When we launched MenSing in 2015, we did so because we knew there was demand in Devon for men who wanted to sing folk songs together in a group – but didn’t fancy joining a shanty crew.
We currently have 20 members, and we are seeking more singers to join us.
The choir meets in the morning on one Saturday each month at Wren Music’s ‘home’ in Ebenezer Hall, Okehampton. For those who enjoy the chance to perform, we also sing at festivals and other events – but you don’t have to perform until you feel ready. No experience is needed, there are no auditions, and no waiting lists to join.
We don’t have fixed parts like ‘tenor’ and ‘bass’ – instead we work with whichever voices come through the door:
“Some days my voice is more comfy singing high, and sometimes I enjoy leaning into my lower notes – and that’s true for every voice,” said group leader – and professional singer – Paul Wilson, who has decades of experience in leading groups. “Anyone who identifies as male is welcome along, and I get out of bed on a Saturday morning excited by the range of voices I get to work with in the group!”
MenSing has members from many age groups and walks of life. Meeting just once a month means members can travel from further afield to be part of it – current members come from as far as Bristol to the north and Redruth to the west.
Everyone’s story is different: for some of MenSing, this is the first time they’ve ever been in a choir. For others, they’ve ‘dipped in and out’ of singing over the years, and MenSing has given them a pathway.
One of the members, Hugh Edwards, tells us his story…
“I was the head teacher at a primary school before I retired, and I used to sing with the children a lot. Singing is something I’ve always enjoyed – I’m also a member of Wren Music’s Torbay Folk Choir and another choir in Torbay.
“Being in MenSing has been brilliant. It’s very well led by Paul, he’s a friendly choir leader and he likes us to be the best that we can, so we are able to improve our singing. It’s a very supportive community, completely non-judgmental, and if a new person joins who doesn’t have any experience, they are placed between two singers who are more experienced.
“One of the selling points for me is the arrangements Paul comes up with, they are very manageable and accessible. And there are excellent online resources for those of us who want to practice at home.
“For me personally, it’s very important to have performance opportunities. With Wren, I’ve sung in Exeter Cathedral, in churches, at folk festivals such as Sidmouth and Dartmoor, and in a cave! I never would have sung in these places otherwise and the opportunity to do that has been wonderful. But it’s not for everyone, which is fine, because you can just come to the Saturday sessions if that’s what you want.
“As a retired person, it’s a great world to be part of, you feel like you are part of the Wren Music family, I love it. And from what I’ve learned, it has also led me on to other things, so it can open up other possibilities. My wife Catherine is also involved in Wren Music groups, and it has become an important part of our lives and is a huge benefit to us.”
The music is folk songs in harmony, mainly A Capella voices, but accordion and guitar feature in some songs. The repertoire is based around the folk music of Devon, the South West and some other cultures where we have singing friends. The group also sometimes writes songs in the folk style.
On Saturday 9 September, we have our first rehearsal of the new year. Newcomers are especially welcome to come along and try it out. Your first session is free, so there is no risk in giving it a go!
“It’s a special start to the year,” said Paul. “After a break for lunch, we’ll be going through the set of around 12 songs we’ll be performing at Beer Quarry Caves that day! New singers who have just joined can either come to the Caves as audience members or join the choir in the chorus of a song or two if they want. It will be their choice how they want to get their first experience of MenSing.”
Paul added: “This year we are taking the group to a new level, with a weekend residential in the New Year. We know from our work with young people that these kinds of weekends away are so amazing for helping people get to know each other, feel relaxed and able to support each other. So I feel there are some really exciting times ahead.”
Membership is £15 per month (reduction available for those on lower incomes).
For more information, email us at [email protected] or call 01837 53754
MENSING DATES 2023/24:
- Rehearsals 2023: 9 September, 14 October, 11 November, 9 December
- Residential 2024: Friday 12 January to Sunday 14 January
- Rehearsals 2024: 10 February, 9 March, 13 April, 11 May, 8 June, 13 July