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Monday, 1 June 2020

Worthing Local Group – Wednesday 3rd June 2020

Here are the songs suggested for us to sing in our locked down homes this coming Wednesday evening, 3rd June, between 8.00pm and 10.00pm.

June is now upon us and the glorious sunny weather we’ve had for a while makes it feel like high summer already. This month’s list of songs is again a mix, with some evoking different moods of the season, others acknowledging the difficulties these “Hard Times” have brought, but staying positive and looking ahead to the promise of gathering for a “good beer” and “singing the best song” when we can all get together again.

Accessing some of the song melodies and harmony recordings on this website may help and keep you company when you sing – and for those who have our "South Downs Songs” CD, you’ll have the chance on that to hear our voices singing together and to revisit an extra ‘old’ song or two. Enjoy!

Thank you to everyone who has kept in touch. It’s likely we will be here again in July for another ‘home’ session – but keep checking this website for any updates and plans for future sessions.

Country Life – always a jolly good warm-up
Rosebuds in June* – because it’s June!

Shepherd of the Downs* – and – Old Adam* – reminders of the benefits of co-support!

The Ladies Go Dancing At Whitsun – a wistful summer song, in remembrance

The Lark in the Morning – out there on the Downs singing well and ‘larking' around
Rolling in the Dew* – a rebuke to the lark perhaps...
The Cuckoo* – also out there and still calling, but with a sadder tale to tell in this song.

Hard Times of Old England*
Thousands or More*
West Sussex Drinking Song* – all probably speak for themselves... “Cheers”!

Stay safe,

*songs which are on the "South Downs Songs” CD

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Lewes Virtual Session – Tuesday 19th May 2020

Hello singers in Lewes (and Worthing, Chichester or anywhere else you may be reading this).

Hope you are surviving the current situation. Here are my suggested songs for another month of virtual singing together, with some basic recordings including starting notes, first verse and chorus, and some low and high harmonies (download the recordings here). For the benefit of any new or returning singers, full words are on the Lyrics and Recordings page and the New Songs page. While singing these I have on my green outfit and straw hat with white blossoms and I will imagine you all doing the same.

To warm up, a couple of old favourites – Constant Lovers and Fathom the Bowl. As I always say at Lewes, this is raucous folk singing at its best so leave aside any training or inhibitions and go for it – think Poldark, not Songs of Praise.

Next, two quieter and more reflective songs so you can go back to your best beautiful, refined singing for these – Ha’nacker Mill and All Things are Quite Silent.

A trio of songs about farming come next – Brisk Young Ploughboy, Ebernoe Horn Fair (an old faithful revisited) and Farmer’s Toast.

At this point in the evening we would normally top up glasses, so refill whatever you are drinking and take a quick break (mine was a coffee and a couple of Rich Teas while recording these songs in the middle of the day).

To open our second half, another trio of newer songs about nature - Bee Boy’s Song, Hares on the Mountain and Lark in the Morning (although the last one is only loosely to do with birds and more about larks of a different kind involving Roger the ploughboy…).

To celebrate May we then have It is the First of May, May Day Carol and Hal an Tow, not South Downs songs but appropriate to the season.

We will end with our own East Sussex Drinking Song and Thousands or More (both with added harmonies this month).

As a further bonus for the men, there are male harmonies attached for Country Life, Life of a Man, On Sussex Hills and Rosebuds in June, which I recorded in 2015 for a harmony workshop and found again the other day.

Stay safe, keep well and enjoy singing until we meet again. I suspect the June session could be another virtual one so do let me know if you have a favourite you want to be included.



Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Worthing Local Group – Songs for another ‘virtual’ session this month – open to all our singers and followers

Here we are in lovely May! Still 'locked down' and unable to gather at "Ye Olde House at Home", so until we can get together again in the future we must content ourselves with ‘virtually’ sharing an evening of songs as we did last month. Thank you to everyone who responded so positively and joined in with our April session and do let us know if you sing with us again this month (replies to me or to the SDFS email to be forwarded). It’s lovely to hear how you all are and, if we need to stay ‘virtual’ for our June session, to know what songs you’d like to sing then.

So here are the song requests or suggestions made for us to try at home this coming Wednesday evening, 6th May, between 8.00 and 10.00 p.m.

Thousands or More to warm up with – and a reminder perhaps to count our blessings.
Then Ale Glorious Ale for those missing the hospitality at our usual gathering space!

Celebrations of May follow with any or all of:
It Is the First of May
The May Day Carol
When Spring Comes In, and of course …
Hal an Tow

Searching For Lambs – opens a cluster of seasonal livestock or wildlife songs, to conjure images of the countryside some of us cannot easily visit at present.
Hares on the Mountain,
The Nightingale, and if not too early in the season,
The Lark in the Morning.

Finally, The Turtle Dove – for its beautiful message of partings and promised return, and with pride that some of these scarce, shy birds choose Sussex each year for their summer visits. Lovely!

Also in this post are recordings of some of these songs, plus a few others, all generously made by Tina for the recent Lewes Group virtual session and to share with everyone. There are melodies to help guide start notes and to remind and rehearse tunes less familiar, and also some harmonies to try. Many thanks Tina.

You can of course change the set list and running order as much as you like – but whatever you choose I hope you have some fun, find comfort in and have your spirits (not just in a glass) lifted and refreshed by singing.
Stay safe and hopeful for brighter days ahead. "Cheers" to you all.


Monday, 4 May 2020

Local Group Report – Lewes – Tuesday 21st April 2020

Tina came up with a cunning plan to replace our usual face-to-face meeting. There are problems with synchronization when linking up so she decided to make sample recordings of the twelve songs that she would normally have prepared for us to work through and we posted them to our regulars. Our warm up started with Country Life and On Sussex Hills which we know so well and shouldn’t need referral to our website (except our newer singers of course)! The recorded list included When Spring Comes In, Searching for Lambs, Pleasant and Delightful, Birds on the Spray, Turtle Dove, Magpie, Nightingale and Home Lads, Home. Thoughtfully, Tina gave us both the tune and harmony or alto for some of these. She also gave us the whole of Robb Johnson’s On This Hill, written about the old Brighton General Hospital at the top of Elm Grove on Race Hill (you can hear Robb Johnson sing this here) and suggested that we finish with Thousands or More as is our habit. So we achieved a sort of virtual session and the opportunity to repeat the performance at our leisure over the coming days/weeks. The only thing missing was the Harvey’s and background noise from the bar. We are hopeful that she will spend a few more hours preparing a virtual May session when we can dress in green, put flowers in our hair and dance around the kitchen table!

You can download Tina's recordings here.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Report from somewhere in Sussex by Margo

Update 10th April 2020: Margo has provided links for the weekly interactive World Of Music Choir, which may interest some of our singers.
 World Of Music Choir general information
 World Of Music Choir sessions archive
 World Of Music other links
Twice now, I have made a Freudian slip and written Corvid19. I think this may have something to do with all that folklore and some of the songs that we sing about rooks, ravens and magpies who belong to the Corvus family and were thought to be harbingers of doom!

Tina and the Lewes Group had good plans to link up for our sessions using modern technology, but there is a time lapse that makes synchronized singing impossibly awkward.

I hope that some of you have already caught on to Gareth Malone’s Home Chorus which he started on 23rd March and broadcasts at 5pm each day; you can catch up on YouTube. The Telling Medieval Music Group has lots of songs on YouTube and are running a live workshop every Friday at 11am (details here), but I couldn’t get Zoom to cooperate!

What I would really like to tell you is that on Easter Monday, 13th April, the BBC are broadcasting a documentary about the creating of a new Cantata called Windover Hill by Nathan James at 9pm on BBC Radio Sussex and Surrey. If you go to Castley Music – Windover Hill you can see lots of nice photos and read what The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra had to say about the premier performance at Boxgrove Priory in early March. You can also listen to computer-generated recordings – there are nine tracks, but not presented in the same order as the nine movements of the cantata (also available on Soundcloud). Part of the first section, Up From the Hollow, should sound familiar!

Glad none of you can hear me singing at home. When I am out in my garden I remain quiet so that I can hear the busy birds – mostly chattering house sparrows, a pair of wood pigeons, twittering long-tailed tits, a fleeting flock of goldfinches, the occasional rasp of a wren and two robins enforcing their territories, but sadly no blackbirds this spring. Yesterday I actually saw a female chiffchaff rather than her song. Hope we will be allowed to gather together again in time for hay-making. Keep safe and healthy.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Hello South Downs Folk Singers One and All

I hope you are safe, well and coping in these tricky times. Here is an idea to fill the gap left by the suspension of our usual local group meetings to sing with fellow South Downs Folk Singers....

Singing is such a joyful, uplifting and consoling thing and if like me you are missing our SDFS get togethers how about still singing a few songs together, safely, during the evenings when we would usually have gathered.

Starting with Worthing’s local group session next Wednesday (1st April), instead of being at our regular haunt "Ye Olde House at Home” join us by singing in your own home at some time between 8.00 and 10.00 pm. Although separate we can still feel united across the air!

Here is a short list of some songs to try at home – and add as many more as you like to fill the evening if you want (not forgetting the refreshment breaks too!)

"Country Life" for it’s energy and joy.
"Sussex Hills" to remind us we are made of strong “south country stuff”.
"Rolling Home" (albeit not officially a South Downs song!) for its celebration of stoic endurance, solidarity and collective effort.
and "Fields Lie Silent" for its beautiful descriptions of the quietness in a dormant world and its promise of brighter days returning.
Then perhaps add "Hal an Tow", chorus at least, or some other springtime song you like, for an encore!

We can continue this pattern for all the local sessions we are missing during the suspension, with a different set of songs posted here on our website shortly before the date of each one (Worthing 1st Weds, Lewes 3rd Tues and Chichester 3rd Thurs of each month). We’d love to know if you like this idea, find it helpful or have any other ways of joining in song to suggest. Also, If you’d like to suggest a song or songs familiar to most of us to be included in the lists for future sessions, please use the SDFS email for your message to be forwarded to me.

Happy singing on Wednesday evening folks, or whenever you can join us, and we’ll all look forward to happier and safer times ahead.
Henny (SDFS Committee Chairperson)

Wednesday, 18 March 2020


All of our official SDFS gatherings are now suspended until it is considered to be safe to meet up again. We expect this to be at least to the end of June and possibly well beyond this date.

Please check this website regularly for any updates.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Local Group Report – Worthing – Wednesday 4th March 2020

Thirty singers gathered to ignore the wind and rain of early March and turn instead to thoughts of the spring and possible songs for the performance events we have planned for the coming season. We opened with Fields Lie Silent describing as it does so beautifully the return of spring after winter. With Emily’s guidance we then sang through When Spring Comes In and Searching For Lambs before moving on to Maytime with Hal an Tow and the May Day Carol. Time was also given to hearing, trying and starting to learn a couple of new offerings made recently – Three Drunken Maidens and Buttercup Joe. Both went down well and may be added to our collection in due course if also liked by our two comrade groups. After a break and some notices about future events we resumed by singing these two songs through again. The evening concluded with a couple of requests, still looking ahead to spring and summer, Rolling In the Dew and Lark in the Morning. Roll on Springtime!

Friday, 21 February 2020

Local Group Report – Lewes – Tuesday 18th February 2020

Despite the downpours and our proximity to the river Ouse, sixteen of us managed to sail along to The John Harvey Tavern for another busy evening of singing. Can’t imagine why Peter B from the Worthing sessions brought his friend Steve in with the wind on such a wet night! Tina had chosen Poor Froze Out Gardeners and Pleasant and Delightful for our warm up and then two of our war songs, All Things Are Quite Silent and Home Lads, Home before launching into Spring and the great outdoors with Lark In The Morning, Searching for Lambs, Birds on the Spray, Brighton Camp, Caburn Hill and Oak, Ash and Thorn.

In the refreshment break we finally presented Tina with a Book Token in thanks for all she does for us and as a belated Birthday present.

Where Stormy Winds Do Blow and The Woodcutter’s Song seemed appropriate for February and then back to better weather with Brisk Young Ploughboy, Seasons Turn, Turtle Dove, When Spring Comes In, Farmer’s Toast closing with a rousing Thousands or More.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

The Worthing Seed Swap 2020

On the 8th February 2020 the SDFS made its now annual performance at the Worthing seed swap. Members were positioned elegantly on the staircase from which their harmonious sounds could echo due to the open stairwell. Two sets of relevant songs for the occasion were presented to a sometimes passing audience, although many interested folk also stayed as they were entranced by the music. It was noted that although the source of the singing was outside the main hall, we could be readily heard therein.

Thanks to all who attended to support me as conductor of the day.