Friday, 18 November 2011

'ark 'ark

'The Big Set', Oughtibridge 1906, picture from the Goddard family

. . . and 'what news' indeed - the best time of the year here in North Sheffield.   First Thursday after Rememberance Sunday last night, heralding the first sing at the Black Bull.

I can't even begin to do justice to this amazing experience - you just have to be there at one of the sessions.

Eric did his solos with that amazing mellow voice which somehow fills the space - the lovely, gentle Yorkshire anthem, Swaledale and the dark Mistletoe Bough.  Jeremy led us in the Holly and the Ivy.  Des was there calling the carols, ending in Ecclesfield's unique 'Ritual' - the joyful combination of Bread of Heaven, Old Father Chrismas and Six Jolly Miners.

We sang my favourite 'My God the Spring' as well as the two that so evoke the majesty of our seven hills in Sheffield - 'Hail Smiling Morn' (that tips the hills with gold) and 'How beautiful Upon the Mountains'.

Only time for two versions of While Shepherds this week - Pentonville and Hail Chime On.

This first session started quietly but as old stalwarts wandered in we swelled to about 40.  And then the deep harmonies kicked in more strongly and the singing was sweet and powerful.  By 'Hark Hark for latecomers' we were back on form and Diadem was a cracker or 'grand old lad', as Ike would call out from the 'corner' when the rendition was particularly rousing.
'In an innocent way we'll be happy today'  -  goes one of the wonderful verses of 'Merry Christmas' and indeed, me and my friends are happy, uplifted and relaxed every Thursday night in the Black Bull from now til Christmas, and every December Friday in the Top Red and for the odd session on Sunday lunchtime at the fabled Royal Hotel in Dungworth.

I'll leave you with some newspaper articles and video clips and maybe you'll get a flavour of this experience that has played such an important part in my winters here in Sheffield, and which heralds the start of Christmas so joyously.

Must begin with this 2010 press article from the Sheffield Star about the Black Bull in Ecclesfield and our carols.

Lovely Yorkshire Post article about the singing tradition in Dungworth in 2006 here.

We even have a Wikipedia quote at the bottom of the 'Christmas Carol' entry: "The mass singing in some of the pubs in North Sheffield and North Derbyshire, which takes place in the second half of November and all December, and which is often referred to as 'The Sheffield Carols', has been described as one of the most remarkable instances of popular traditional singing in the British Isles."

Now then - if you look closely and carefully, you'll spot us sitting singing in the Black Bull in 2009 when Mike Harding recorded his Christmas in Yorkshire for the BBC - watch here (at about 0.33).

So let's hope we'll forever be able to . . .
"Sound upon the wintry night
Melodies of Christmas time".
Happy days . . .

1 comment:

  1. Hah! Love the video! You'll need to post some photos of the group in action next year!