Stanchester Quire was formed at Stanchester School (hence the name) in Stoke-sub-Hamdon, Somerset, in 1996 and we've been singing ever since. Under our Musical Director, Eddie Upton,we sing a wide repertoire of songs, usually in 4-part harmony, taken from the South West region. We're all passionate about keeping alive the rich musical traditions of the South West, so our songs all come from around the region, from Cornwall to Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.
We are a Community Quire, which means we are open to all - no scary auditions! If you love to sing and have an interest in singing songs which you may not have heard of, in harmony with others, we'd love to see you. As you probably know,
folk songs evolve, and often different regions and singers might add their own interpretation, so that words and/or music change over time. We love to think that we are singing songs that have been passed down over generations, often from a particular region. For example, at the 2018 Christmas Carol performance in the church at Longburton, we sang some of the village's old carols.
You may have heard of the West Gallery tradition of Carols where once musicians/singers would sing a wide variety of songs in the church's west gallery. Like Stanchester Quire, some early west gallery groups sang unaccompanied, but later they were augmented by instruments such as the violin, cello (bass viol), clarinet and flute.
The Victorians disapproved of the Georgian galleries and most were removed during the restorations in the 19th century because the organ became popular. Also, the old church bands were often difficult for a vicar to control whereas influence over an organist was an easier task! Such an ousting of the band by an organist is given a fictional treatment in Thomas Hardy's early novel 'Under the Greenwood Tree.' The music was not considered solemn enough for worship.
Under Oliver Cromwell, the government decreed that the only songs which could be sung had to contain words from the Bible. So, now we have some 625 versions of 'While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night,' including one to the tune of 'On Ilkla Moor ba taht.' Yes, go on, try it! Stanchester Quire do sing several south west versions of this as well as 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' and 'God Rest you Merry Gentlemen.'
Closer to home in Odcombe, near Yeovil - www.odcombeparishcouncil.gov.uk - there is a wonderful tradition of carols at Christmas, whereby carollers cover the whole village (Higher and Lower) with a series of 12 carols, singing to each household and wishing occupants …"a Merry Christmas and a bright and prosperous New Year." Whilst this is separate to Stanchester Quire, (traditionally involving only Odcombe residents), Eddie Upton is passionate about keeping this local carolling tradition alive and several of the Stanchester Quire members take part.
One last thing, Why "Quire" you may ask!
It's just an alternative spelling for "choir."
Picture of SW England courtesy of Pictures of England.com.
Picture of the Musicians of Melstock Choir courtesy of Dorset County Museum.
No copyright infringement intended.