Rough Music Orchestra’s Day – 2nd March 2019

Baring-Gould meets Mahler and Vaughan Williams!

An excellent Orchestra Day was held on Saturday 2nd March at Belmont Chapel in Exeter, with more than 60 musicians attending.

The Wren Music Orchestra Leaders, Becki Driscoll, David Faulkner and Jon Dyer, planned a very special event with guest tutor professional conductor Jon James. Jon is based in Bristol and has worked with all Wren’s music leaders developing music skills and their conducting skills.

The theme for the day was “The Lark in the Morn” and groups worked as a large ensemble, as smaller groups and finally a creative music workshop - all inspired by this quintessential English Folk Song from the Baring-Gould Collection.

The first session of the day saw the entire ensemble learning two versions of The Lark in the Morn under Becki’s direction, before splitting into three groups – Jon leading an Irish reel (The Dawn), Becki going back to the 18th Century with a Playford Tune, and David leading L'Alouette, a 16th Century bransle from Lorraine in France.

The afternoon started with a performance of each of the pieces to the others in the group (including half the assembled company doing the Bransle dance!) before gathering again under the inspiring musicianship of Jon James. Jon had come prepared with three ideas to introduce and embellish the Lark tune – and this is where Mahler and Vaughan Williams were introduced. Mahler’s lone note opening of his 5thSymphony being one inspiration and Vaughan Williams’s ‘Lark Ascending’ being another.

Jon had different sections of the orchestra creating different effects – shimmering fiddles, long bowed notes on the cellos, the flutes ascending and descending like larks – and seamlessly created an orchestral piece based on the Lark that we had learnt (in the morning!). It was a treat for the orchestra members to work under someone of Jon’s classical experience and brilliant, off-the-cuff creations; and Jon said how much he enjoyed working with musicians who don’t have to have the ‘dots’ in front of them(!).

The final performance brought together the day’s learnings and led to highly positive feedback all round.




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Her Story 2019

"By the hands of women life's pattern unfolds

And day by day her story is told

Weaving the fabric of time

Women thread the needle to prove the point"

    - From the opening song of the Her Story concert 2019

The Her Story project goes from strength, and in March 2019 we hosted two sell-out shows in Exeter and Torquay.

The choir was launched in January (no auditions or experience necessary), and over 40 women joined for rehearsals led by Sarah with Marilyn and Amy. 

Over the course of just five rehearsals the choir learned eight songs on the theme of fabric and textiles.

The show was entitled 'Thread the Needle, Prove the Point' and addressed the different ways in which women's history is documented outside of history books.

Highlight songs from the choir included Si Khan's Aragon Mill, the traditional song The Doffing Mistress, as well as lots of newly written songs on the theme.

Another highlight was the professional trio from Wren's performance of a traditional Lithuanian linen producing song, called Šiaip sėjau linelius.

We look forward to hosting the project again in 2020. If anyone is interested in taking part, please get in touch to be added to the mailing list.

MenSing with Martin Scragg – Friday 8th June 2019


Accomplished Devon-born singer and guitarist Martin Scragg collaborated with Wren Music’s 21-voice male singing group, MenSing, to bring an evening of powerful, radical and sociable songs with plenty of chances to join in. 

Wren Music’s Paul Wilson, the musical director of MenSing, led the choir in a range of songs from the traditional English (Turpin Hero) to world roots (Senzenina from South Africa ) to contemporary classics such as Crossing the Bar and Cousin Jack. Accompaniment instruments  included guitars, accordion, piano and some more exotic relatives.There were lots of positive comments on the night and since then from audience members, theatre staff and others. 

Choir leader Paul Wilson played one of the songs while setting up for a school workshop and

two teachers stopped to listen, asking who the professional choir was. Quite a few of the

comments were on that level  - ‘very professional’ was the comment of choir leader

Matt Norman who was in the audience.

Martin said “I thoroughly enjoyed it and the men sang fabulously. The audience also enjoyed it

judging by the comments I had at the end of the night. It’s a pity it was only for one night,

however we should get together again sometime.”


Sing Around the Bay 2019 - Animal Watch : Thursday 11th July 

The Sing Around The Bay project 2019 was launched, with over 300 school children packed into White Rock School Hall. As well as doing warm ups and singing songs the children all took part in an initial consultation event to tell us what sort of things they like to do and are interested in and then we tailored the theme to create - 'Animal Watch'.  Paul Wilson and Marilyn Tucker supported and mentored four singer songwriters to work with the schools: Emily Howard, Steve Sowden, Leah Whitcher and Jane Anderson-Brown.

Trade Roots Concerts 

North Devon Folk Choir and Folk Orchestra of North Devon (FOND) performed a special repertoire linked to Bideford’s maritime history thanks to the research of FOND member Maggie Curtis.

Inspired by the Bideford Port Memorial Trade Maps, the Trade Roots project explores the traditional music that connects North Devon communities to the rest of the world. Wren Music’ s North Devon Folk Orchestra and Choir went on a musical journey across the sea to discover the fascinating history of Bideford’s trade links. The show featured songs, music, stories and images that stir the imagination and evoke times past.

Sell out performances happened on Thursday 18th July at the Plough Arts Centre, Torrington and on Saturday 20th July at the Cygnet Theatre in Exeter.

Local architectural ceramicist Maggie Curtis, the creator of the Port Memorial maps, launched her new book as part of this event. Trade Maps’ details Maggie’s research into the making of the trade map friezes.

The final show will be on Friday 27th September at the Appledore Book Festival.

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Folk in the Caves Concert - Wed 31 July 

Magical was the word most used by performers and audience alike to describe the concert in the candle-lit Beer Quarry Caves with EDFC and MenSing singing a wide selection of songs.

It was an evening of contrasts: warm to cold, light to dark, dry to damp, the caves feeling at the same time as vast as a cathedral and as intimate as a small chapel.

To have a concert in high summer wearing winterclothes, sturdy boots and the audience all in hard hats was certainly different from ‘normal’ indoor venues.

There were things to learn and remember, it was more difficult to hear each other and to see Sarah, we needed to really exaggerate the pronunciation of the words, we were frequently dripped on but it was so totally worth it for the extra dimension the caves gave to the sound of the songs, a reverberation, magnification, a richness and a wonderful soft echo effect at the end.

It was a very unique experience and one to remember for a long time to come.

Thank you Mike, Wren Music and Sarah, Men Sing and above all the Beer Caves’ guides who went out of their way to look after us and for having given us the chance to be troglodytes.

The caves can be visited during the summer.(     Monica M, EDFC

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