Sing something simple

June 02 2014

IT all started as ‘a bit of a daft idea’ over breakfast one day, Cliff Woolley recalls.

IT all started as ‘a bit of a daft idea’ over breakfast one day, Cliff Woolley recalls.

“We’d learned this new song the previous evening at choir practice and both my wife Gaynor and I had woken up with a sore throat,” he said.

“It wasn’t a particularly difficult piece of music. We were both singing the tenor part but seemed to be almost as high as the sopranos for much of the time. Over porridge and Strepsils we decided we really fancied singing a few more ‘ordinary’ English folk songs.”

And so the Mangotsfield Kitchen Project was born.

The couple had sung in a number of community choirs and smaller groups over the last ten years and really enjoyed it. The songs were pretty varied and there was always a sense of achievement when they were able to perform them in front of an audience. They also enjoyed the song sessions in pubs and folk festivals, where people take turns at leading and everyone joins in the chorus. You soon pick up the words after a few times through, and then take the lead when you feel a bit more confident. So why not try to combine the two ?

Cliff and Gaynor put together a list of about 30 songs, ranging from junior school ditties like Donkey Riding and Raggle Taggle Gypsies to Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel and Steeleye Span’s Gaudete. Then with a further list of names of friends who might be interested they started bringing it up in conversation.

“No one actually came straight out and told us what a stupid idea it was,” said Cliff. “They were probably just being nice, but we interpreted it as genuine interest.”

The first session finally took place last September and they group have sung together almost every month since then. Some have dropped out while new singers have recently started to come along. There’s a core group of about fifteen and they’re now looking for more people to fill out the overall sound. No audition, no sight-reading. Monthly meetings.

Cliff explained: “The arrangements are fairly uncomplicated, mainly in two or three parts. The emphasis is really on getting people singing and hopefully we’ll bring back a few memories of the songs we used to sing at school.”

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