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New singers  are always welcome to join us – read more

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Monday, 2 December 2019

SDFS at W&DLM Christmas Market – Report

Here's a report from Alan for our performances on 23rd November 2019:

Thanks to 40 SDFS members for turning up on a damp, cloudy, muddy day at the Christmas Market at the Weald & Downland Museum. Thanks to those from the eastern provinces in particular and to Dave and Amaryllis for organising their respective halves of a newly-tightened semi circle. Also to Dave for announcing.

All went quite well despite rain in the first performance. It was worrying as books drooped and words vanished from pages. A spell cast by Emily to impress upon us the importance of learning our words?

Great singing despite my novel, idiosyncratic activities as conductor. But could it have been those that gained your attention to my unusual gesticulations, leaving John Barbirolli way behind? Two sessions outside with the full complement. At the second session by the café the singers somehow managed to position the leader in a puddle, with a little child stamping up and down behind and determined to make everyone wet. At the request of the organisers, we gave a third performance with about 15 or so who stayed to sing in the Gridshell. Although tired, damp and muddy, a super Gridshell performance. It is so much easier to impress when singing inside a building.

The gentlemen gave of their best due to a larger-than-usual complement of excellent singers. Their harmony lines of some of the songs were particularly powerful. The ladies were their usual solid, competent selves with a large group of top-part-harmony-singers voices adding an extra level of beauty to the songs.

“Thank you Emily for teaching so well that we can feel pleased with our performances and can entertain audiences.”

Monday, 25 November 2019

Singing in Henfield

Update 6th December 2019: Here's the set list:
  1. While Shepherds Watched (Pentonville)
  2. Deck the Hall
  3. The Falmer Carol
  4. Sans Day Carol (The Holly Bears A Berry)
  5. Sussex Mummers Carol (Righteous Joseph)
Wednesday 18th December 2019, 8.30pm
The George Hotel, Henfield

Here's an invitation from one of our singers, Les B, to do some singing with the Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men:

We have been invited by Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men to take part in an evening of carols, songs and a Mummers play on the 18th December at the George in Henfield, from about 8.30pm. It will surely be an engaging and entertaining evening, so it would be great if we can muster a dozen or more of us to sing some of our own winter songs.

If you're interested in this please email Les at so that he'll know if there will be enough singers to go ahead. You can read more about the Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men on their website and Facebook page.

Local Group Report – Chichester – Thursday 21st November 2019

Seventeen stalwarts, including a new member, attended the session at the Chichester Inn. The evening was directed by Alan with help from Keith and consisted for the main part of practising those songs to be sung at the Weald and Downland Christmas Market, interspersed with the normal good-natured banter associated with this venue. A few extra favourites were sung.

At the end Alan sang a new song to see if it would be liked by this small group of members before perhaps putting it forward in the New Year to the main Worthing gathering. A song mentioned by Chris Hare at a Belloc, Broadwood and Beyond session. This version of ‘Buttercup Joe’ came from Ashurst, so maybe we can call it a Sussex song. There seemed to be a positive response with some of the lyrics in particular!!

Sunday, 24 November 2019

South Downs Folk Singers “Winter Revels” – our winter party!

Following the success of our gathering there in February 2019 we will be paying a return visit to “The Barn” on Saturday 25th January 2020 for our next “Winter Revels” party.

“The Barn” is a restored old Sussex barn attached to the English Martyrs Church in Goring (map link), on the corner of Goring Way and Compton Avenue. Postcode: BN12 4UE.

There is limited parking at the church, but no restrictions in the nearby residential roads. The venue is also near to the route and stops of the 700 Coastliner bus service and not far from Goring-by-Sea railway station.

The fun will begin at 7.30pm – BUT PLEASE NOTE – quiet is requested during an early evening service held in the adjacent church, so please DO NOT ARRIVE BEFORE 7.00pm. Similarly when leaving the party later, please be especially respectful of the surroundings and the quiet of the neighbouring area.

All South Downs Folk Singers, plus their family and friends, are very welcome to attend. Tickets are £2.50 each. Numbers are limited, so to avoid disappointment secure your place in advance by contacting Margo, via the South Downs Folk Singers email (or maybe see her at some of our local singing sessions).

Please bring food to share and your drinks of choice and, as ever, your readiness to join in song (and even a dance) or two!

Individual or group contributions to the evening’s entertainments are invited – songs, readings, music and dance – all are very welcome. (If possible please let Margo know in advance.)

Just one extra notethe Barn is a much loved Grade II listed building, so special care must be taken not to damage the flint walls, wood pillars and beams, and we’ve been advised that shoes likely to mark the wood floor (especially high heels) are NOT welcome! (The SDFS will be liable for the cost of any damage.)

We look forward to enjoying your good company there in a lovely setting and to saluting the winter season with our festivities in January!

Local Group Report – Worthing – Wednesday 6th November 2019

The festive season arrived early to Ye Olde House at Home when we sang through the songs from the set planned for our events this month and next. Sweet Chiming Bells warmed us up with The Holly Bears a Berry and selected verses from the Sussex Mummers Carol to follow. The Sussex Carol, Hark the Herald Angels, The Holly and the Ivy, Here We Come A-wassailing and The Coppers Christmas Song brought us to a cheery and reviving break. With our thirsts quenched we resumed by singing the rounds Child of Light and Hey Ho Winter Snow, with the final line of each round repeated across each group to all finish singing together. The Falmer Carol then Angel Gabriel and lastly Shepherds Watched Their Flocks, to the Pentonville tune, closed our proceedings for this month. More next time on 4th December.

N.B. Advanced notice – because the first Wednesday of January will be New Years Day we are aiming to move our first Worthing meeting of 2020 to the following week, Wednesday 8th January, thereafter returning to the first Wednesday of each month as usual. This is still to be confirmed with the pub, so watch this space and our website diary page for more details.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Littlehampton Women’s Institute Christmas Celebration

Update 29th November 2019:

Set List:
  1. Sweet Bells
  2. Sussex Carol
  3. Righteous Joseph
  4. Alan and Anne duet (Alan to introduce)
  5. The Holly and the Ivy
  6. Deck the Halls
  7. Here We Come A-wassailing
  8. We Wish You A Merry Christmas
Please note: Keith will be leading us. We have 20 singers due to attend, which includes six men. On the night we will have to decide if there are enough men to sing “men” parts for the carols.

Alan and Anne will sing a piece accompanied by instruments.

Since we have been asked to sing for 30 minutes, we may have to drop a carol if time is running out.

Doors open for the WI at 7.00pm and I will be there from that time. Their meeting officially starts at 7.30, but often earlier and we are due on at 7.45 prompt. Please be there at least 20 minutes before then, so that we can go through our programme briefly and put on a good show. Do dress up in Christmas spirit.

Look forward to seeing you next Tuesday and thank you for volunteering.


Tuesday 3rd December 2019, evening event from about 7.10pm
1 St Floras Road, Littlehampton, BN17 6BD

Thank you to the singers who have volunteered to sing for the WI. We should have a very pleasant evening and they are eagerly waiting to hear us.

The meeting will be at the Littlehampton Evangelical Church, 1 St Floras Road, Littlehampton, BN17 6BD. Those of you who sang for the Arcade Knitters last Christmas will remember it.

Their meeting starts at 7.00pm and we are due to sing from 7.30 for 20 to 30 minutes. This will be followed by refreshments, which will include finger food, soft drinks and tea. When the refreshments are over we can leave, as they will be going through notices and future events planning.

The meeting is held in the main hall, but there is a smaller hall next door where we can assemble and store coats, etc. Could I suggest you arrive by 7.10 so that we are ready in time for 7.30. There is ample car parking in their car park or the street.

A song list will follow and will be taken from the songs we have prepared for the Weald and Downland Christmas Market.

My phone number is 07709 935650, which you can ring to let me know if you cannot come, or if you are lost or delayed. Feel free to decorate yourselves like a Christmas tree, or more modestly with a Santa hat, or something in between.

Looking forward to seeing you all on 3rd December.


Wednesday, 13 November 2019


Alan and Anne's folk band, Cotillion, is performing its Sussex Christmas folk show 'A Sussex Christmas' in Rusper Church at 7pm on Saturday 7th December and at 7pm in Newtimber Church (which is not far from Henfield) on Saturday 14th December. The evenings consist of a mixture of standard (Hymns Ancient and Modern) carols to join in, early carols, poetry, sayings and rounds. Lots of opportunity for SDFS members to join in. Refreshments in the interval.

Keep up to date with Cotillion on their website.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

SDFS at W&DLM Christmas Market

Update 22nd November 2019: If it is raining (forecast is for light rain or showers to about lunchtime, preceded by heavier rain overnight) there is the music tent for shelter in the Market Square and the Gridshell Balcony as usual instead of the Courtyard by the shop.
Update 12th November 2019: Details from John C for this event have been added below. Be careful not to miss the performance notes from Alan which have been added after the set lists below.
Saturday 23rd November 2019
Weald & Downland Living Museum, Singleton, PO18 0EU

Again a packed event with over 150 stalls, so if the weather is reasonable it's worth making a day of it.

See the organiser's website.

Saturday is the middle day of the weekend, with probably the whole of the overflow car park filled out to West Dean College by 1pm, if the weather is dry.

If you arrive early (around 10.00am) you will be nearer to the entrance booths, please use the dedicated members and stall holders queue for quick entry, either by showing your SDFS lanyard (wristband see below) or identifying your surname on the list I will send them. The usual wristbands arrived too late to be distributed at our monthly meetings, but I will be at the Secret Shore Singers practice on Wednesday 20th Nov at YOHAH (for the Victorian Christmas Festival at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard) so you can pick one up then if convenient.

We have two sets, at 12.00 noon in the Market Square and 1.00pm in the Courtyard between the Gateway Entrance and Shop if the weather is OK, or perhaps on the decking outside the Gridshell if the weather is not dry. This will allow you the rest of the day to take in the market stalls and hopefully leave the site more easily.

Please gather at the Market Square and the Courtyard at least 15 minutes before each performance start time.

My contact email as usual for any queries –

Dress for cold variable weather and wear stout shoes, but please don whatever festive headgear you want for the occasion.

I already have 40 volunteer singers for the day. As there will be more singers than at the 'Fire & Light' a couple of weeks ago, please follow Emily's requests to form a compact semi-circular group focussed on Alan, our leader for the day, so we can present the songs again at their best for the assembled multitudes.

Alan has appended a few notes regarding some order/variations to the various songs clarified at the last YOHAH practice. These follow the set lists below.

John C.

Our set lists (thank you Amaryllis) are below, with further details to be added here when available.

First Set – 12.00 noon in the Market Square:
  1. Sweet Chiming Bells [E]
  2. Where Stormy Winds Do Blow [A]
  3. The Holly Bears a Berry [C]
  4. Oak, Ash & Thorn [E]
  5. Sussex Mummers’ Carol [G]
  6. The Woodcutter’s Song [B]
  7. Sussex Carol [G]
  8. Life of a Man [B]
  9. Hark the Herald Angels Sing [F]

Second Set – 1.00pm in the Courtyard between the Gateway Entrance and Shop:
  1. The Holly & the Ivy [Ab]
  2. The Fields Lie Silent [F]
  3. Here We Come A-Wassailing [C]
  4. The Coppers’ Christmas Song [B]
  5. Rounds for the Festive Season
  6. Poor Froze-Out Gardeners [Db]
  7. The Falmer Carol [B]
  8. The Angel Gabriel [B]
  9. Pentonville (While Shepherds…) [C]
Additional performance notes as discussed at YOHAH 6th November 2019

Sussex Mummers Carol
Verses to be sung are:
  1. When righteous Joseph...
  2. Oh Blessed Mary...
  3. God bless the master...
  4. God bless your house...
  5. Our song it is sung...
Hark the Herald Angels sing
The verse beginning "Mild he lays his glory by..."  should be sung softly

Here we come a-wassailing
Sing the last two lines of the song slowly

The Coppers' Christmas song
In the first three verses only men sing the first half of line 4 and women sing the second half
In the last verse substitute ‘Christmas’ for ‘Winter’

The Falmer Carol
Verses to be sung are:
  1. See Seraphic throngs...
  2. T’was for us he left...
  3. Repeat verse 1

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Local Group Report – Chichester – Thursday 17th October 2019

Due to some prior apologies for absence from a number of our regular singers we didn’t really know quite what to expect, but in the event eleven of us, plus Stanley the dog, braved heavy rain to come out to the Chichester Inn to enjoy a very pleasant evening, singing around the big table. We were happy to welcome back new member Julia who brought her father Barry with her and they both joined in eagerly with the singing. Also present were a couple sitting apart and enjoying an evening meal. They told us that they had come over from Felpham especially to hear us sing. We hope they liked what they heard!

We decided to start with the songs planned for our performances at the Weald & Downland Living Museum’s “Fire & Light” event on Sunday 3rd November and a good choice it was too, as they were all songs which we love and know very well. So in the first half we sang Oak, Ash & Thorn, The Woodcutter’s Song, The Bee-Boy’s Song, The Turnip Hoer, Where Stormy Winds Do Blow, Ale Glorious Ale, and Poor Froze-out Gardeners. The singing sounded perfect to me, although we did miss hearing those beautiful harmonies from our talented harmony singers!

In the second half we tackled two rounds: Hey Ho Winter’s Snow and I heard a Bird sing in the Dark of December. Then we thought we had better get to grips with The Coppers’ “Winter” Song and The Fields lie Silent. The latter song rather fell apart as we seemed to have several different printed versions. We must make sure that we stick to the “revised 23rd August 2018” edition that is on the website!

As we inevitably like to try out new songs at Chichester, Dave introduced us to The Rigs of the Time a song he had heard at Whitby Folk Week this year. It’s a song from the Napoleonic period, complaining about the tricks that traders use to swindle poor folk. We sang it through a couple of times and it seemed to be very well received.

Finally we ended the evening at 10.00pm by singing Brisk Young Ploughboy, an excellent choice requested by one of our singers. Thanks to all who came along to make this a very sociable and enjoyable evening. Next month we will meet again in the Chichester Inn on Thursday 21st December. If you like a good sing, then do come and join us there. You’ll be made most welcome!

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Local Group Report – Lewes – Tuesday 15th October 2019

Seventeen singers arrived at The John Harvey Tavern and sang through 18 songs. Tina was just recovering from a week of a sore throat and no voice, but still managed to direct us through the song list for the Weald & Downland “Fire and Light” experience on 3rd November. We started with a rousing West Susex Drinking Song – all four verses – then it was time for Oak, Ash and Thorn, The Woodcutter’s Song, Bee Boy’s Song, Life of a Man, Turnip Hoer, Where Stormy Winds Do Blow, Poor Froze-Out Gardeners, Ale Glorious Ale, On Sussex Hills, Copper’s (Winter) Christmas Song, the rounds Hey Ho Winter Snow and Child of Light, and Fields Lie Silent. Tina also suggested While Shepherds Watched (Pentonville tune), Sweet Chiming Bells and Seasons Turn so our two new recruits got a hefty selection of our winter repertoire before closing the evening with Thousands or More. Thank you Tina for your sterling leadership through a noisy evening; we appreciate your valiant efforts.

Rehearsals for the Brighton Pub Carols start on Tuesday 12th November so the Lewes Group will meet on Wednesday 20th November and Wednesday 18th December to accommodate the Brighton participants.