West Gallery Music
From the 18th century, this is the music that Thomas Hardy refers to in "Under the Greenwood Tree". Singers and instrumentalists (in a "quire") played and sang in the west galleries of their churches. These were the same musicians who would have been playing for dancing at the pub on Saturday night, and the exuberance that they sometimes brought to their Sunday morning performances started to concern the church authorities, who from 1850 on started to replace them with an organ and a sober choir. We shall be digging these out again, and delighting pub goers, if not clerics, with them this Christmas.
At a few dozen pubs in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire, villagers have met for generations for full-throated renditions of songs largely forgotten from the Christmas canon, but once sung with gusto in their local churches. The Victorians however banished the folksy hymns and their often exuberant choruses to the homes and pubs of those who - religious or not - still loved to sing them.
We shall be re-creating them and singing them around Oxford as the Christmas season approaches.
Some examples here: