Swarland Voices in 2023

This choir was set up in 2021 by residents of the village of Swarland in Northumberland. several new residents there got to know each other during the lockdowns in 2020 as they went for their local walks and discovered that a few of them had a desire to sing in a choir, so when this sort of thing was allowed again they had a call out to other residents, then met up to decide what to do about their idea of starting the village’s own choir. My name was suggested as someone to help them, so I was invited along, and that’s how we started, and still we continue in a very cheery manner and with increasing vocal confidence, and also increasing numbers.

Happy with our Christmas applause, December 12th 2023
During our summer sing-out at Brinkburn Priory.

2023 has seen us sing a couple of guest spots at musical evenings in a nearby village, Newton-On-The-Moor, we were also guests of The Bridge Singers in another nearby village, Felton, as part of their summer concert “Night and Day”, we had a summer sing-out in the exceedingly resonant English Heritage property nearby, Brinkburn Priory, and we just sang about 40 minutes of carols in our very own local Swarland Village Hall last week.

We hope to have our very own concert in Swarland in 2024, at which we will possibly sing almost everything we have been learning over the last couple of years. This blog highlights some of this year’s performances of songs and arrangements that I’ve been responsible for, complete with videos, recordings and photos!

Festive Walnut Whip art by Kev, one of our choir husbands!

We’ve been singing four different coal mining songs during 2023. Two of these are arrangements of songs from the Durham coalfields, “Jowl, Jowl And Listen” and “Rap Her Te Bank”, and the others are “The Miner’s Dream Of Home” by Kate Rusby” and “Ah Cud Hew” by Ed Pickford. We’ve performed them all a few times already, most recently at Newton-On-The-Moor, and this video has our performances of two of those songs, and shows a variety of photos of us in all the performances mentioned above. The background pictures in each slide are of our lovely village of Swarland at sunrise during the year 2023.

Two of our songs from the Durham Coalfields, and us in our native habitat around Swarland in Northumberland.
Blow, Blow Though Winter Wind, Thomas Arne

Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind by Thomas Arne

This arrangement is from our early days when we had very few members, so it’s a three-parter. Our only bass at the time, the excellent Vin took the tune, with tenor (we only had one of them as well!) and altos combining on the middle part, and sopranos on the upper part. We now have five basses and three tenors, so the other four now join Vin on the second verse, but he’s retained the solo in verse 1, and when you hear this recording from our recent concert in Newton-On-The-Moor, you’ll hear why there’s no reason to change that!

Coventry Carol

One of our favourite Christmas songs is Coventry Carol. We’ve just been singing it in our Christmas outings, but we also gave it a go in the summer in Brinkburn Priory at our singing afternoon there. This recording is from that day. The images are from that outing too, and also from our short carol recital last week!

One of our favourite carols sung in the very resonant and beautiful surroundings of Brinkburn Priory.

Lovely Day by Bill Withers

This is one of the arrangements I’ve made this last year which is available from SheetMusicPlus. Here’s an excerpt from it with silky-voiced Richard on the tenor solo. This requires considerable counting skills from us in the accompanying parts, but we pulled it off with great aplomb, and have performed it a couple of times, including as one of our contributions to The Bridge Singers’ “Night And Day” concert in July.

Lovely Day (arr. Cheryl Camm) Sheet Music | Bill Withers | SATB Choir (sheetmusicdirect.com)

Moonfinches

I wrote this short round for the choir in 2022 and they first performed it at our first ever non-Christmas-related gig, at the official opening of the local Crematorium with the Duchess of Northumberland in attendance! No-one was listening then, of course – too many snacks and drinks, too much chat, and also a crematorium is in interesting place to look round when you’re not there on official business. However, we’ve sung it a few times since, including here at Brinkburn Priory in July this year.

Swarland Voices gave the world premiere performance of Moonfinches, and have performed it lots of times since!

Wexford Carol

Another of our Christmas songs that we enjoy is Wexford Carol. The solo here is taken by Phil, one of our tenors who suggested the carol to me in the first place. He sings verse 1 unaccompanied, then we all join in for the other verses, with the sopranos on the melody.

Whenever our concert is, our programme will be selected from this list, as well as any new ones we tackle in 2024. We hope to see you there for our first ever full-sized concert in our own village.

Rosebud In June
Did You Not Hear My Lady?
Moonfinches
The Birks Of Aberfeldie
Jowl Jowl and Listen Lad
Ah Cud Hew
Rap her Te Bank
The Miner’s Dream Of Home
Lovely Day
Sweet Suffolk Owl
Lupset Chase
Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind
Gaudete
Coventry Carol
Carol Of The Bells
Wexford Carol
While Shepherds Watched
Come And Go
Hear the Voice And Prayer
Ride The Chariot
The Wellerman
The Parting Glass
John Kanaka
Jacobstowe Wassail
Salsa Salsa
Minoi Minoi
Goodnight Sweetheart
Siyahamba

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