Atoms and pig wigs, stiff upper lips and bacteria, selfish genes and a falling-down house.... How can these things be linked? Well, the South Devon Singers don’t exactly conform to community choir stereotypes - no uniform, no choreography, no uplifting pop anthems. Then what? What else is there?




SDS’s founder and MD, composer David Haines, is crazy about science and doesn’t see why he shouldn’t write catchy, tuneful songs about topics from climate change to fundamental forces, the Sixth Great Extinction Event (the one we’re in the middle of now) to bioluminescence. His profile in New Scientist in 2009 was headlined Love Songs to Science, and that describes much of what he writes and what the choir enjoys singing about.


But, don’t presume it’s all beetle-browed and intellectual - far from it. Bacteria sounds like a romantic love song, despite being about Earth’s most resilient life form, the one that’ll still be around until the Sun swallows up our planet a few billion years from now. Atom sounds pretty much like a gospel song until you realise the lyrics are about the structure of nature’s building blocks. Cetaceans evokes a strange, elusive mood as it shifts and slides through many different keys, evoking the whales and dolphins it describes.


At the heart of the concert is David’s recent setting of a poem by much-loved Totnes poet, Matt Harvey. Contrasting with Matt’s usual tongue-in-cheek, punning style, When That Tree Went is a brief but heart-rending account of the tree Matt loved in childhood, which disappears to make way for development. David’s powerful, poignant setting has rapidly become a favourite amongst choir members.


The concert’s programme celebrates the date as well - the final four songs are pure, unadulterated silliness and fun. Diablo and Pig Wig are by the inspired child songwriter (now an adult) Ezra Futrell, and arranged for the choir by David - the first a foot-tapping tribute to the childhood spinning-top game, the second utterly defying rational description. When choir members ask David “What IS a Pig Wig anyway?”, he can only reply with a mock-portentous “whatever it means to you - search deep within and you will find the answer...”. Then he bursts into laughter.


South Devon Singers perform Take Care of the Earth
at Ivybridge Methodist Church PL21 9AB on Friday 1st April 2022 at 7.30pm

Tickets from or 07340 542 369 or on the door £7 (£5 concessions) - free for 12 and under

Refreshments available at the interval - including delicious home-baked cakes!






WHEN THAT TREE WENT - Poems & Songs about everything under the Sun (and Moon)




“Something really special. I never thought I’d enjoy listening to someone read poetry! The music was so refreshing - original, well-arranged, and the piano accompaniment was just awesome.  I loved it!”


This was one of many compliments paid to the South Devon Singers after their concert at Ermington alongside much-loved poet Matt Harvey - host of the Wondermentalist Cabaret Radio 4 series.  The choir will be repeating their performance at Dawlish’s Strand Community Centre on Saturday 30th October at 7pm, again in cahoots with the brilliant Totnesian bard.


Another audience member wrote “a thoroughly engaging evening of David Haines’ wonderful music and Matt Harvey’s delicious verse.  They meld together to give a fun, thought-provoking and satisfying mix.”

Matt Harvey is renowned for his wit and wordplay - sometimes laugh-out-loud silly, even deliberately naff, other times so subtle and intricate that your brain has to play catch-up before it suddenly gets the joke and you find yourself giggling two lines later.  His poems can be light-hearted observations on human nature, or inspired by a unique perspective on our race’s frailties and strengths.  Whether they move the heart or tickle the ribs, his verses always open a window to a different and surprising view of the world.

David Haines’ music embraces an equally broad range of genres and subjects.  His enthusiasm for writing choral music inspired by science has resulted in his becoming the world’s first Songwriter-in-Residence with a science festival - in Cambridge, Massachusetts with MIT’s annual science jamboree.   Premiered at Dawlish Leisure Centre in 1999, his Powers of Ten science oratorio opened the USA’s first national Science and Engineering Festival on the perfect date - 10.10.10.  “I’m a community-based musician and composer”, says Haines, who lives in Teignmouth, “but, through a peculiar set of circumstances, on both sides of the Atlantic!”.

Timed to coincide with a date chosen for a nationwide day of special events by the group Musicians Declare An Emergency, the concert on 30th October will feature songs written by Haines over four decades - inspired by nature generally, and by environmental issues specifically.  “Don’t worry, they’re not all grim and depressing!” he promises.  

Four Billion Years is indeed a lament, composed as long ago as 1988, concerning the Sixth Great Extinction, which is currently wiping out species at an unprecedented rate, as a result of pollution, habitat loss and climate change.  By contrast, Take Care of the Earth is an uplifting antidote, encouraging us to share the knowledge science has brought us, and to take action to mitigate the ongoing catastrophe.  Nearly all the songs are fun and lively, such as Biodiversity, Gardener and Worm, Compost, Tree, and Timber.  For even lighter relief, the choir will be performing arrangements of Blue Moon and Tiptoe Through The Tulips, and ending the evening with What a Wonderful World!.





La Clemenza di Tito




Semi-staged in English


Musical Director Jane Anderson- Brown




Vitellia   Helen Bailey


Sesto     Louise Mott


                Servilia    Camilla Foster Mitchell


      Annio    Helena Payne


    Tito     Hugh Legg


   Publio     Will O'Brien



Red Earth Opera Orchestra and Chorus



Saturday 7th October


St Andrews Church, Paignton


Sunday 8th October


Chudleigh Parish Church