Beneath Our Changing Sky

by Test Valley Community Choirs

This album was created to present an anthology of songs from Hampshire sources, past and present, performed by local choirs. The performers are both community choirs from the Test Valley. The recording was carried out in the Church of St. Mary the Less, Chilbolton, nr. Stockbridge in Hampshire.



Local choirs play an important part in spreading local songs and keeping them alive. The project was sponsored by Test Valley Borough Council, Hampshire County Council, Traditional Arts Projects and Southern Arts. The performers are both community choirs from the Test Valley. The recording was carried out in the Church of St. Mary the Less, Chilbolton, nr. Stockbridge in Hampshire. The two choirs recorded here, the Andover Museum Loft Singers and the Broughton Village Choir, are both situated in the Test Valley district of Hampshire , between Andover and Romsey and usually perform for seasonal and other occasions in their own communities. They have developed a style of harmony which owes much to old traditions, both secular and sacred. Arrangements, either three- or four-part, echo the style of West Gallery church music, with its fugues, canons and responding phrases. Influence can also be heard from harmony singing exemplified by rural traditions stretching from the Copper family of Sussex to the Keld singers of Swaledale. All the songs on the album have close connections with Hampshire.

The Faithful Plough
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Fathom the Bowl
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The Labouring Man
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The Farmers Arms
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Home Lads Home
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Two Brethren
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The Barleycorn Carol
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When This Old Hat Was New
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The Banks of the Sweet Primroses
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The Streams of Lovely Nancy
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Young Edwin in the Lowlands
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The Night Visiting Song
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Awake
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Beneath our Changing Sky
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Lights and Virtues
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Folkwrite

Gwilym Davies

Being a Hampshire Hog by birth, this CD had an immediate resonance with

me. Roger Watson, under the auspices of TAPS, has put together choirs

from Broughton and Andover to perform unaccompanied arrangements of

various folksongs, some well known, others less so. The result is a

pleasant record for listening, performed with obvious enthusiasm on the

part of the singers. There is more than a touch of West Gallery about

the sound and one of the most successful tracks is a local WG hymn

Awake, Behold. Home, lads, Home, with its mention of Hampshire villages,

is particularly good, as is Roger Watsons Nativity song around the

theme of John Barleycorn. There are a few niggles - some of the

arrangements are over-fugued and lose the tune, and the enunciation

smacks of the church choir rather than folksong. However, these are

minor quibbles. The CD represents 45 minutes of good listening and a

good model for other community choirs.  

       

 

fRoots

David Kidman

This enchanting new release from the Hampshire?based WildGoose label presents an anthology of songs from Hampshire sources, past and present, sung by community choirs from the Test Valley district (between Andover and Romsey)... who play such an important part in spreading such songs and keeping them alive. The choirs in question are the Andover Museum Loft Singers and Broughton Village Choir, both around 20 strong but each quite different in character. The recording was made in the Church of St. Mary the Less at Chilbolton, and has captured the vocal nuances and potentially awkward internal balance very well. Led by Traditional Arts Projects artistic director Roger Watson, these choirs have developed a style of  harmony which owes much to old traditions both secular and sacred.

Arrangements, either in three or four parts, echo the style of West Gallery church music, with its fugues, canons and responding phrases. Parts are not allocated to gender, but chosen by the singers for range, balance and preference. The track listing contains a number of items that are familiar to those frequenting singers clubs ? Fathom The Bowl, The Farmers Arms ?though the fulsome arrangements and distinctive stylings may not be to everyones taste. Particularly on first acquaintance, some (The Faithful Plough, Home Lads Home for instance), may seem just a little rarefied, deliberate or precious, having the effect of smoothing out the sentiment to an extent, while others may seem a little stiff or formal or self?consciously arty. Others (such as The Labouring Man and Barleycorn Carol) which have a more immediately accessible energetic quality, may thus more readily appeal. The title track, by the way, very affectingly sets a lyric created by Wherwell children to a traditional melody.

Certainly, the key to appreciating these vital performances is to listen with fresh ears and jettison preconceptions, so that you can greet old friends in new clothes as it were.