Are carols best sung in a church, or a pub?

That was the question on our minds during the first of Chris Samuels’ “Weird and Wonderful Carols” workshops on Thurs 25th Nov.

Yes, we were in a church (the lovely acoustics of St Paul’s, Southville), but we learned two carols from the old tradition of Christmas singing in pubs, still well established in Yorkshire (folk singer Kate Rusby tells Songs of Praise about it here) .

Chris has been seeking out tunes from Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire and bringing them to a wider audience.

We learned Hark The Herald Angels to a tune called Carlingcott, named after the the Somerset village where it is sung. There’s a clip of it being sung in the pub at Bradford on Avon here.

We also sang The Dunster Carol – I hear along our street. This has words from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow set to an old French tune. It was adopted after the First World War by the village of Dunster on the edge of Exmoor in West Somerset, where it is still sung boldly and with good courage!

Here’s a clip of us when we’d just about got the hang of it:

For his next Xmas workshop on Thurs 2nd December (book your place here!) Chris has promised us one of the 400 known tunes for While Shepherds Watched. This one is also known as Sweet Bells as made popular by Kate Rusby

“Weird and Wonderful Carols”: Two Christmas themed workshops

We’ve got a seasonal treat for you with TWO Christmas themed workshops from the wonderful Chris Samuel. You can book them individually, or both for double the fun. They’re on Thursday 25th November and  Thursday 2nd December, 7.30pm to 9.30pm, both in St Paul’s Southville.  The workshops are open to all, as with the rest of our Autumn programme. Here are the links to book:

Weird and Wonderful Carols 1 – Thursday 25th November
Weird and Wonderful Carols 2 – Thursday 2nd December

Chris Samuel is a community choir leader and performer based in Bradford on Avon. He’s steeped in a cappella singing and runs mixed community choirs in Wiltshire who come together to perform as the mighty Wiltshire Wailers and also leads The Magnificent AKs (probably the best all bloke singing group ever to come from a small village near Cirencester).

He’s performed with Edinburgh award winners Naked Voices and, since 2007 has toured the UK and Europe with Aussie festival favourites The Spooky Men’s Chorale and their UK subset, A Fistful of Spookies as well as vocal trio The Croutons, who have just started performing again after a five year hiatus.

He has a long association with Sing for Water, conducting and taking choirs to the London events as well as co-founding Sing for Water West, a mass charity concert in Bristol which ran for ten years, attracted choirs of over 1,000 and raised nearly £250,000 for WaterAid.

He is currently co-chair of the Trustees Board of the Natural Voice Network, and is passionate about the work of the Network in encouraging more, open-access singing groups across the UK and beyond.

Chris sincerely believes that not only can everybody sing, but pretty much everybody should. It’s good for your mental and physical health, a lot of fun and is calorie free – and singers are some of the nicest people you could ever hang out with.

Above all else, he considers himself a very lucky man.

This is what Chris says about his two workshops:

Most of us have sung the same songs at Christmas since we can remember. They’re constant, never-changing and… perhaps just a teensy bit boring?

But for every set of standard Christmas Carols, there are a vast number of different tunes for the words we all know (some reckon on at least 400 different tunes to ‘While Shepherds Watched’). There are also a huge number of ‘lost’ Carols from all over the country, lots of them with absolutely belting tunes.

Along with local folk singers, and with the assistance of a ‘Folk Orchestra’, Chris has been leading ‘Traditional Village Carols’ in the pubs of Bradford for the last decade. Our starting point was the Carol Singing in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire pubs, which have done so much to keep the flame alive, but over the years we’ve discovered more, beautiful carols closer to home in the West Country to add to the genre.

Over the two sessions at the end of this term, Chris will be sharing some of his favourites from the last ten years.

Workshop with Jon Conway & Nick Petts – CANCELLED

it is with great regret that we have had to cancel the day workshop with Jon & Nick that was scheduled for 13th November. The reason is that Nick was taken ill with Covid 19 earlier this month, and was admitted to the Royal United Hospital in Bath, where he remains at the present time. In these circumstances it is not possible to go ahead with the workshop.

We understand that Nick’s condition has been improving in recent days, and we very much hope and pray to hear soon that he is on a firm path to recovery.

We have issued a full refund to all those who’ve booked.

We will consider in due course the options for working with Jon and Nick at an appropriate time in 2022, and will let you know of any plans.

In the meantime, we are aware of the concern and disappointment that this cancellation will cause you all. We will be passing our collective ‘get well’ messages to Nick. Jon Conway is posting updates on his facebook page which anyone can read and leave messages on, here.

Please note that our other workshops are not affected and going ahead as planned. See our Events page for info on the next workshops with Suus Gooch and Rosie Sleightholme, and for the two Christmas themed evenings with Chris Samuel.

Do take care and keep safe!

People of Note Working Party

A new and confident workshop leader!

Suus’ first session at All Saints Church, Pembroke Road, Clifton

Wednesday 20th October was the night for our first session with Suus (Susannah) Gooch, and the first session we have held in the lovely All Saints Church in Clifton. There were 28 of us there with good numbers in each part, (at least five people sent apologies for Covid reasons).

We were treated to two very different songs by Suus, the first was Alayki minni salem, a traditional song in Arabic which Suus had learned in Jordan, followed by This is my Song, from Finlandia, by Sibelius. The contrast could not be more different! Although both were challenging for us, it was an enjoyable and fun experience. We really appreciated Suus’s musicality, flexibility and perseverance!

We’re singing again with Suus on Wednesday 10th November, 7.30 to 9.30pm, at All Saints Church, Pembroke Road. There’s still plenty of places left, and you can book at (Some people found the venue a little chilly. So wrap up warm!)

Two workshops in the ‘stunning acoustics’ of All Saints Clifton

We have two events with Suus Gooch to be hosted at All Saints Church on October 20th and November 10th. This is a magnificent building with stained glass windows by the artist John Piper and ‘An interior with a stunning quality of acoustic unparalleled in Bristol’. Do try to join us for one or both.

You can book your place by clicking through to the JC Events site.
Tip: Go all the way to the bottom for the Tickets section.