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Concert: “Explore Jane Austen’s World”
at Chalton on Sunday 20th August 2017

Thank you and all the wonderful members of The Madding Crowd for a brilliant concert yesterday. It was so entertaining and informative too, plus being a fabulous musical performance in the appropriate setting of our ancient church. All those there certainly enjoyed the afternoon.

Please convey our thanks to all the singers, musicians and dancers, and, if you would like to return at any time, we would love to have you.”

St. Michael's, Chalton congregation and friends

Workshop for the Folk Association of South Hampshire (FASH)

28th March 2016

This was our fifth successive annual singing workshop for FASH, with more people than ever, 88 singers and players. Here’s what some of the FASH members said:

... a HUGE thank you for Sunday’s workshop. What a joy! Carefully chosen music, beautifully arranged; authentic instrumental sound; excellent singing, musical direction and great organisation of the whole day. What a marvellous opportunity to share the music of the West Gallery time and learn something of our heritage. I realise how much work it is at all stages and in all departments – but roll on the next one.

I very much enjoyed the workshop at Soberton on Sunday as I think everyone did. Many thanks to all and also for including Old Foster and Sweet Chiming Bells, such lovely tunes!

We enjoyed ourselves so much at The Madding Crowd workshop yesterday that we want to be sure of getting in next year. Please add our names to the list...

Thank you very much indeed for the brilliant workshop you gave us on Sunday. We really do appreciate all the hard work that goes into making this event such a success and were absolutely delighted with everything you did. The choice of music was perfect and people's comments as they left were just lovely. Everyone clearly enjoyed not just the music, but also the whole welcoming and happy feel of the day that all of you helped to create.

“Glad Tidings” - Christmas programme at St Lawrence in the Square, Winchester, 20th December 2014

“What better way to start this festive period than to find myself in the dear little church of St Lawrence in Winchester on Saturday evening listening to the wonderful sounds of The Madding Crowd. To see and hear for the first time this unique choir and musicians, dressed in their period costumes, performing Christmas music and humorously presented readings was absolutely delightful. The evening was made even more entertaining by the performance of the Mummers play. Thank you all for an enchanting evening.”   CS

“ was a wonderful concert. The choir and the musicians looked superb in their 19th century villagers' costumes and gave a real taste of the rural celebrations, as they might have been two hundred years ago, helped along by the excerpts from contemporary diaries and letters. Dancing and Mummers too! And it was so nice that lots of the material was local. So congratulations all round, especially to your musical director Mike Bailey for the fine performances by choir and village band.”   J

[The audience collection for Winchester Basics Bank amounted to 343.66 - thank you everyone.]

A short Christmas programme at Cowplain for Waterlooville U3A Local History Group, 19th Dec 2013

“We all went home with a spring in our step and humming a tune!  Thank you so much for the wonderful performance you gave us.  You prepared such a special programme with a mixture of drama, dance and song that intrigued and delighted us. Getting people involved made it great fun, providing much to talk about and feel proud we were there.  Thanks to all your members who travelled some distance across Hampshire bringing such enthusiasm and pleasure.”

“The Wesleys” at St Peter’s Church, Soberton, 1st Nov 2013

“The evening was hugely enjoyed, many thanks to all of you for coming to perform in our lovely old church with such enthusiasm and wonderful singing ... a lot of very positive feedback, it was clearly a most successful performance in which the lives of the Wesley brothers unfolded in a way that was both interesting and gave them the credit they deserved ... you contributed to a really good atmosphere in which there was a buzz, people chatting and enjoying the whole event ... a brilliant evening.”

An Afternoon with William Cobbett

On 30th June 2013 on what was the hottest day of the year so far, The Madding Crowd performed at the Maltings to an enthusiastic audience, sharing with them An Afternoon with William Cobbett.  Wearing costumes from Cobbett’s day, they sang, they played their instruments (including the serpent, rarely seen), they danced, the dances having been choreographed from original research.  Two of their number even fought with sticks although Cobbett, we were told, would have enjoyed some bare fist boxing, legal at a time when health and safety legislation was unheard of.  What would Cobbett have made of that?  We were treated to a variety of music, much of it from Cobbett’s time, everything from Haydn’s Creation to a march from the 

Coldstream Guards.  It was all interspersed with readings from and by Cobbett, accompanied by nods of approval.  Much research had obviously been carried out to find appropriate passages.  What was also clear was the versatility of all, musicians and singers alike as they were all multi-talented.  They smiled a lot, they were obviously enjoying it as much as the audience. It ended all too soon with the suitably jingoistic Rule Britannia, the history of which goes back to 1740 as part of a masque performed at Cliveden to commemorate the accession of George II.

Alfred J. Rowe of The William Cobbett Society

from "The Rock", the church magazine of Petersfield, Sheet and Buriton, quoted by permission:

St. Mary's, Buriton: A Harvest Festival of 200 years ago

Evensong at dusk; a full church, which happens normally only on high days and holidays; music provided by the wonderful Madding Crowd - a choir and small orchestra with its period music and instruments; and all of this followed by a ceilidh in the Manor Barn next door to the church. This was an event to remember. Revd. Giles Harris-Evans took the service and included in his sermon an interesting extract on the giving of tithes by the farming community, which was an integral part of the support of parish priests in days gone by. He also described at a little length the subsequent supper; it is difficult to believe people ate so much. So, further music by the Madding Crowd in the church and then off to our own supper next door... The Madding Crowd showed some stamina in playing and singing for us until well into the night, after which we all went home, tired and happy... Harvest is a time of thanks for our crops safely gathered in and this was a brilliant way to celebrate it.

Ian Johnston

Buriton Madness

'The Madding Crowd', says their website innocuously, 'researches and performs the church and secular music of the English village bands and choirs in the period 1660 to 1861.' They sure do. On a Sunday early in October, they invaded Buriton; took it by storm, you could say. That's to say, they came in strength - thirty or more hardy folk from Southampton and beyond - and in full fig, that's to say, wearing smocks, breeches, neckerchiefs, boots and the like. No prizes for guessing where their name comes from; the word 'hardy' in the previous sentence was no accident...

Because true to form, 'The Madding Crowd' (a crowd of singers, a band of instrumentalists including ... a serpent) gave the Buriton parish a treat both sacred and secular. Sacred, first: at 6, they packed the Parish Church for Evensong as it would have been sung and played in Hardy's time. Or nearly, anyway: St. Mary's doesn't quite boast a West Gallery where probably the little band would have been situated, accompanying the hymns, giving the parson his keynote, maybe even playing out the congregation with a final voluntary.’ The Madding Crowd' did all this and the iron voice of the mighty organ was indeed stilled for the evening; but instead the band sat in the chancel, with the singers. Hymns were taken at a lively pace, with charming little ritornellos between verses. And they sang a sonorous anthem on their own. The whole Evensong experience was lively, quaint, different. Rev Giles Harris-Evans ... entered into the spirit of things by reading chunks of Parson Kilvert's diary.

Then it was over to the splendid Manor Barn ... for the secular bit. 'The Madding Crowd' gave us a few more rustic vocal numbers, letting their hair down gently under their trim and seemly white bonnets, Giles said Grace, mountains of homely food and wine ... were consumed by a hundred hungry villagers ... and then came the climax: the ceilidh. Probably not a word familiar to the Sage of Dorchester, but T. Hardy would surely have recognised a Village Hop when he saw one. And written his daily thousand words about it. (There's probably a description in his novels somewhere but you need patience to trawl for it.) Dancers dohseedohed decorously, later swung their partners with increasing abandon and mostly managed to avoid treading on each others' feet. Perspiration flowed plentifully. A good time was had by all...

By the way: the whole jolly event raised nearly 1500. It will go towards the provision of disabled access at Buriton Church. Soon there will be one less excuse for absence.

Piers Burton-Page

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