Throughout our 40 years, we’ve been delighted to bring song and conversation into residential homes across Devon. Our latest visit – to River’s Edge Retirement Apartments in Okehampton – had residents joining in with some of the songs, discussing local folklore, and sharing stories and memories.
One of our musicians, Paul Wilson, performed a repertoire of traditional local folk songs, ballads, and popular music hall songs. During the concert, there were discussions about the history of folk music, song collecting, and family histories.
Paul said: “There was a lovely response to the familiar folk songs, like Widecombe Fair, reactions such as ‘I haven’t sung that since I was at school, it took me back’. One of the women, who’s 97, said ‘oh, that was a lovely concert, I’d love to join you, where do you meet’? To want to do that is extraordinary.”
Paul talked about the invention of ‘folk’ as a genre and the search for national musical identity during the 19th century: “There was a lot of interest in how folk music developed, and in Baring-Gould’s song collecting,” said Paul.
“It amazes me constantly that the audiences interests are so diverse. Some love the historical detail, some just love the familiar songs, and some want the challenge of listening to something new and learning a new chorus. Everyone is different. And people shared with me some lovely stories about the origin of family names.
“At the end of the final song, they called for more, which was lovely.”
The visits are part of Wren Music’s community work and Paul said: “We come with about an hour’s material which can be split in two with a break for tea, halved, or otherwise adjusted to suit those attending. Everyone was very interested in the charitable work that we do, for example, working with looked after children and people living with respiratory issues.
“At these visits, I always say we do just two things in our work – we give space, and we give praise. We create a safe space and give praise when someone does something well, with the belief that people can surpass themselves.”
House manager at River’s Court Edge, Sarah Davey, said: “The residents really enjoyed it. Paul was very engaging, they loved the singing, and it’s always nice to have a social gathering. Some of the residents asked if we could have Wren Music back again, which we look forward to doing soon.”
Visits are free, with a collection box for people to give if they wish. If you would like Wren Music to come to your residential home, please get in touch on 01837 53754 or email us at [email protected]