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Jenny Coxon of EDS

reviews The Bedmaking by Andover Museum Loft Singers

The Singers (named after their main practise venue upstairs at the Andover Iron Age Museum), were formed in 1996 by Roger Watson, following a TAPS community project, and are now led by Paul Sartin. Members are drawn from all ages and walks of life, many having little or no previous experience of choral singing, but all can join in because songs are taught by the traditional 'lining out' method. They sing three- or four-part unaccompanied harmony, influenced by West Gallery and other singing traditions such as the Copper family, and perform regularly, sometimes with other community choirs, for concerts, seasonal celebrations and community events. The repertoire reflects both local sources and links with individual choir members' origins or activities, giving the whole album a very rooted feel.

It's the arresting choral arrangements which give this CD such appeal, with suitably atmospheric chords, spiky harmonies and occasional unison used to bring out the integral mood of each song's story. Tracks which stand out: a lovely version of the Coppers' old favourite 'Come Write Me Down', the strongly rhythmic shanties 'The Hog's Eye Man' and 'Homeward Bound', a suitably melancholy 'The "New" Deserter', and a jaunty version of the title track 'The Bedmaking with its coincidental reference to 'up aloft' - perhaps that's why they chose it! Three of the 15 tracks have sparing accordion accompaniment (from Paul Hutchinson) which adds rather a lush quaility to the harmonies as in 'All in a Row'. The unexpected scene stealer is a left-field arrangement of 'Johnny Todd' which catchesyour attention with its grainy introduction and holds you in its web until the sudden conclusion - magical.

Every word is crystal clear, with conducting adding expressive touches by changing pace at appropriate moments; the Loft Singers must have a lot of fun!