tour: Friday 29th November 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 – November 2019

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This article is devoted to one man, someone I like to think of as the “Father of the Choir, which is more familiarly known as Heyford Singers” – Hugh Adams. I use the term “devoted” in the widest possible sense for Hugh is a much loved and highly respected member of our local community. I have known Hugh Adams as a friend for many years, and was privileged to teach at Bliss Charity School whilst he was Chairman of the governing body. He not only shared his desire to see every child reach their full potential, to extend their learning and embrace as many opportunities as possible, but also to experience the great outdoors. And it was over numerous plans and discussions about the use of the conservation area behind the school playground that the seeds of the Outdoor Classroom were sown!

But what of the man and music, what was his journey through life to become such a mainstay of the basses in our choir?

Hugh came from a musical family; his brothers sang in choirs and his sisters were keen pianists. As a young child Hugh left for boarding school, Bishop Stortford College, and it was during those formative years that he found his voice and his love of singing, first as a treble, then an alto, and finally a tenor when his voice broke. As is so often the case it was one particular teacher who recognised Hugh’s musical talent as this early age. A revered music teacher, Mr Tidmarsh who himself had a deep bass singing voice, claimed that young Hugh had the perfect size hand to play the cello. He subsequently offered to give Hugh free cello lessons for a term, such was his belief in the music potential of his young pupil! Sadly Hugh declined, believing that the cello wasn’t necessarily a very good solo instrument. However he did learn to play the piano, although when grades and exams beckoned, to mark achievement and progress, he gave up piano lessons, a move that he regrets to this very day!

After leaving school Hugh returned to the farming traditions of his family, but also became a member of the Home Guard. In 1942 he joined the army, serving on active service in the Royal Dragoons. He was amongst those soldiers who, two days before D Day, drove into Copenhagen and a liberated Denmark, to be greeted by millions of grateful people on the streets. Fifty years later, to mark the anniversary of the liberation, Hugh and many of his army colleagues, were honoured to be invited by the Danish government to take part in the commemorations.

The love of music remained and whilst living and farming in Nether Heyford; Hugh and his wife joined Bugbrooke Choral Society, which was at that time conducted and directed by Michael Latham, The piano accompanist was one of the French teachers, Derek, a great character who regularly entertained the choir members with his amusing anecdotes. The Choral Society sang at numerous venues around the county.

And so onto the Heyford Singers. When it was formed in 2002 Hugh was a founder member of the male bass section, where he has loyally remained ever since. With his rich deep bass voice Hugh has been a much valued contributor to this male voice part. I’m sure he will agree if I say that there are some songs that he finds more straightforward, others more complex in their rhythms or words. When the men sing their numerous repeats of “H’rum pum, h’rum pum, h’rum pum” (The Little Drummer Boy) or “By the rivers of Babylon” from song of the same name, Hugh’s wry comments can have the choir in stitches!

The musical legacy of the Adams family has reached far down the generations. Hugh’s daughter and son-in-law sing in two choirs, and his son Nick sings baritone in three choirs. A tenor grandson is a member of the Phoenix choir, whilst a great grandson has recently achieved a distinction for singing at his school. How proud Hugh must be of such a musical tradition in his family!

Hugh continues to enjoy music, especially classical music and light opera, and listening to the radio is a great joy. Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” (quoted above) is one of Hugh favourites. Each variation is a musical sketch of one of the composer’s close acquaintances, a distinct idea based on a particular personality or an incident known only to two people. It is a beautiful piece of music, and perhaps reflects High’s own varied life, his experiences and his wide circle of friends and family.

Thank you Hugh, for letting us tiptoe through your past and your love of music.

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 – Christmas Evening 13th & 14th December 2019 – SOLD OUT

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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 2019

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I love this time of year, as summer slides into autumn. The gardens are gently
fading with late summer flowers glowing like jewels, leaves are beginning to turn as trees claim their time of seasonal glory. Fields have yielded up their harvest, whilst the hedgerows and orchards have ripe pickings for jams and jellies, chutneys and cider. It is a nostalgic time as well. The last over of the summer cricket matches have been bowled and the eight week Proms season has ended. We look back and hold fast to fond memories of the summer days, but so we also look forward to the new beginnings that the autumn brings.

The youngest generation has, or is about to, take the next steps on their learning journeys. Pre-school, nursery, primary or secondary school, university or the working world. We have several family members embarking on these “next steps” – we wish them, and everyone else, much happiness and success in their new adventures. The cricket season may be over but the Rugby World Cup is upon us, and the anthem at the top will be heard time and time again as we switch on to watch, cheer, applaud, and hopefully not commiserate. Add to this the various national anthems that will be proudly played and sung too, and then we have a small feast of musical experiences!

Which brings me very nicely to Heyford Singers and music. Our autumn rehearsal season began on 6th September with an Open Evening. We had expected one or two new members, we had hoped for maybe a few more, but we were absolutely thrilled to welcome thirteen new singers! Mary had prepared a lovely mixture of songs for the first evening, two warm up tunes, a medley of songs from Oliver, “Feeling Groovy” by Simon and Garfunkel, and then two songs to be included in the forthcoming Christmas concert. It was lovely evening, warm and welcoming, relaxed and fun, made especially so by sharing it with new friends. And what is more they all claimed to have thoroughly enjoyed their initial session and have continued to come!

So we look forward with excitement and anticipation. I have tried to avoid much
mention of winter’s great festival as that will follow in good time, but for your diaries the Heyford Singers’ Christmas concert is Friday 13th and Saturday 14th December and plans are being made for a village “Carols on the Green” for Friday 20th December. Further details of both events will follow in due course.

But for now, the sun is shining, the sky is cloudless and the garden beckons!

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 & 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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