Recent Events

13th July 2014

St Mary Magdalene
Melchbourne
Bedfordshire

Our appearance at Melchbourne as part of their charter fayre, celebrating the granting of the charter by Henry III in 1264, involved competition from archery, morris dancing, birds of prey, a flower festival and dancing to the Glenn Miller sound; that’s without the various stalls, bric-a-brac etc. We still managed to attract a sizable audience at times with a lot of interest shown in the historical information about their church dug up by our research as well as enthusiasm for our music itself.

24th May 2014

St Denys' Church
Little Barford
Near St Neots
Bedfordshire

In this delightful country church dating from the Norman era and still lit only by candles our Ascension Day concert reflected the place music occupied, in homes as well as church services, through several hundred years. As daylight faded it was easy to imagine ourselves back in the days represented by our music.

Bedford Gallery Quire at St Denys' Little Barford

We told of the changes in church services and the fabric of the buildings and of some of the composers responsible for bringing West Gallery music to prominence in rural church services. We heard how it was likened to the songs of the gentlemens’ catch clubs by a clergyman of the day and how, as services became more formal, it eventually became unpopular and gave way to organs and surpliced choirs. Here's what they said.

14th December 2013

All Saints Church
Kempston
Bedfordshire


 

7th December 2013

Priory Methodist Church
Newnham Avenue
Bedford

Two performances of 'A Truly Traditional Christmas' in which Christmas tales and talks on our instruments and costume put our music into context. The hymns, carols and secular pieces of long ago were interspersed with poems and readings. Our Michael Dunckley opened the programme with his own poem, 'The Old Musick', then found himself in the company of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George Eliot and Charles Dickens among others. Thomas Hardy’s tales and beautiful poems featured prominently as this music, which was dear to his heart, was often referred to in his writings.

Bedford Gallery Quire

The picture shows us at Priory Methodist Church where our concert was for the Zimbabwe Victims' Support Fund to provide food for thousands in poverty and hunger. Thanks to the generosity of the audience and the quire a healthy sum was raised. Here's what they said at Priory and Kempston.

26th October 2013

Roxton Congregational Church
Bedfordshire

This delightful listed building, one of only two thatched churches in Bedfordshire, was the perfect backdrop for our concert 'Thy Goodness Crowns the Year'. Our early nineteenth century costume looked particularly fitting in the church which began life as a barn in 1808. Our selection of harvest music interspersed with poems and readings about rural life and the preparations for the feasting which followed the bringing in of the harvest was well received by a very enthusiastic audience.

21st September 2013

Celebration Singing Day!

Priory Methodist Church
Newnham Avenue
Bedford

Bedford Gallery Quire

Our Celebration Singing Day, open to visitors, marked the tenth anniversary of the workshop that gave birth to our quire.  It was delightful to be joined by friends and relatives of quire members, friends from within the West Gallery community and some local people new to the genre.  The potential pitfalls of putting on a day of music for such a diverse group were neatly sidestepped by our musical director, Ken Baddley.  Whilst the pace was quite brisk there was always the offer of going over the lines part by part and hearing them played.  Although this was a music workshop it most definitely had a party atmosphere.  Two poems, whose authors had been inspired by the quire during its ten years, were read; and of course, there was a birthday cake.  A number of members who have since left the area made long journeys to join in our celebration and, judging by the comments of our visitors, we may have recruited a few new ones.

6th July 2013

The British Schools Museum
41/42 Queen Street
Hitchin, Herts

Back in one of our favourite venues, our concert, 'The Whole of Musick which His Village Knows' featured the timeless verse of the renowned Northamptonshire poet, John Clare.   His attachment to the music of the church bands and singers of the early nineteenth century is apparent in his description, ‘The whole of musick which his village knows, which wild remembrance in each little town; from mouth to mouth from ages handed down’.  We performed some of the music which members of these bands laboriously hand-copied into their chapbooks, all interspersed with the verse of the ‘peasant poet’, himself. Here's what they said, and pictures.

2nd December 2012

The Forest Centre & Millennium Country Park,
Marston Moretaine
Bedfordshire

In what was a first for us, we agreed to perform some old Bedfordshire carols as background music at the Forest Centre as part of their Christmas Tree Festival.  We weren’t sure what to expect but were delighted when some of the transient audience sat down to listen, and even more so as others joined them.  The icing on the cake was when some of the children, encouraged by two of our sopranos, came to join in and sing with us; the effect on quire and audience was magical.  At one point we acquired an assistant musical director, of no more than two years old, who ‘helped’ with the conducting.  What an enchanting event!

13th October 2012

St Peter's Church
Sharnbrook
Bedfordshire

Bedford Gallery Quire

In Quires and Places Where They Sing was a historical account of our music and its place in church services and parish life for St Peter’s Church and Sharnbrook Local History Society.  Covering the period from the beginning of the eighteenth century we talked about the music, the composers, our instruments and our costume between performing the pieces.  We also told of the behaviour of the old church bands and how they became ‘a thorn in the ecclesiastical flesh’ leading to their decline and disappearance by the late 1870’s. See what they said about us.

29th September 2012

St. Neots United Reformed Church
Cambridgeshire

Thy Goodness Crowns the Year, a harvest concert, featured an account of the huge anticipation and preparations for the festivities which took place at this time of year; the slaughtering of animals, baking of bread and brewing of beer which was carried out in readiness for the celebrations to come.  Our selection of harvest music, reflecting the joy of the season, was interspersed with descriptions of country life from William Cobbett and the poetry of John Clare. See what they said about us.

2nd June 2012

All Saints Church
Turvey
Bedfordshire

Turvey workshop

We joined with The Friends of All Saints Church in West Gallery from Scratch, a workshop and concert, as part of their Jubilee weekend celebrations. Around sixty participants drawn from the church choir, a local community choir and our own members and friends enjoyed an afternoon of West Gallery music and performed in the concert that followed.  Music was provided by Tim Brewster, the church choirmaster and Bedford Gallery Quire.  We delighted in bringing back to Turvey music found in The Three Ridges manuscript book which was used in the village around 200 years ago. More workshop pictures.

3rd December 2011

Blunham Village Hall
Blunham
Bedfordshire

 

 

 

26th November 2011

St Mary's Church
Rushden
Northants

 

 

 

24th September 2011

St Mary's Church
Wollaston
Northants

BGQ in Wollaston Gallery

Three performances of our ‘Thomas Hardy and West Gallery’ concert featuring some of the beautiful poetry in which Hardy mentions this music which was so close to his heart.  Readings included ‘A Church Romance’ in which he describes love blossoming between one of the ‘music-men’ in the gallery and a certain ‘her below’ and other poems which describe the importance of the music in his own life and that of others. 

We used extracts from his novels in which his characters speak of their attachment to the music and we brought to life the many tunes he mentioned by name.  Also included were ‘Here’s a Health to All Good Lasses!’ a glee on which Hardy based one of his poems and a musical setting of his poem ‘Great Things’ in which he considers the enduring nature of the greatest pleasures of his life.
BGQ at Blunham

Throughout his writings his intimate knowledge of West Gallery music, a term invented by him, shines through and we performed ‘his choices’ with the same affection in which they were held by the great writer himself.
We are shown above and below in the gallery and performing at Wollaston. Above right, two members relax during the interval at Blunham and pictures of Rushden are here. Here's what they said about us.

 
BGQ at Wollaston

16th June 2011

Bunyan Meeting Church
Mill Street
Bedford

We brought our latest concert to our home town with a performance for The Friends of the John Bunyan Museum and Library.  It is here that the manuscripts which form most of our repertoire were found and are still on display.  The Friends enjoyed our historically accurate rendition of the events of late 1788 when the health of King George III was the subject of so much anxiety and early 1789 when he was thought to have recovered.  Our account is portrayed through the eyes of members of a rural church band who sing, first the songs of concern and later those of gratitude and jubilation.

Bedford Gallery Quire at Bunyan Meeting

4th June 2011

 

Annual Church Tour

We settled on a walking tour of Bedford for our 2011 excursion.  Forgetting our cars for the day we began at St Peter de Merton in De Parys Avenue where the Saxon bell tower is the oldest surviving structure in the town.  Having sung there we moved on up St Peters Street where we congregated outside the now closed Moravian church and listened to an account of its history.  To sing the Moravian music we had to wait until we arrived at the Bunyan Meeting Church where it was included along with pieces from the manuscripts found there.  After an excellent buffet lunch we took a guided tour of the museum and library before moving on to Providence Baptist Chapel for our last singing session which included pieces linked to its own history. Pictures

21st May 2011

St Mary Magdalene
Church Lane
Barkway
Royston
Hertfordshire

Another performance of ‘Happy Beyond Description’ in which the members of a rural church quire and band hear of the deteriorating health of King George III from his physician, Sir George Baker; Miss Fanny Burney, novelist, diarist and playwright, and James Leach, composer and member of the King’s Band.  The quire members respond with dismay and concern as they hear his distressing condition described.  When they learn of his ‘recovery’ in 1789 their rehearsal is given over to patriotic songs of jubilation and praise. Pictures. And here's what they said about us.

7th May 2011

The British Schools Museum
41/42 Queen Street
Hitchin, Herts

We returned to a favourite venue with the first performance of a new concert.  ‘Happy Beyond Description’ is set in a West Gallery quire rehearsal as the members hear of the illness of their beloved sovereign now known as the ‘madness of King George’.  As they hear the details of his worsening health in late 1788 they sing the songs of distress and anxiety between practicing their usual seasonal pieces.  As his ‘recovery’ of early 1789 unfolds songs of gratitude and jubilation take their place. Pictures

4th December 2010

St Neots Parish Church
St Neots
Cambridgeshire

A rousing canon was a fitting start to this concert of music, Christmas tales and celebrations of the West Gallery period.  The hymns, carols and anthems of Christmas long ago were interspersed with readings from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and William Hone.  Directly after the interval our 1833 mumming play provided a contrast, with Saint George as enthusiastic as ever to rid the world of dragon, Turkish knight and giant but finding the doctor equally keen to restore them to health.  Thomas Hardy’s tales and beautiful poems featured prominently in the second half as they so often refer to the old church ‘musicianers’ we take such pleasure in portraying. Pictures. What they said.

6th November 2010

Barn Dance

Wootton Village Hall
Bedfordshire

A barn dance to raise funds towards the purchase of the historic instruments which help us to achieve the authentic sound of the West Gallery period.  Quire members and friends danced to the Orange & Blue under the watchful eye of caller, Liz Rose.  Entertainment was provided by our clarinet trio, David, Jack and D-J Wilcockson.  Sue Melvin clogged for us and some very appropriate and funny songs were expertly delivered by Roy Hollowell.  Ken Baddley and Graham Lyndon-Jones explained and demonstrated some of the instruments already in use in our concerts and by enjoying a super evening we raised a healthy amount towards future acquisitions.

24th June 2010

Concert

The Chapel
Westminster College
Cambridge

For SS Mary & Andrew, Whittlesford

We began with a rousing canon before demonstrating the late 17th century practise of ‘lining out’ in which the parish clerk would laboriously chant each line of a psalm for the mainly illiterate congregation to repeat.  We then stepped back in time to do some of the beautiful pieces which were sung in the homes of the nobility and gentry in the 16th and early 17th centuries before we moved on through our beloved West Gallery period to the present day.  Our performance encompassed unaccompanied American shape-note pieces of the 18th and 19th centuries, Primitive Methodist ‘ranter’ pieces complete with concertina, tambourine, euphonium and our 1830’s keyed bugle before concluding with pieces by living composers in the shape-note tradition.  A truly joyous romp through several centuries of a village’s religious musical history. Pictures. What they said.

5th June 2010

 

Annual Church Tour

We had a glorious day for our 2010 tour which visited the northern tip of Bedfordshire.  We began at St Mary Magdalene, Melchbourne, a Georgian church with a medieval tower and Jacobean porch.  Next we went to Upper Dean All Hallows where a ‘specially fine’ 15thC angel roof was among the many interesting features as well as a memorial to Francis Dillingham, born at Dean, who was one of the 47 scholars who translated the King James Bible.  Shelton St Mary provided us with our delightful picnic place, a shady spot in the garden of the Old Rectory.  We then sang in the church there, whose features included a six-legged Saxon font.  Our last visit was to Yelden St Mary where, after our final singing session we relaxed, tired and happy with a cup of tea and a cake! Pictures

8th May 2010

St Mary Magdalene
Church Street
Ickleton
Cambridgeshire

A concert demonstrating the evolution of a village’s church music from the late 17th century to the present day.  Included were two pieces, Rotterdam and Harlem, written by Peter Hellendaal and published in Cambridge in 1794 in ‘A Collection of Psalms for the use of Parish Churches.’  Stephen Simperingham, church warden of St Mary Magdalene, was listed as one of the subscribers to this publication on behalf of his church so in all probability these pieces were sung in this very church around 1795.  How exciting it was to bring them to life again more than 200 years later.  Our concert included pieces in the shape-note singing tradition—the North American equivalent of West Gallery music.  This is a living tradition and we had the great good fortune to be led in two of his own pieces by Mick Verrier, one of only two UK composers. Pictures

12th December 2009

St Mary the Virgin
Church Road
Maulden
Bedfordshire

Part of St Mary’s Crib Festival, our concert consisted of carols and seasonal pieces but also included a few glees. These were drinking songs expressing fraternal sentiments often written to be sung in gentlemen’s singing clubs known as Catch or Glee Clubs popular from the late eighteenth to the mid nineteenth century.  Our readings ranged from fictional accounts of Christmases past, often warm, gay and lively affairs contrasting with factual items discovered in the local archives.  These centred on the poor of Maulden especially arrangements to educate the poor children including accounts of the charity school and the workhouse. Pictures

28th November 2009

The British Schools Museum
41/42 Queen Street
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

A return visit to one of our favourite venues to give a Christmas concert with a difference—our first venture into mumming with a play from 1833.  Following the interval a fiery dragon was among the adversaries finally slayed by the bold and swaggering Saint George in spite of the restorative powers of the Doctor being exercised several times.  All ended well as you might guess and we were soon back in our places to sing the second half of seasonal music put into context by poems and Christmas readings. Pictures
Pictures of the mumming rehearsals Summer 2009


3rd October 2009

St Peter's Church
High Street
Thurleigh
Bedfordshire

A harvest concert to raise funds for a memorial garden.  The programme consisted of West Gallery and American shape-note pieces interspersed with information on their historical setting and snippets from the local archives.  In particular we heard about the cost of keeping the church free of sparrows.  The churchwardens’ accounts of 1826 showed that threepence per dozen was paid for their dead bodies.  It must have been a real problem because by 1828 the bounty had been extended to include their eggs. Following the event our generous hosts invited us to take the harvest decoration which was no longer required and we were delighted to leave laden with pumpkins, marrows and squashes. Pictures

27th September 2009

St Leonard's Church
Church End
Sandridge
Nr St Albans
Hertfordshire

The culmination of a weekend flower festival with a theme of trees.  A workshop for local people began the proceedings followed by evensong during which their voices could be heard making a valuable contribution.  The words of our first hymn, William Bird’s Proclamation, beginning ‘The tree of life’ had been specially chosen for the theme of the event.  A refreshment break followed evensong before a short concert completed the evening.  No words can do justice to the decoration of the church which was absolutely beautiful. More pictures   

Bedford Gallery Quire at Sandridge

30th May 2009

 

Annual Church Tour

For this year’s tour we dusted off our passports and went ‘over the border’ into Cambridgeshire where we arrived at St Mary Magdalene, Ickleton, to a wonderful welcome.  We then sang at St John’s, Duxford, before we moved on to SS Mary and Andrew, at Whittlesford, where we enjoyed our picnic lunch.  We could not provide our usual sarsaparilla due to the late arrival of the root but were thoroughly spoiled with goodies supplied by our hosts.  They then joined us in song until we moved on to St Edmund’s, Hauxton, where we ended our tour.  The day was memorable for the warmth of the welcome we received everywhere and the company of visiting singers old and new. Pictures

9th May 2009

St Mary's Church of Everton-cum-Tetworth
Church Lane, Everton
Sandy, Bedfordshire

This concert was part of the Diocese of Ely 900 Years Celebrations. It included some 18th century American pieces as well as a selection of West Gallery pieces used for the different seasons and social occasions.  The words of one of these, Peterborough, were written by The Reverend John Berridge (1716 – 1793) who held the living of Everton from 1755 until he died. Pictures

29th November 2008

St Michael’s Church
St Michael’s Street
St Albans, Herts

Our hosts had asked for a concert with some 'local' historical context and an Advent theme. Though close to Christmas the brief was quite specific; no carols! A nineteenth-century noble cricketing vicar (the Reverend the Lord Beauclerk) with little time for his church or congregation fitted the first part of the bill admirably and some diligent research in our music manuscripts for specifically Advent pieces did the rest. We sang and played to a full church, and took a glass of wine with our hosts without ever mentioning Christmas! Pictures. What they said about us.

11th October 2008

The British Schools Museum
41/42 Queen Street
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

Another harvest concert but this time the venue gave rise to some impromptu, unscripted dialogue involving a cane!  Suffice to say that no chorister was going to risk being out of order. And no, we didn't let our Musical Director take it with him when we left.

5th October 2008

St Mary's Church
Goldington
Bedford

This harvest concert was to raise funds for a new boiler so it was no surprise that it was cold.  BBC Three Counties Radio was there to record the event.  The piece went out the following Sunday including interviews with our Musical Director and our player of the serpent and other historic instruments. Pictures

28th June 2008


Annual Church Tour

The tour began at St Mary’s Church, Everton followed by St John the Evangelist, Moggerhanger.  After a picnic lunch with home-made ginger beer and sarsaparilla we moved on to The Abbey Church of St Leonard, Old Warden.  Our final visit was to All Saints Church, Sutton where we sang Isaac Smith’s ‘Abridge’ to the accompaniment of their splendid barrel organ.  The day drew to a close with a delicious tea including ‘Warden Pie’, from an ancient Warden pear recipe. Pictures
Among our audience at The Abbey Church was Christine Hunt who later wrote a delightful poem.

26th April 2008

St Peter’s and St Paul’s Church, Olney
Buckinghamshire

This concert concluded a special day of celebration to mark the re-launch of the Cowper & Newton Museum following an intensive programme of work over the winter. What they said about us.

20th April 2008

Thurleigh & Keysoe Row East Baptist Churches

A celebration of 200 years of these two Bedfordshire ‘causes’, bringing back the music which the ordinary local people once sang in their chapels.

5th April 2008

Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire
Historic Churches Trust

The quire's performance concluded an annual study day at Bedford School.  The programme represented music throughout the West Gallery period linked with historical fact for this expert audience. Here's what they said.

22nd December 2007

Knuston Hall
(Northants County Council)
Irchester
Northamptonshire

A concert portraying A Georgian Christmas was the after dinner entertainment for a themed event.  The singing was linked by amusing historical anecdotes one of which, involving mistletoe, was unrehearsed and left one of our female singers very surprised!

10th December 2007

Bedford Central Library
Harpur Street
Bedford

A  concert based on the evolution of West Gallery music as part of 'Good Afternoon', a series of daytime lectures at Bedford Central Library.

5th December 2007

St Andrew & St George’s Church, Stevenage

A return visit to Stevenage to provide a taste of nineteenth century Christmas pieces.

6th October 2007

Holy Trinity Church
Great Paxton
Cambridgeshire

A harvest concert to raise money for 21st century plumbing for this ancient Saxon Minster church.

28th September 2007

Hitchin Ceilidh
Hitchin Town Hall, Herts

A selection of Bedfordshire West Gallery music was the entertainment between the two halves of  the dancing.

24th June 2007

Annual Church Tour

This was a tour of four of Bedfordshire’s most interesting old churches and chapels, some with galleries, with a picnic lunch at Stevington Windmill, and ending with tea and scones at Roxton Congregational Church.

21st June 2007

Bunyan Meeting Free Church and Museum
Mill Street, Bedford

A concert for the Friends of the museum.  It gave us great delight to sing in the place where the manuscripts which provide much of our repertoire were found and to be able to benefit the organisation which made them available to us.

3rd May 2007

St Peter’s Church
Harrold, Bedfordshire

This concert, part of the Ouse Valley Arts Festival, was enlivened by an account of the heinous crimes of a late 18th / early 19th century vicar of Harrold which we dug out of the archives.

7th January 2007

St Mary’s Church
Goldington,Bedford

A Christmas choral evensong including a local, metrical version of the Nunc Dimittis and the Magnificat sung to a tune found in a 19th century collection by an ancestor of one of our fiddlers.

6th January 2007

St Denis' Church
Colmworth
Bedfordshire

A carol concert sung from a gallery overlooking the grave of Timothy Matthews, a curate of Colmworth.  We were lent, and played, the bugle with which he went about Bedfordshire announcing his presence and intention of preaching.