Wren Music set to raise the roof at Exeter Cathedral

Mary Youlden
Authored by Mary Youlden
Posted Sunday, March 9, 2014 - 7:16am

South West music charity Wren Music marks the culmination of its 30th anniversary programme with a Grand Concert at Exeter Cathedral featuring 250 musicians and singers.

Wren is blending the voices and instruments of its five choirs and four orchestras from north, south, east and west Devon for the concert, along with Wren’s county-wide youth groups, Roots Acoustic and Roots A Capella.

The 90-minute concert is entitled A World Where Every Voice is Heard, reflecting Wren’s work in reaching people in communities who might not otherwise have the opportunity to get involved in music. As part of this theme, some of the traditional songs being performed are about fairness and equality.

The concert draws from Wren’s 30-year journey and has a strong international flavour, with music learned from exchange visits to Europe, Newfoundland and townships in South Africa being performed alongside traditional West Country songs. Some of the pieces have their origins in Devon hundreds of years ago and were re-discovered by Wren on recent trips to Newfoundland, where the early settlers adapted the songs they had learned before leaving Devon.

There will also be fresh arrangements of traditional songs and tunes collected from the old singers and musicians of Dartmoor by Sabine Baring-Gould in the early 1900s and there will be some brand new pieces which have been written specially for the anniversary concert.

“The choirs will be singing a huge variety of songs,” said Wren’s musical director Paul Wilson. “Each of our five choirs will have their own chosen songs to perform but they’ll all be coming together for three songs.”

The songs are So We Sing, written by Paul and Wren Music’s artistic director Marilyn Tucker in 1995; a 19th century Sardinian anti-poverty song called Nanneddu Meu; and Old and Strong/Mountain Song, a combination of two environmental protest songs.

“So We Sing can have up to 64 different vocal parts so it’s a lovely piece for the cathedral,” said Paul.

Another song, Rhythms of Life, will be sung by Sidmouth-based East Devon Folk Choir, who have written it specially for the event.

The orchestras will also be performing a repertoire of international and regional traditional music, including Phata Phata, learned from a township in South Africa; a new arrangement of a West Devon tune called The Steam Boat; and the Newfoundland pieces which have been ‘brought home’.  Wren musician David Faulkner said: “One of the tunes, Mussels in the Corner, is linked to the early settlers who went across to Newfoundland from the north and south coasts of Devon and is connected to the fishing industry.”

The orchestras will also be playing a new piece of music, Emlyn’s Waltz, which has been composed by Wren musician Becki Driscoll specially for the concert.

And then, in the big finale, all the choirs and orchestras will be joining together in a crescendo to perform Cutty Wren, a well-known folk song which is said to have been first sung during the English peasants’ revolt of 1381.

“The song has that rebelliousness about it,” said Paul Wilson. “There’s a section in it about fair share and a more equal world. It’s central to our name, Wren Music, so it seems fitting to perform it at our anniversary concert.”

The Okehampton-based charity began its anniversary celebrations with a concert at Exeter Cathedral. Another highlight of the year was Wren Band’s ‘When the Moon in Full’ tour. Marilyn Tucker said: “It’s been a wonderful year and a concert that brings our choirs and orchestras together at Exeter Cathedral is a perfect finale.”


Concert information:

Wren Music – A World Where Every Voice Is Heard
Exeter Cathedral, 1pm-2.30pm on Saturday 22 March.
Admission: £6 donation to Exeter Cathedral.
Contact Wren Music on 01837 53754 for further details.

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