Forty young people from three Exmoor primary schools came together for a concert at Simonsbath Festival – a rousing finale to a six-week project with Wren Music.
The children from Exford First School, Cutcombe First School, and Timberscombe First School worked with Wren Music leaders Jon Dyer and Paul Wilson during May and June. Jon and Paul brought forward songs of their area, wrote new material with the children, and formed them into a tuneful and enthusiastic choir.
The finale concert, Songs of the Exmoor Forest, took place at Moorland Hall at Wheddon Cross on 19 June. Jon and Paul opened the show with a couple of items – a local tune set from an early 20th century tune collection, and a song written by Paul from talking to the sheep shearers around Exford. Then, each of the three schools sang two songs each before joining together for three songs, finishing the show with a six-verse tour de force based on a local shanty from John Short of Watchet.
Exford teacher Laura Cavanagh said: “The children have loved the project, especially creating their own lyrics and singing them. There’s a real sense of pride and ownership.”
And Timberscombe teacher Ellie Stone said: “Our young people have really taken these songs to their heart. They’ve been singing them on minibus trips and also at home – some parents who came to the finale show knew some of the songs!”
This has been a delightful project for Wren Music to be part of. Jon said: “It was lovely to see the larger group take to the stage and sing together.”
Paul added “We had brilliant support from the schools. The young people had clearly listened to our audio guides and practised hard ready for the big day. We had selected songs specially to link with the young people’s preferences, and to see the children write songs about magical beasts and eco-environments was just wonderful.”
The project is a co-promotion with Simonsbath Festival. The Festival has funded the project as a cultural benefit to local youngsters over the years, putting young people in touch with their heritage of local traditional songs, with a sharing concert around Midsummer Day.
Photo: Children from Cutcombe CofE First School with Jon and Paul.