Old Time Carols At Hauxley

Posted on 15th February 2011 | in What's On

Some 50 musicians and singers, members of the West End Gallery movement, from churches as far away as Derbyshire and Durham, and St George’s, Morpeth, met at Hauxley Chapel to rehearse 18th century carols and maritime music and give a free concert.

Local organiser Shirley Forster said “West Gallery Music gets its name because it was often performed by a band of singers and instrumentalists from a gallery at the west end of a church.

“It was the repertoire of town and country churches from about 1700-1850. It differs from cathedral music because it was written for, and in many cases by, amateur musicians. Few local churches had organs, and often the singers were led in four part singing, by a small band of whatever instruments a congregation could assemble between them.

“A gallery band like this is described in Thomas Hardy’s novel Under the Greenwood Tree (1872). Much of the repertoire consists of settings of the metrical psalms from the Elizabethan ‘Old Version’ of Sternhold and Hopkins or the ‘New Version’ (1696) of Tate and Brady.

“There are hymns, anthems and canticles, and some lively Christmas carols. The music is often of a florid and joyful nature; too joyful indeed for the reformers of the mid-19th Century Oxford movement, who sought to replace it with the more solemn repertoire typified by Hymns Ancient and Modern. The style survived longer in the non-conformist chapels than in the established church, and remnants of it survive in the folk repertoire up to the present day.

“Our music making days endeavour to bring a group of instrumental players of varying  degrees of amateurishness together with singers some of whom (but not all) can sight read well, to sing lots of four part (or more) hymns ranging from simple chord by chord settings to material that is closer to Handel’s Messiah.

The music chosen for the day is always as closely linked to the church we are playing in as possible and Hauxley is an ideal place to bring in hymns with maritime / fishing references. It was a lovely day and a very good time was had by all.”

It was good to see the chapel relatively full, even if the performers outnumbered the audience and it evoked the days when the village population would have performed plays and music there to entertain themselves in pre-television days.

Tim Jones

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