Monday, 27 February 2017

Local Group Report – Lewes – Tuesday 21st February 2017

We were a select group of seven who met at The John Harvey Tavern. At last we were able to present a seasonal gift to Tina as a thank you for all her hard work that makes our meetings so fruitful and enjoyable. We started singing with a boisterous Country Life, continuing with Where Stormy Winds Do Blow, Farmer’s Toast, Ha’nacker Mill, The Turmut Hoer, The Woodcutter’s Song, Pleasant and Delightful, The Magpie and Constant Lovers.

In the break we discussed the two short sets that we might sing at The Star, Alfriston, in June – most will be from the selection above. During the second half we needed to work on They Won’t Let Us Go To Sea Anymore and Seasons Turn, but generally the songs like Oak, Ash and Thorn, Poor Froze-Out Gardeners, The Smugglers Song and Thousands or More flowed easily as there were no new people to accommodate. Penultimately, we attempted Adrian’s East Sussex Drinking Song but now, as recent research reveals, we have to sing that Lewes once had nine breweries – eight more than they do now!

Friday, 17 February 2017

Local Group Report – Chichester – Thursday 16th February 2017

The recently renamed Chichester Group contingent of the South Downs Folk Singers goes from strength to strength. We started out five years ago calling ourselves the Easebourne Group and singing together once a month in the White Horse Inn near Midhurst. We then in the interim made our home in the Three Moles at Selham. However now the consensus of opinion is that we should relocate permanently on the third Thursday of every month to the Chichester Inn in West Street, Chichester, where we have a good acoustic for singing, plenty of space to welcome new members and a genuine warm welcome from Nick the landlord. And there’s ample free parking in the car park over the road (just under the city walls).

Last night 19 of us met to socialise and sing a jolly selection of 14 mainly traditional songs celebrating all things to do with life, love, drinking and our lovely Sussex hills. We welcomed two new members, Jo and Corrin, who joined in with the singing even though most of the songs were completely new to them. But that’s how it is with the South Downs Folk Singers. It costs nothing to join – all you have to do is come along to one of our sessions and you’ll be made most welcome! Thank you to all who attended last night. See you again at the Chichester Inn on Thursday 16th March at 7.30 for an 8.00 pm start.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Local Group Report – Beechwood, Wednesday 1st February 2017

We had another good turn out in Worthing to sing away any winter glooms, and we welcomed three new singers and one returner to the fold. For our ‘returner’ we gave Twankydillo an airing, and for the singers planning to sing at the Seed Swap event on 4th Feb we revisited Poor Froze-Out Gardeners, Oak, Ash and Thorn, The Farmers Toast and The Turnip Hoer (plus the new Composting lyrics created for this tune by Barbara S). When Emily needed to leave early, Alan ably accepted the reins and guided us successfully towards the best start notes for the rest of the evening. By popular choice Country Life, Rosebuds in June, Jim the Carter Lad, Pleasant and Delightful, West Sussex Drinking Song, and Ebernoe Horn Fair were all enjoyed, and with what breath we had left we went Rolling Home!

Vote South Downs!

The South Downs National Park is one of five contenders nominated by John Craven, BBC Countryfile presenter, for National Park of the Year in the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2017. You can see the other nominees and cast your vote here.

Voting closes before midnight on 28th February.

Slindon Wassail Report

10th February 2017 update: A report has been added to the Slindon Wassail post here.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Worthing “Seed Swap” 2017

12.30 – 4.00pm Saturday 4th February
Oak Grove College
The Boulevard
Worthing BN13 1JX
Entry £2

Further details here.

If you’d like to attend this event and to sing a few South Downs Songs during the afternoon, then come along and we’ll meet (near the stairs) at 1.40pm and later at 2.40pm for two brief song-sets. Come prepared with your song books and the lyrics to the “Composters” song supplied by Barbara S. (to the tune of the Turmut Hoer), and with Emily there to lead us we’ll choose our songs on the day!

See you there!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Local Group Report – Easebourne Thursday 19th January 2017

Eight of us made it out in the dark and cold to The Three Moles in Selham on Thursday night to enjoy a lively social evening with a few drinks and some very good songs. We welcomed a new member – Christine from Fittleworth who genuinely enjoyed joining in and discovering what singing with the South Downs Folk Singers is all about! We warmed up with Fathom the Bowl and Country Life and then went round the circle singing whatever song each member requested. This resulted in a great variety of songs from The Constant Lovers and A Smuggler's Song to old favourites like Thousands or More, The Turnip Hoer, Rosebuds in June and The Nightingale. Gordon got us all to sing his specially composed and very funny Three Moles Song and Stephen A taught us the song Valiants All which apparently was composed and sung in the past by a poor inmate of the Midhurst workhouse! We finished up with Ale Glorious Ale, Sussex by the Sea and of course Rolling Home which we all did most contentedly at the end of the evening. Please note that our next sing will be on Thursday 16th February at the Chichester Inn in West Street, Chichester. We hope to see lots of you there!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Local Group Report – Lewes Tuesday 17th January 2017

Our first gathering of the year over at The John Harvey Tavern was a good start for twelve of us, but unfortunately Tina is off sick from work and couldn’t come out. The weather was at freezing point, but that didn’t cool our spirit to enjoy a good sing. Adrian suggested that we start with Sussex Wedding Song, then we continued with Jim The Carter Lad and with smiles on our faces we were ready for Poor Froze Out Gardeners, The Magpie, Wassail, Wassail All Over the Town, Sugar Wassail and Here We Come A-Wassailing, before a last glance at Christmas with The Moon Shone Bright.

Without Tina to pitch our starting note quickly and to give us a clue of the tune there was a lot of strange noise before each song took off along a fairly accurate route. We started the second half with The Woodcutter’s Song, and then a few of us managed to sing The Cruel Mother (a Chichester Workshop song!) so that the rest of the group knew why we didn’t often rehearse this tale of woe for public performance! The Turmut Hoer brought us back to our senses and we were quick to find the right pitch. A request for the more modern They Won’t Let Us Go To Sea Anymore had us in stitches as we never did manage to all agree on the key and we churned along like a restless tide. Country Life, followed by All Things Are Quite Silent brought us near to the end of our evening with so many more to sing, but Gooches (Harvey’s) Beer and Fathom The Bowl won with an extra present-day verse from Mac.

We look forward to Tina’s return in so many ways!

Local Group Report – Beechwood Wednesday 4th January 2017

We gathered again at Beechwood Hall on the first Wednesday evening of the new year to enjoy again some winter and wassailing songs in readiness for the Slindon and SDFS wassail events later this month. After first catching up on news and plans we warmed our voices with our old favourite Thousands or More before singing Here We Come a-Wassailing and then the Apple and Sugar Wassails. The Gloucestershire Wassail and the Copper’s Christmas Song also had an airing, with slight and temporary adjustments to the verses or words to acknowledge the turn of the year. Wood was our other theme, with the Slindon Wassail bonfire in mind, and we sang The Woodcutters Song and Oak, Ash and Thorn – taking a long view of the winter season in the latter with its cheering references to midsummer morn and conjuring summer in! In a break one of our singers, Brian, shared with us a little of his knowledge about the history and traditions of Wassail, and the evening finished with some more fun trying a couple of Rounds introduced to us by Emily – with agreement to try these again at Slindon in the hope of getting some audience participation from our fellow wassailers!

Footnote on 15th January... thankfully the Slindon Wassail was a clear moon- and star-lit evening, neither frozen nor wet, and good traditional fun as it had been last year. Our singing by the bonfire presented some challenges as well as warmth (especially for Emily and any singers at the front) as the logs were loaded and the sparks flew, but no harm done and our set concluded with the audience joining in for the Round – success!

“Wassail” and “Good Heil” to all and we hope to see you at our SDFSingers social (Wassail) on 21st January.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Slindon Wassail – Saturday, 14th January 2017

Update 10th February 2017: Here's an update from John C (actually provided by John on 20th January, apologies for the delay in posting it here).

Thanks to much help and support from our trusty N.T. volunteers, the SDF Singers, 'Said the Maiden', 'Kadia', Mythago Morris and the Prize Old Mummers, the Rangers are delighted to report that last Saturday’s Wassail evening was a huge success. Katie is really pleased it all turned out so well (phew!), helped of course by the rain limiting its appearance to the afternoon, then pushing off to leave us with a perfect clear and chilly evening.

As you now-veteran wassailers will know, the flaming torch walk from the College entrance, taking in the orchard behind the yard, before heading down through the village, was a first time experiment. It turned out to be splendid. The atmosphere and jolly conviviality was highly contagious, and we have photographic evidence for those who weren’t around to experience it! Unexpectedly, but nevertheless very welcome, the Irish News came up with a Slindon Wassail report, note the local photographer's credit. Mention of it has also been posted on the Trust's national volunteer website as part of a post entitled 'Apps, Apples, Archaeology & Kipling' by John.

Some of you may have also seen the photograph in the Daily Telegraph on Monday, the fame of Slindon village eh!

The Ranger Raffle made £400, four bean sticks bundles were sold plus numerous log candles. After expenses the event made approximately £600 profit, so some funds to plough back in to buying tools, plus also to covering the Apple Day expenses deficit.

Amazingly around 500+ people attended, so in view of this year's national coverage, the chances are we might have even more punters next year (weather permitting), so maybe some things to work on (extra parking; additional lighting for the straw arena; further field event co-ordination with the procession timings).
Update 10th January 2017: additional information from John C has been added, please scroll down below the map to see this.
Songs from the list below will be chosen on the night, as circumstances allow.
  1. Wassail, Wassail (Gloucestershire)
  2. Oak, Ash and Thorn
  3. Sugar Wassail
  4. Coppers’ Christmas Song
  5. West Sussex Drinking Song
  6. Here We Come A Wassailing
  7. The Woodcutter’s Song
  8. Apple Tree Wassail
  9. The Magpie
  10. Thousands or More
  11. Rounds?
  12. Jolly Good Song

If enough Singers can confirm to be outside Slindon College at 5.45pm we could do a couple of songs before the Wassailing of their orchard, if not then this set is at 7.30pm in the field behind Slindon Forge in Reynolds Lane.

Ranger Raffle prizes:
  • Trailer load of logs
  • Guided personal Slindon Safari tour
  • Three bags of Slindon Charcoal
  • Tractor ride
  • Two-course dinner for two at The George, Eartham
  • Cream tea for two at Motte and Bailey, Arundel
  • Family stay at Gumber Bothy
  • Two log candles
  • Personal guided tour of East Head, in Chichester Harbour
  • Surveying for dormice with the Rangers
  • Up close and personal Badger experience
  • Wild camp experience in the woods with the Rangers

Suggested areas for car parking:
  • Top Road between Slindon College entrance and the Catholic Church, also further east
  • Church Hill
  • School Hill leading up to Gaston Farm
  • Reynolds Lane
  • Mill Road, south of the A29



Further information added 10th January:

Finally you can make this a date in your shiny new 2017 diaries and calendars, and ensure you read this properly because the N.T. & Villagers have  made the decision to take one step closer to Wassailing tradition. Hold on to your Wassailing hats! The N.T. Staff & Volunteers will be setting it up in the days beforehand.

Part 1. The Villagers, NT, SDFS and Mummers

By 5.45pm: Meet at the entrance to Slindon College, where the mysterious masked Mythago Morris will take us to our first Wassail behind the NT Estate Yard at 6.00pm. Those participating can park alongside the College wall in Top Road.

6.15pm (ish): We will parade down to the Jubilee Orchard (behind the Forge Shop / CafĂ© / Village Hall) via Church Hill, with flaming torches held aloft and once there greet our guests and  light the Wassail Bonfire. Mulled cider, pork and apple hot dogs and a licenced bar will be on site.

Part 2. Not just for locals

6.45pm: The merriment begins in the Forge Field and Jubilee Orchard. With ‘Said the Maiden’ and ‘Kadia’ performing their first set.

7.30pm: The South Downs Folk Singers perform their set, with audience participation in two simple ‘Rounds’ at the end.

8.00pm: Mythago Morris will Wassail the Jubilee Orchard accompanied by the other revellers, who can make a 2017 wish and hang it on the oldest apple tree, after dancing in and around it in circles.

8.30pm: The Prize Old Mummers will perform a short topical 15-minute play and invite you to join in and heckle as it progresses.

8.45pm: ‘Said the Maiden’ & ‘Kadia’ will perform their second set.

9:30ish: Time to go home

What you need to bring:
  • £1 per person for entrance
  • £3 per person who would like a flaming torch to hold (over 18s only)
  • Wear warm clothes.
  • A hat decorated with winter greenery and anything else that takes your fancy (there’s a prize for the best).
  • Pots, pans and wooden spoons to be noisy at the Wassailing times.
  • A thought or a wish that you might like to cast upon the oldest tree.
  • Money for drinks, food, CDs, a Wassail mug souvenir and other surprises.
  • Parking will be at a premium so try to car share. There should be  spaces along the College Wall on Top Road, between the A29 and the Village Hall and south of the A29 cross roads in Mill Road  but it will be first come first served.
  • Those Singers who can’t make the earlier time up at the College can meet the rest of us at Forge Field at 6.45pm.
  • Any updates will be added to this post
  • Please email me if you are coming, southdownsfolksingers@gmail.com

John C.


Further information on external websites:
Slindon Village
National Trust