Lancaster's Gladly Solemn Choir is leading a musical revival

PUBLISHED: 13:00 05 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:41 20 February 2013

Lancaster's Gladly Solemn Choir - Photo by Barrie Marshall

Lancaster's Gladly Solemn Choir - Photo by Barrie Marshall

A Lancaster choir is leading a musical revival, as Paul Mackenzie reports

This is set to be a happy year for the Gladly Solemn Choir.

The Lancaster-based singers will mark the choirs 21st anniversary and are playing their part in a revival of the kind of music which was sung in the countys churches hundreds of years ago.

West Gallery music has experienced something of a renaissance in recent
years, thanks in no small part to Paul Guppy. The instrument repairer formed his own choir after hearing a programme on the radio. It was coming from a gathering of the West Gallery Music Association at Ironbridge and I was transfixed by the music. It is the old music that was sung in English parish churches before the modern hymn books came in.

I was so taken I went to the next meeting at Ironbridge for a weekend. I
came away determined to get something going. Its like baroque but not quite so technical and difficult. It is very unsentimental religious music, in many cases a versification of the Book of Psalms and it is lots of fun to sing. It is challenging but not too challenging and is quite intricate and beguiling.

Paul, who repairs musical instruments at his workshop in St Leonardgate, also plays the double bass and the tuba and performs with Morecambe Bay Brass, jazz bands and a ska band. He used his network of music contacts to drum up a dozen singers and some instrumentalists.

In the choirs early days they would have to persuade people to let them perform. Now, two CDs and many concerts later, they are a choir in demand. We have performed across the region.

Its great for us to entertain people and open up a world of music to them that they have possibly not come across before, added Paul, who researched into West Gallery music in Lancashire.

We have access to the manuscripts of songs sung in Wyresdale in the 18th century, he said. We have also unearthed a few interesting local
composers, such as John Ray of Great Eccleston, JS Johnson of Preston and John Langshaw, who was the organist at the priory church Lancaster.

Very often songs were named after villagers or places, but it doesnt
necessarily mean that is where they were written. Theres a piece we often perform, for instance, called Abbeystead which is quite a remarkable piece with a fiery tune.

The choir has 27 members, including Pauls soprano girlfriend Morgan, who he met when she joined.Paul added: Its a great social thing. I met Morgan in the choir, and weve had a couple of marriages among the members too.

This is the west gallery song Lancaster sung by the Lancaster west gallery choir The Gladly Solemn Sound. The words are from Psalm 119 and the music is written by Mr. John Langshaw. This concert is in Martindale old church near Ullswater in the English Lake District, organised by Lakeland Voice - part of our series of workshops, concerts, singing walks and Songlines.

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