Sussex Harmony singers strive to keep cheerful church music alive

Sussex Harmony. Picture by
Sussex Harmony. Picture by

Lewes-based group of costumed singers and instrumentalists Sussex Harmony is giving a concert in All Saints’ Church, Waldron, near Heathfield, in aid of the organ fund.

Spokeswoman Paula Nicholson said: “It is incongruous that the hearty music from the 18th and 19th century rural churches that the group strives to keep alive was driven out when the organs were installed by the straight-laced Victorian reformers.

“Music in Sussex rural churches was once a community affair with villagers joining in and playing their own instruments. Every village church used to have its own band. A group of singers backed by instruments, sang lustily and with great courage. Made up of flutes, viols and an oboe, the Waldron band would have also played for dances, so things could get a bit confused. Enthusiasm and volume were more prized than accuracy. Stories abound in Sussex of the conflict this caused between village and vicar. In Amberley the vicar ordered the inns not to serve the band with beer. They retaliated by whitewashing all his windows one night.

“The music was taken to America with the Pilgrim Fathers and vibrant versions sung unaccompanied in harmony developed. The tradition is kept alive in New England and the southern states but is rarely heard in England.”

The concert takes place at All Saints on Saturday, April 14, at 7pm. Refreshments from 6.30pm. Entry is free but donations are invited.


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