Devon Youth Folk Ensemble

The Devon Youth Folk Ensemble is for any person aged 13-18 years to sing or play and develop their folk music skills. This is a serious music group, but it’s also seriously fun! With arranged rehearsals from September, the year culminates in a weekend residential before performing at summer folk festivals and other events.

We welcome any young person interested in folk music and exploring and developing their musical skills. No prior musical experience is needed, and you don’t need to read music. We never make people audition, and we don’t have maximum numbers so young people are guaranteed a space if they would like to join. You’ll get expert tuition, write new songs and upskill your vocal or instrumental techniques to give you the confidence to perform live.

Our approach is fully accessible and inclusive for both those who have no music theory education, to more experienced young musicians. You’ll develop techniques from the folk genre. This includes improvising harmonies, composition, making arrangements and learning by ear, plus learning about the common modes and time signatures of folk music.

There is also the option to gain Arts Awards, nationally recognised qualifications demonstrating your arts and leadership skills. Gold Arts Award contributes to UCAS points.

You’ll also get creative. Folk music includes songs and tunes that are both old and new, and come from all over the world. You can suggest songs and tunes for the ensemble to learn, as well as get involved with writing songs and tunes and creating your own harmonies and arrangements.

Of course, it’s also about making friends and having fun! The group is inclusive and you’ll get to know like-minded people. At the residential, you’ll spend time together as a group and enjoy sharing experiences and the joy of making music.

Singers

Any young person is welcome to join the ensemble as a singer. You do not need to have explored singing before. Learning songs by ear means there is no need to read music. You’ll learn to control your breath, extend your vocal range and develop your singing technique. The group learn melody songs and harmonic arrangements.  When we sing in harmony we often arrange for three voices, ‘low’, ‘middle’ and ‘high’. We don’t assign you to one voice but encourage you to try different ranges and parts.

Instrumentalists

Instrumentalists should have their own acoustic instrument and a good level of confidence playing it. However, there is no minimum grade or grade equivalent required. The group is open to a wide range of instruments and we arrange tunes in parts to cover tune, harmony, bass and chords. Instrumentalists will develop their folk style and ability to play with others. There’s no need to read the musical score unless you want to.

Ensemble members are welcome to join with the interest of being both a singer and an instrumentalist. The group is split for part of rehearsals to allow focus on learning music or vocals, so you will need to choose one when preparing for performances.

The Devon Youth Folk Ensemble is led by Sarah Owen and Jon Dyer. (Arts Awards advisor, Marilyn Tucker.)

The Devon Youth Folk Ensemble is funded by Devon and Torbay Music Education Hub.

How to join

The Devon Youth Folk Ensemble is open to new members able to begin between September and December. You can join now to attend your first rehearsal in September 2021.

We close the group to new members after December to ensure everyone attends a minimum number of rehearsals as the ensemble develops a performance repertoire over the year. Young people are welcome to express an interest at any time to join the following autumn.

You can contact us now to express an interest in joining from September.

Rehearsals

The Devon Youth Folk Ensemble meets for monthly in-person rehearsals from September to March and online rehearsals from September to July. A weekend residential occurs in July, and the whole year is supported with online content.

First week of the month:
New songs and tunes are shared online for you to explore. We have a safe closed online group in our online community just for ensemble members.

Second Sunday of the month:
An online video call rehearsal. You’ll talk about this month’s songs and tunes and plan what you want to rehearse in person.
Online rehearsals are every month from September to July.

Third Sunday of the month:
In-person full-day rehearsal 10.00am-5.00pm. Cygnet Theatre, Friars’ Gate, Exeter, EX2 4AZ
In-person rehearsals will happen from September to March, so you can focus on exams after this time.

Residential

In July, the Wren Music leaders host a weekend residential in Devon. All members attend and we work collaboratively over full days to prepare for summer performances. The residential sees the group singing, playing, learning and eating together.

July 2022 Dates TBC. Residentials run from Friday after school to Sunday afternoon.

Performances

Performances will take place over July and August. We will secure the ensemble gigs at folk festivals and other events during the summer months. Members are welcome to suggest events they may like to perform at.

There may be more performance opportunities at other times of the year such as seasonal shows.

Expectations

The Devon Youth Folk Ensemble will perform at public events and we want to showcase the best you can be. Therefore, we expect each member to commit to attending all rehearsals as well as practising in their own time between rehearsals. This will develop your skills and strength for playing and singing faster.

Ensemble members are expected to attend every online session and full day in-person rehearsal. All term dates are published in advance and available. If you know you’ll miss a rehearsal, let the music leaders know with as much notice as possible.

Ensemble members are expected to attend pre-arranged gigs and performances in the summer months (July and August). Dates are released to the ensemble as soon as they are confirmed.

We understand that things can change and if at any time you would like to step away from the ensemble, or feel unable to commit to the rehearsal schedule, you simply need to let us know. We will of course work with you to overcome any concerns you may have. The group is welcoming, encouraging, respectful and there are no silly questions.

Costs

Wren Music is committed to inclusivity and encourages young people from all backgrounds. If costs may present a barrier to a young person taking part in the ensemble please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll do what we can to help.

A full year’s membership of the Devon Youth Folk Ensemble is £100.

There will be an additional contribution for the residential weekend of around £50.

Join the Ensemble today!

To join the Devon Youth Folk Ensemble, contact us with your name and age. If you would like to join as an instrumentalist let us know what instrument you play.

We will send you a joining form, which also needs to be completed by a parent/guardian.

Once this form has been received and payment for term fees arranged, we will set you up with access to our online community, and send you a schedule of the year’s events.