Information that will help new members get the best out of what South Devon Singers has to offer.
A very warm welcome to the Choir!
We hope that you will enjoy singing with us. We are very friendly group. There are no auditions and all abilities and levels of experience are welcome.
We perform at a hugely varied number of events throughout the year.
They range from more formal concerts, of which there are two to three each year (or two to three pairs of concerts – we tend to perform the main ones both in the Ivybridge area and in the Teignmouth area), to Christmas gigs in pubs and nursing homes, outdoor events to mark the opening of an orchard or a countryside park, supporting schools, especially Ford Primary School in Plymouth, and many more.
We make the most of opportunities to sing in unusual places (such as the National Marine Aquarium or the Norman Lockyer Observatory) or places of significance to the music we are performing (such as Launceston Town Hall to mark the centenary of the birth of the Cornish poet Charles Causley).
Being part of a choir is all about coming together and working together to make the best sound we possibly can. Performances are more fun for everyone if they can be well-prepared and confident. Rehearsals are a key part of this process.
We try to produce a plan each year so that it is clear in advance when the main events take place and when the period of preparation starts for each one. While it is much better for the group if we can work together throughout the year, individual availability and preferences may mean that some choose to focus on a particular event, which is absolutely fine.
We do ask, however, that those intending to sing at a given event should attend the majority of rehearsals for that event. Knowing the music individually is important but only by singing together regularly can we work on the collective sound and be more than just the sum of our parts! It’s important that we all support one another in that.
If you cannot sing at an event, do please keep coming to the rehearsals if you possibly can. Our repertoire is constantly re-used. We like to be responsive wherever possible to requests to support community events. This sometimes means that we cannot schedule in more than one or two “brushing-up” rehearsals. In these instances we depend on as many people as possible having a reasonable working knowledge of the songs.
Days and times of rehearsals
The Ivybridge branch of the choir rehearses on Tuesday evenings in the Library at the Watermark from 7.30 to 9.15pm.
The Teignmouth branch of the choir rehearses on Monday evenings at the Rugby Club from 7.30 to 9.30pm.
Our repertoire is unusual and pretty unique! Most of the songs are written by our MD, David Haines. He has a particular interest in science and many of his songs celebrate aspects of science in surprising detail. They are far more than simple mnemonics.
There are also songs about historical events and songs based on interviews as well as what might be considered more “traditional” material, setting the poetry of others to music.
The styles in which David writes are very varied, from jazz to blues to ballads and more. After a while, however, his harmonic world will become more familiar and the music will become easier to learn.
We do sing material written by others. For about 4 weeks from mid-November each year we sing traditional Christmas carols and songs. We have also incorporated into our concerts at different times folk songs, sea shanties, Tudor songs, Zulu songs and suffragette songs, to give but a few examples, to highlight the emerging themes or the historical context and to vary the soundscape.
For the last couple of years, as well as singing new pieces written by David, we have commissioned songs and arrangements from Alfie Pugh, a young Exeter-based composer.
Alfie often plays percussion at our concerts. We also like to use the opportunity of the concert which we give as part of the Teignmouth Classical Music Festival in March each year to perform alongside other instrumentalists: double bass players David Heyes and Jim Rintoul, harpist Luc Walpot and flute trio Flute Cake.
We have invited nationally-known poets Les Barker and Matt Harvey to perform with us, as well as using our home-grown talent!
Because of the scientific content of a number of David’s songs we have sometimes included in our concerts short talks by physicists, environmentalists, meteorologists, and, most recently, astrophysicists. We like to draw out connections between the music, the words, the historical background and the poets whose works may have been set to give much more than “just” a concert.
We provide copies of the music. Usually this is what is known as the full vocal score which shows the tune and the harmony parts. If you are not used to following music it may seem a little daunting at first but does soon become helpful as music is notated very “visually”. If you feel lost, just ask for help. We can all remember what it felt like when we started!
We also provide tutor tracks for the majority of our songs. These are recordings of individual voice parts. As the preparation period for an event approaches tracks for songs for that event are made available on the website. CDs can also be provided on request.
It is helpful if everyone can make as much use as possible of these tracks. They can be listened to anywhere: in the car, while running, while cooking etc. It is not always necessary to find time to sit down with the music in front of you. A lot can be learned by absorption. It speeds up the note-learning (and the word-familiarisation) process and means that we can move on as quickly as possible to turning those notes into music: working on phrasing, dynamics, expression etc to understand it as well as possible ourselves and to communicate it as well as possible to our audiences!
The people who run the Choir are:
Director– David Haines
Administrator– Sheila Townsend
Events Coordinator– Rachael Shearmur
When both choirs come together we sing as ‘South Devon Singers’ or ‘South Devon Singers Choir’. This is to distinguish it from the Registered Charity of the same name of which the choir is a part.
South Devon Singers Registered Charity No. 1144469 (SDS)
The objects of SDS are to promote the art and science of music through public performance.
SDS has individual members and affiliated groups. To sing with or be part of an affiliated group you need also to be an individual member of the Charity. Currently the affiliated groups are the South Devon Singers Choir and Red Earth Opera.
A number of choir members regularly sing with the chorus of Red Earth Opera. Varied as the choir’s repertoire may be it does not include opera, so that is one very good way of experiencing an entirely different style.
The Charity also runs the Teignmouth Classical Music Festival and supports work in schools. Sadly, funding in State schools for “non-core” subjects, such as music, is woefully inadequate. Over the last four years the choir has developed links with Ford Primary School in Plymouth. The current Head of Keystage 2 used to sing with the Ivybridge choir and uses David’s songs to the full to support work on aspects of the curriculum. The choir sings at the annual KS2 spring event, giving the children the opportunity to experience singing in parts. The choir has also introduced a funding initiative through a 100 Club to support song-writing workshops to broaden the children’s experience still further. In 2017 Year 6 wrote a song about Scott of the Antarctic and in 2019 Year 5 wrote a song about orang-utans and the endangered rainforest.
The Trustees of the Charity are:
Mary Graves – Chair
Juliet Hammacott – Treasurer
Ellen Hill – Secretary
Stephen Brown – REO representative
Mary, Juliet and Ellen rehearse with the Ivybridge choir and Lorraine with the Teignmouth choir.
Annual SDS Membership £6 collected in September - the only compulsory payment
Contribution to rehearsals:
The first 4 weeks are free.
Thereafter payments* are:
£6 per night; or
£45 paid in advance in 10-week blocks; or
£15 per month by standing order (preferred)
Do not let the fees stop you from coming. If you are worried that you cannot afford them please ask to speak privately to our Treasurer and pay what you can.