Solemn moment for choir anniversary

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A Lancaster choir responsible for reviving a bygone era of Church music described as “farmyard baroque” is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month.

The Gladly Solemn Choir was founded by Paul Guppy in 1992 after he heard a style of music called West Gallery Music on the radio.

Paul said: “I thought ‘this is great music’, and I wanted to find out more about it, and then I formed the choir shortly afterwards.

“Our first meeting was at the Gregson Centre in Lancaster, and we initially had 12 members, and there’s now 27 of us.

“I certainly didn’t think the choir would last 20 years, it was purely on spec, but now we’ve gone deeper and deeper into it.

“I’ve done a lot of research into the music. It was sung in small country churches in north Lancashire and south Cumbria.

“It’s become quite an important revival of the local culture.”

Paul, who repairs musical instruments at his workshop in St Leonard House, in St Leonardgate, said that the style of the music is the sort of thing you read about in Thomas Hardy books.

Paul said: “The music is very different from what you associate with church music nowadays.

“The music is lovely but quite rough, elaborate. It’s sometimes described as ‘farmyard baroque’.

“A lot of it is taken from metrical Psalms, from the year 1560 onwards.

“There are some songs of praise to God, some which are quite warlike, heaping scorn and threats upon enemies.”

The choir is due to perform on Sunday December 16 at St John’s Church in Lancaster, accompanied by a viola, violin and cello trio.

Paul added: “This time of year we’re doing quite a lot of Christmas music - carols and hymns that are never heard these days.

“At the show, we’ll be singing the first song we ever learned, a Christmas carol from Oxfordshire.

“I’d just like to say thanks to everyone for their support over the last 20 years, and the help of many people who have put us in touch with interesting things.”

Entry to the show, which starts at 7.30pm, is £5 and all profits will go to the Double Joy Children’s Farm in Kenya.