Oh little village of Foulsham

PUBLISHED: 05:29 22 December 2014

tree

tree

Archant

It's just two days before Christmas and the village is sparkling with festive lights. Suddenly the night air is full of music.

Foulsham Carol singers (from left) John Ames, Clem Vogler, Jeanette Taylor, John Riddett and Martin Roszko. Picture: Ian BurtFoulsham Carol singers (from left) John Ames, Clem Vogler, Jeanette Taylor, John Riddett and Martin Roszko. Picture: Ian Burt

It’s just two days before Christmas and the village is sparkling with festive lights. Suddenly the night air is full of music. Beside the Market Place Christmas tree a group has gathered and around 12 voices soar into the winter air, harmonising the ancient story of a baby born in a village stable.

Every Christmas a group of villagers meet to sing carols. They walk from house to house, and stop in the village centre to sing to passers-by. They range in age from teenagers to pensioners, and have a repertoire of around 25 carols, all sung unaccompanied.

Friends Clem Vogler and John Riddett began the tradition 13 Christmases ago. “I managed to get together a group of a few friends who were willing and able to join me singing in four part harmonies,” says Clem. “We sing the carols I like and miss out the ones I’m not very fond of. The one which everybody loves is the Coventry Carol.”

This is a scratch choir – no rehearsals, no fund-raising, just a group of people with a love of singing, and the talent to harmonise.

“We do it for the sheer pleasure of singing,” says Clem, a former physics teacher. “We have a quick run through and set out to visit a few houses where we have a fairly good chance of being welcome. We then often get invited in for a bit of liquid refreshment!”

All three of his daughters have been part of the group and sometimes guest stars are brought in – friends who happen to be staying for Christmas and are found to have excellent voices. “We call ourselves the Foulsham Waits, which I think is a traditional word for carol singing.”

But this is a long way from the kind of carol-signing which involves a group of teenagers bellowing the first few words of a festive favourite before holding out their hands for cash. The Foulsham Waits will sing several verses of each song, and several songs at each stop.

Householders can make requests for particular carols, ranging from old favourites including It Came Upon a Midnight Clear and Once in Royal David’s City, to more unusual songs such as Adam Lay Ybounden and Welcome Thou Holy Child.

Fellow Foulsham Waits founder John Riddett says: “We are trying to maintain a tradition of people going round the village and singing. And we like singing songs you might not hear in a carol service.”

And Clem says: “It’s become quite popular. For me this is the very best bit of Christmas.”

Foulsham is a village doubly blessed by carol singers as the parish council organises an evening of carol singing in aid of charity every Christmas.

Adam Lay Ybounden

Adam lay ybounden,

Bounden in a bond;

Four thousand winter

Thought he not too long.

And all was for an apple,

An apple that he took,

As clerkës finden written

In their book.

Nor had one apple taken been,

The apple taken been,

Then had never Our Lady

A-been heaven’s queen.

Blessed be the time

That apple taken was.

Therefore we may singen

Deo gratias!

The Coventry Carol

Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,

By, by, lully, lullay.

Lullay, Thou little tiny Child.

By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters, too, how may we do,

For to preserve this day;

This poor Youngling for whom we sing,

By, by, lully, lullay.

Herod the King, in his raging,

Charged he hath this day;

His men of might, in his own sight,

All children young, to slay.

Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,

And ever mourn and say;

For Thy parting, nor say nor sing,

By, by, lully, lullay.

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