Arriving at Knipton Village Hall on Tuesday, I could already hear the sounds of rambunctious laughter and song as I joined the Belvoir Wassailers at their weekly rehearsal.
Since being set up in 2002, the popular male choir, based in the Vale of Belvoir, has been serenading the community in various events.
Between belting out classics including Yesterday by the Beatles and Imagine by John Lennon, musical director Caroline Jones was happy to take five minutes out of their busy rehearsal to sing their praises. Brought up in Llangollen, home of the international musical Eisteddfod, music has always been a huge part of Caroline’s life. She was church organist and choir mistress in Llangollen, which is where she first started conducting.
Since Caroline took over as musical director for the Belvoir Wassailers 18 months ago, the choir has grown from 15 members to over 35 and it is clear to see why. Keeping over 30 men aged between 40 and 80 years old in check is no mean feat, but Caroline, along with pianist Jenny Walker, does it with an abundance of energy and fun.
How did the Belvoir Wassailers begin?
It was originally formed from the Belvoir Castle estate workforce at the request of the Duchess of Rutland. It started with just four members before others were able to join.
How did you get involved with Belvoir Wassailers?
When I moved from Cambridgeshire, I didn’t know anyone or the local area. I was having a property inspection by a gent called Kevin and he spotted my grand piano and asked about my musical background. He explained that he belonged to a male choir but that they were missing a musical director. Before I knew it, I was at their rehearsal that very same night and I’ve been there ever since. I have taught so many different choirs over the years but there is something quite special and unique about the Wassailers. They are a great bunch of lads who sing with such enthuasium and work incredibly hard.
What kind of music do they cover?
They have always been very adamant that they want to sing well known songs that they are likely to sing along to in the car, so we keep it very light. However, I am also a fan of folk music and Lincolnshire has some great folk songs including the Lincolnshire Poacher, so we like to include a few of those in each concert too.
When is your next event?
Since 2010, we have raised £28,000 for various charities including £5,000 for the East Midlands Immediate Care Scheme from one concert alone last year. We chose Grantham and District Talking Newspaper as our chosen charity this year and will be putting on a concert in association with Grantham Baptist Church on Saturday, July 1 at 7.30pm. It features all of our favourite songs and also includes a special solo piece by one of the original members, Roy Clark, on his harmonica. It is free to attend but we will be collecting donations at the end. Refreshments will be available and we have also managed to secure the bus station next door for free parking.
Can anyone join the choir?
We are always looking for new additions. Our members are of all ages and come from all different backgrounds. You don’t need to be able to read music, you just need to have a passion for music and be willing to work hard – and have fun.
Information: www.belvoir wassailers.org.uk