Sidmouth Folk Festival is renowned as one of the most iconic events on the UK’s folk music calendar, so we were delighted that Wren Music were invited to be part of it.
Five of our groups performed in Sidmouth during this summer’s festival – MenSing, the Folk Sinfonietta, East Devon Folk Choir, the Devon Youth Folk Ensemble, Folk Orchestra of East Devon – and their shows all went down a storm!
MenSing did a 40-minute set at the Manor Pavilion, where they were joined by Jim Causley for two songs, before he took to the stage for his solo concert. Jim, one of our MenSing guest leaders, offered the choir two of his songs to sing. MenSing choir leader, Paul Wilson, scored the harmony parts for the group, while Jim sang the bass line. Paul said: “It sounded absolutely gorgeous, and the audience loved it. Jim joined one of our choirs in the 1990s and it’s lovely that he’s remained part of the Wren Music family.”
Our new Folk Sinfonietta also performed at the Manor Pavilion, where they played the Wren Music ‘Overture’, showcasing elements of 40 songs from our 40 years. The Overture was scored by two of our professional musicians, Jon Dyer and Jenny Read. This was the second live performance, following its premiere at the Wren Music 40th anniversary celebration day at Exeter Phoenix in July. Jenny said: “They absolutely smashed it! We had 16 musicians on the stage, and the audience was blown away by the performance.”
Our two East Devon weekly music groups were also in Sidmouth for a concert. The Folk Orchestra of East Devon and the East Devon Folk Choir presented a concert in Sidmouth Parish Church. Each did their own set before joining together for a performance of Brand New Day, which was written by Wren Music for the Millennium. Jenny led the orchestra and Sarah Owen led the choir. Sarah said: “The audience participation was great. We taught them the chorus of John Barleycorn, and they all sang along to it. And doing Brand New Day together was a nice way to finish the concert, because it has become something of an anthem for Wren Music.”
Devon Youth Folk Ensemble also received a rousing reception when they played at Blackmore Gardens. The group of young musicians aged 13-18 displayed their musicianship in front of a large audience. Jon, who leads the Ensemble, said: “They really showed off their whole range of skills, including a sense of ownership and self-confidence. And it’s great fun to perform at Sidmouth Folk Festival, it’s got such an amazing buzz.”
Later on in the week the children’s festival enjoyed performances of new songs based on the oral testimony of volunteers at Sidmouth Toy Museum. Marilyn Tucker – our resident oral historian – trained children from the primary school in some basic interviewing techniques. The creation of these new songs was a special representation of the relationship between the town and the festival.
The Sidmouth performances are the latest in a long relationship between Wren Music and the Folk Festival, which we hope to build on for the festival’s 70th anniversary in 2024.