1. Wren Music

Wren Music is one of England’s leading community folk arts organisations. Every week we use our unique no-experience-necessary approach to make musical experiences a reality for hundreds of people across Devon: from children in their early years to older adults in residential settings, and everyone in between.

We’re professional folk musicians, and we love working with traditional songs and tunes from our home in the South West of England. We also love listening to people’s stories and turning the lives of people today into the folk songs of tomorrow.

We run a number of different projects for people of all ages, in different social, educational and care settings as well in the open community. Our regular adult education programme is identified by Folk Choirs and Folk Orchestras. These include a men’s only choir MenSing, an annual project for International Women’s Day HerStory, and specialist ensembles for the mandolin and fiddle families.

2. Folk Choirs

For the ICC project we have brought together singers from our five regular choirs, MenSing and HerStory. Our choirs are located around the county of Devon, in the south west of England, and this group comes together at Wren’s headquarters of Ebenezer Hall in Okehampton, located in the centre of the county.

Our regular choirs meet weekly during term time, with each course lasting five weeks, with a total of 30 meetings per choir per year. Each choir has local performance opportunities each season, and we try to get together as much as we can.

Our choir leaders are: Sarah Owen, Paul Wilson, and Rebecka Lyons. You can find out more about them on our website www.wrenmusic.co.uk in the About Us section.

3. Repertoire

Wren Music uses English folk songs as its starting point. England does not have a strong tradition of folk choral music, and Folk Choirs in England are a relatively new phenomenon, starting in the late 1970s. Wren Music is among the founders of this movement and through our musical arrangements for choirs we try to preserve the strong narrative structure of the lyrics and melodic integrity of the tune.

These traditional English songs are augmented by songs from the natural voice movement, folk traditional choral traditions from around the world (for example South Africa or Latvia) and popular songs that have undergone ‘folklorisation’ i.e. songs that have moved from music business to the oral tradition, and we make new songs in the tradition.

We really value the ICC project to introduce us to traditional choral songs from European countries, taught to us so that we can get to understand the meaning and the social context of the songs.

4. Inclusivity

Throughout our work we promote social inclusion, and sometimes we run special projects for people with specific needs or who are socially dependent. Our open access choirs do not require that people read music, and we do not have waiting lists or auditions, the only entry requirement is that people must want to sing to join!

We make sure that people are comfortable with the learning materials they are supplied with, and do they need additional support, like large print or video/audio learning materials. Our song arrangements are made so that all voices have an interesting part to sing, and our singing tutors make sure everyone is at ease with their part before moving on.

Singers have to pay to join our choir, and we have a sliding scale of payments, and we can allow people to pay by instalment if necessary.

5. COVID 19

When the UK went into its first lockdown in March 2020, there was two weeks left of our spring season. We had to close all our in person work at that point. Our team set about finding out how we could move some of our work online, and we set up our Wren Online Community in time for the start of our summer season, so our choirs lost just two sessions. >p>Of course not everyone joined us online, for a number of factors, including lack of connectivity to the internet, or not liking interacting via a screen. Nonetheless, lots of people did join us.

Our provision consists of some online resources: a teaching video, downloadable lyrics and scores, a learning forum for each week, and an online video conference call. Initially this video call was for mainly social interaction but over the year the singers have learned how to use it to reinforce the video teaching.

You can see the extent of our Online Community here: https://wrenmusic.teachable.com/courses and let us know if you want to take a closer look at one of our courses

During the lockdown, as well as these regular sessions we have had some special initiatives. One was to record the song ‘The Cutty Wren’, each singer or player recorded themselves on their phone, tablet or computer and sent it in to us and we made a virtual choir. You can see that video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7DSOPPln3Y

We were also very pleased to be chosen to represent our county Devon as part of a national project which used songs to comment on the pandemic backing local folk songer/songwriter Seth Lakeman. See that video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVZy0wR3z3g

Last modified: Wednesday, 12 May 2021, 1:18 PM