Grizzly Bears at Quadring Church

Quadring Bears1

You never know who you might see if you go down to the church today. This summer, Quadring parish church held a teddy bear jump from the tower to raise funds. Bears of all shapes and sizes sailed down on parachutes, to an inspired commentary from Ian, the vicar, and with prizes for the longest and most accurate jump. Inside the church, were homemade cakes, tea and juice – and a concert by The Grizzly Bears, all of whom attend the local primary school, with their tutor, Neave. Here’s a snapshot of their performance:

Quadring is unusual because the church and school stand at some distance from the village itself, though there is a field path connecting them. Like many village schools in the area, Quadring has a strong relationship with the church, so when The Grizzly Bears needed rehearsal space, the church proved ideal. They’ve been able to practice there and have even played at services, including Mothering Sunday.

The style of music has changed, but The Grizzly Bears are just the latest of a very long line of Quadring people who have made music in the church over the centuries. Three of them moved on to secondary school in September, so the band is now renewing itself with new members and a different name, but Neave says there are lots of talented children to step up. The music goes on…

Quadring Bears3

Download the book – free

The Light Ships cover A

The next Light Ships event will be held this Saturday, 22 November, at Wrangle Church.

The main book launch, with a screening of a wonderful old film of Boston in 1943, will be at 3.00pm – but do come a bit earlier if you can, to see the exhibition and enjoy being in one of the Fenland’s loveliest churches. From 2.00pm there’ll be refreshments and an organ recital by Tony Fitt-Savage, who was organist at Sandringham for almost 40 years.

From today, The Light Ships is also available as a free download. It is a PDF file, which most computers can open with a programme like Acrobat Reader. It can be enlarged on screen for easier reading, or printed out. There are two versions: the low-resolution file takes less time to download, but the high-res file has better quality pictures. Click on the links below to save the file to your computer.

Copies of the printed books will be available on Saturday at Wrangle and the following Saturday, 29 November, at Gosberton, where the launch coincides with the church’s seasonal Christmas Tree Festival. From 1 December 2014, you can also buy copies for £5 plus postage from Transported:

Transported

Holbeach St. Marks Community Association Building,

Sluice Road, Holbeach St. Marks, Lincolnshire PE12 8HF

Phone 01406 701006 Email TransportedLauren@litc.org.uk

Books will also be available through the churches included, with all proceeds will go to church funds or supporting future arts opportunities in Boston Borough and South Holland District.

The Light Ships Book

When you’re smiling…

George Harrison once said that you can’t hear a ukulele without wanting to smile. I know what he meant: I was beaming throughout the Ukulele Orchestra of Spalding concert at Holbeach St John church last night. As the sound of church bells is naturally joyful, the sound of the ukulele just brings a smile to your face.

It helped that the Orchestra played familiar songs with style, adding colour with flashes of violin, trumpet, recorder – and triangle. It helped that their performance was full of self-deprecating wit, and the jokes nicely polished by age. It helped too that the church members who’d organised the concert to raise funds were so welcoming, providing an interval buffet of heroic generosity.

It all made as happy an event as one could wish for on a summer’s evening in a fenland village. C community, art and church in easy harmony: at the end of the evening, the Orchestra returned what they’d been given to help with church funds. Everybody went home with a smile and a tune in their heads.

PS The Ukulele Orchestra of Spalding plays about 50 concerts a year, all in aid of local charities: they will be performing at Gosberton Church on Saturday 25 October: more details on their website.

An impromptu recital

Among the people I met last week at Sutton St James was Tony Fitt-Savage, who retired in 2006 after 39 years as organist at St Mary Magdalene in Sandringham. Tony was kind enough to play for us, four people in a sunlit church on a quiet Thursday morning.

The organ at Sutton St James was installed in 1910, by Cousans, Sons & Co, of Lincoln, at a cost of £160. It’s a modest instrument, but one that has accompanied weddings, funerals and everyday services in the church for more than a century, a consistent sound amidst the changing styles of congregations.

Links

Pinchbeck

The music of angels

BBC Radio Lincolnshire has a weekly arts programme called Tuesday Extra, and this week’s edition was particularly rich in connections to The Light Ships. The guests included Andrew Dennis, who runs Woodlands Organic Farm, near Boston, and whose vision of the land’s connection with people has made it such a rewarding place to visit. As someone who knows and loves the arts, Andrew has welcomed poets, composers and artists to spend time at Woodlands, creating new work inspired by the landscape, the people and their work in growing organic food and raising traditional Lincolnshire breeds. The programme included extracts from Cecilia McDowall’s lovely ‘Five Seasons’ (2006), whose composition was partly inspired by her stay at Woodlands and the fenland scene.

Richard Still, another guest on Tuesday’s programme, spoke about his efforts to reconstruct the instruments that were played in medieval churches. At a concert in Lincoln Cathedral, he’d found his attention caught by the pictures of angel musicians in the stained glass: the images above, from the cathedral, were all added by Richard to BBC Lincolnshire’s Facebook page so that listeners could see for themselves. A recorder player and expert in ancient music, he has made some instruments based on the versions that can still be found in churches, five hundred years or more after the echoes of their notes faded away.

A programme like Tuesday Extra – which you can still listen to online by clicking here – is wonderful partly because it’s so ordinary. One weekday teatime, you might be driving home or preparing supper (with local vegetables!) and find yourself transported by the haunting sounds of mediaeval music over the fields on whose produce we all depend.

The Drunken Church Band

Thomas_Webster_-_A_Village_Choir

The organ is such a staple of church music that it’s hard to remember that it wasn’t always so. The churches of the Fens have echoed to many different styles of music over the centuries: plain chant in Latin, choral singing, organ recitals and the ever changing music of the people. There’s a lovely story by Thomas Hardy about a church band – fiddles, bass-viol, serpent; clarionet and oboe – who have a bit too much brandy and beer one Christmas to keep warm in the unheated west gallery, while the sermon rolls on. The shocking consequence spells the end of their playing in church as the squire invests in:

‘a barrel-organ that would play two-and-twenty new psalm-tunes, so exact and particular that, however sinful inclined you was, you could play nothing but psalm-tunes.’

Click here to read the story

Nowadays, squires and parsons are more relaxed about what music should be heard in church. When I was at Long Sutton recently, the Rocking Rector of Market Deeping was doing a sound check for that evening’s concert. Five miles away, at Holbeach Church, the South Holland Singers and the Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra were performing Haydn’s Creation. Who could feel deprived of opportunities to enjoy music in the Lincolnshire Fens that Spring Saturday evening?

Links

Long Sutton Church band

Filming Creation

The Light Ships will produce not just a book, but a short film evoking the village church as a centre of artistic and social life. For that side of the project, I’ll be working alongside my son, Laurence, a young filmmaker who has just completed his first big commission. 

Looking for Melody is a 50 minute documentary about the recording of Sine Qua Non, an album of Serge Gainsbourg songs recast in a jazz idiom. Filmed mainly at Abbey Road Studios in London, it captures the evolution of musical creation in the hands and minds of a diverse group of musicians, engineers, and producer. It’s a process of exploration and discussion, trying things out, abandoning things that don’t work, arguing for what you hear or hope to hear, starting, stopping and starting again.

I don’t know what story The Light Ships film will tell, nor how. The heart of these projects is open-minded exploration, a journey through new land, in company and conversation with anyone who wants to come along. In its way, the process is not unlike that of musical creation documented by Laurence in Looking for Melody. That work will begin in June, once we’ve been able to do more of the background research.

In the meantime, although the subject is very different, I hope you might enjoy Looking for Melody.