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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Revitalising the Allotments – December 2019

Weather
As a nation we love to talk about the weather. It’s too hot, too cold, too wet. And gardeners are even worse. However, for once it would seem as though something very odd really is going on with our weather and more particularly, our climate.

As I write this, the river is again overflowing its banks, the playing field resembles a lake and the allotments are getting soggier by the hour. The poor folk of Fishlake are trying to salvage possessions from their flooded homes and it is snowing in Gloucestershire. Just two months ago I dug down two spade depths and the ground was as dry as a bone. For two years now we have had a bumper crop of grapes, the fig tree is flourishing and we’ve just picked the last of our beefsteak tomatoes from the allotment. In the near future we are likely to reap both the benefits of a Mediterranean climate and its drawbacks (including a whole host of little beasties that do nasty things to our flora and fauna).

I guess if there is any lesson to be learnt from all this it is be ready for ‘change’ … and plant more grapes!

Trees
The community orchard goes from strength to strength and the trees we planted just a year ago are looking in good health. Several of the orchard volunteers are about to embark on pruning workshops and they will then be wielding the saw and secateurs on the trees, creating an even better, well shaped orchard for the coming Spring.

I was fascinated to read an article in the Prattler some months ago about a local resident who had successfully grown trees from fruit stones and pips. It is a fascinating thing to do but does not necessarily result in producing good ‘true’ fruit.

All named fruit trees come about as result of something called ‘grafting’. This is a process whereby a young branch from a good, productive tree is fixed onto a vigorous rootstock from the same genus i.e. apple branch to apple rootstock (you can’t mix apple and pear or plum and cherry). The two cut pieces are spliced into each other and sealed with tape during February/March. Providing the two cut surfaces meet smoothly a ‘graft’ is achieved and the result is a tree with all the fruiting characteristics of the good, productive tree and all the vigour of the rootstock. Next time you see a fruit tree, particularly a youngish one, take a look at the trunk near the ground. You’ll see a knobbly knuckle. That is the graft union. Earliest records suggest this practice has been going on for thousands of years, although it is likely that it first occurred by accident when two different trees simply rubbed against each other, wore down the bark and fused together.

Grafting isn’t really complicated and if you have the right growing material, a sharp knife and little patience you can do it yourself. Whilst the bulk of the wonderful trees in our community orchard came from specialist grower Andy Howard, several have been grafted by us. It is as cheap as chips to do … £3 to £4 for a vigorous dwarfing rootstock and the rest is free or easily available in your shed or garage. Within a year you’ll have a tree that is a metre tall!

Community Cut Flower Patch
Following on from the creation of the community orchard and jam patch, work has now started on the community flower patch. Digging was hard when it was dry and it is harder still now the ground is wet (I told you that gardeners obsess about the weather). However, the beds are starting to take shape. With the kind donation of paving slabs from our local Bowls Club we will be able to divide the beds so that flowers are easily accessible. The flowers we have on offer will be a mixture of annuals from seeds collected or donated, some perennials and both spring and summer bulbs. If you can help in any way by letting us have unwanted seed or plants you have lifted/divided, do let us know. We are keen to cover the soil; that is good for the environment and stops the weeds from having a nice bare patch to colonise.

Allotment Holders
It is so good to see that more plots on the allotments are being cultivated and that many of the new allotment holders represent the younger generation. Growing your own fruit and veg is for old and young alike and all are welcome. If you want to join us here are the usual telephone contacts: Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707. They’d love to hear from you.

Wildlife
Dave, Pauline, Mark and Mary, our wildlife enthusiasts, have written quite extensively in the past about the wildlife area they have created on the allotment and I have no doubt they will be keeping you all briefed about future developments. However, I must just mention the wonderful pond they are in the process of creating within this area. It is going to be a huge asset to the allotments as a whole, as good ponds encourage a host of beneficial wildlife. We look forward to our first batch of frogs, newts and toads.

Mike Langrish

“When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree”
Vietnamese Proverb

Heyford Singers – November 2019

HeyfordSingersNovember2019

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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Revitalising the Allotments – October 2019

About two years ago we began to despair that the main allotment site in Nether Heyford was going to rack and ruin. Those conscientious souls who kept their plots in good order were often fighting a losing a battle, as weeds from abandoned plots encroached onto their veggie beds. Trying to find a way through the site involved hacking your way through a jungle of tall grass and vicious brambles and at the same time trying to negotiate your way round abandoned car tyres, scrap metal and various wooden obstacles. The allotments, taken as a whole, looked a mess.

Fast forward to the present and what a change has occurred. Thanks to the support of the Parish Council, a group of volunteers have been able to make the allotments not only look good but once more become productive – in so many ways.

A section on the site that had long been abandoned was cleared and, with generous support from local businesses, organisations and individual residents, over thirty heritage fruit trees were purchased and planted. As we approach the first anniversary of that planting, I am pleased to report that they are thriving and have put on a considerable amount of new growth. In the next few years we look forward to harvesting our first crop and inviting you to share in this bounty.

Maintaining good pathways around the allotment site had always been a problem. Several allotment holders went above and beyond their remit of keeping their own area in order and often mowed whole sections near to their allotment. But that became the exception, not the rule. Over the past two years that has changed and thanks to volunteers and more individual allotment holders, the pathways are in good order. No longer do you hazard life and limb when you enter the allotments.

Following on from the success of the community orchard, a “community jam patch” has been created, again using several abandoned plots and utilising fruit bushes that have been rescued in the clearance work. We try to ensure that nothing goes to waste. Plans are afoot to extend this by including a “community cutting garden”, made up of annual and perennial flowers.

Another, long abandoned area of the allotments, has been turned over to a “wild area”. This is not an excuse to simply abandon land but is a carefully managed space that includes a wild flower area, nesting boxes for birds and smaller mammals as well as areas for tall grasses to flourish and a host of butterflies, beetles and other mini-beasts to thrive. Pathways have been mown through the area for safe access and a clearly defined perimeter rope has been fixed to posts to show where the area starts and finishes. As this is an area of sensitive growth and development the wildlife volunteers would ask that anyone seeking to visit first contacts one of them to arrange a convenient time. The next development for this area will be the creation of a wildlife pond.

Having a place to sit and eat lunch after a hard session on the allotment or for just taking the opportunity to sit and admire the orchard and the surrounding allotments, requires a community seating area. Again, thanks to the generosity of villagers and fellow allotmenteers we have been able to create a green space with tables and chairs. It was a joy to be able to gather here several weeks ago and share a drink as well as BBQ some food. As the sun went down it was good to reflect on what a lovely village we live in.

For those intrepid, long standing allotmenteers who have cultivated their plots over the years, despite the sea of weeds and the piles of junk, a big thank you. If you hadn’t battled on regardless then the allotments could have been in real jeopardy.

Finally, and probably most importantly of all, it is wonderful to report that more and more allotments are being cultivated. Ever since I began reporting on the refurbishment of the allotments I have always included an invitation to everyone out there to take on an allotment. I think it is beginning to pay off. Once abandoned land is now being put to good use by villagers and from folk in the surrounding area. It is so heartening to see this change in fortune, and whilst we’d never want to deny anyone an allotment, wouldn’t it be an achievement to say that we had a waiting list!

So here we go again…If you are interested in trying out an allotment (you can have a small “taster plot” free for one year – or you can plunge straight in and select a more permanent plot that suits you) then contact either Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

Come and join us.

Mike Langrish

Heyford Gardening Club – October 2019

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments
We started our new programme for the year with our annual flower and vegetable
show. These shows are always affected by the vagaries of the weather that has
experienced over the year, and our efforts to balance the classes are frequently
frustrated by events. For example, based on previous poor displays the class for
beetroot was withdrawn last year, only to prompt complaints from members because
their beetroot crops had been particularly good. So for this year the beetroot class was reinstated only to find that there was only one entry! And there were no courgette’s at all, whereas there were ten entries in the tomatoes. However the expansion of the floral classes was clearly a clever move as the displays of arrangements on show were truly impressive, indicating a wealth of artistic talent among our members.

The vegetable section was won by Irene Reeves with Jill Langrish in second place
and Tony Clewett third.

The flower section was closely fought, Mike Langrish came first with Anne Haynes in second place while Jill Langrish, Maureen Wright, Irene Reeves and Lynn Ashbee all took the third spot.

We reduced the plot to plate section down to just a jam or jelly class, which was won by Jill Langrish, with Margaret Ridgewell in second place and Sandy Alderson third.

The overall winner this year, taking into account prizes in our series of bench shows over the year, was Jill Langrish, with Irene Reeves as runner up and Margaret Ridgewell third. So our congratulations to them, the rest of us will just have to try harder next year!

Our next meeting will be on the 14th October when we will have a talk from Malcolm Dickson from Hooksgreen Herbs.

Some Things to do in October
1 Divide and replant herbaceous perennials
2 Give lawns a last cut and trim
3 Prune climbing roses

Mark Newstead

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www.heyfordgardenclub.com

For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments

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.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Jill Langrish

Heyford Gardening Club – July 2019

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments

Our June meeting featured a fascinating talk by Steve Brown on bonsai; a form of gardening which verges on an art form. I always think of it as extreme topiary.

Rose Show

Despite the tempestuous weather there was a good showing for the rose show with 57 entries.

Pauline Guglielmi won the single flowered class, Brian Jackson came second with John Dunkley and Tony Clewett in joint third place.

In the cluster flowered class Jill Langrish came first, Pauline Guglielmi was second
and Val Jackson, Rosemary Dunkley and Anne Haynes all tied for third place.

The perils of perlite

Following advice in the RHS magazine I have over the last few years added vermiculite to multi purpose compost for sowing seeds and taking cuttings. This proved extremely successful producing plants with vigorous root systems which established very quickly. Last year however instead of vermiculite I used perlite which, I assumed, would do the same thing. However I experienced a lot of difficulty; seedlings germinated quickly enough but then failed to develop properly and cuttings just didn’t root.

I can’t be sure that this was entirely due to the perlite, but having gone back to using vermiculite again, the results have improved significantly. This illustrates the principle that in gardening apparently small variations in conditions can make the difference between success and failure.

Weird Weather-again!

Following a baking Easter, a freezing May, and no rain for months suddenly the
heavens have opened and given us the whole summers rain in a few days. It’s a
wonder that we can grow anything!

Some Things to do in July

1. Dead head roses, bedding plants and perennials to get more flowers.
2. Pick courgette’s before they turn into marrows (unless you like marrows)
3. Water and feed plants in containers

Mark Newstead

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www.heyfordgardenclub.com

For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments