Singing for Ringing, Oakington, 20/09/2014
On Saturday 20 September, Cambridgeshire folk singers Ann Biggs and Ruth Bramley gave a concert at St Andrew’s Church, Oakington to raise funds for the recruitment and training of new bell ringers across the Diocese of Ely.
With two voices in harmony and accompaniment on guitar, hurdy-gurdy and the unusual Appalachian dulcimer, ‘Singing for Ringing’ was a lively evening of folk songs and music specially chosen and written to celebrate bells and bell ringing. The concert opened very appropriately with one of the better-known songs about ringing , ‘Men of Northlew’, which tells the story of a striking competition in Devon where “the men of Northlew rang so steady and true”.
There followed a full and varied programme of numbers – some with admittedly a more tenuous connection with bell ringing than others(!) – with refreshments in the interval kindly organised by Barbara Le Gallez. Ann and Ruth’s ‘piece de resistance’ to close the concert was a new bell ringing song ‘Ringing the changes’ penned by Ruth herself. Stuffed full of familiar ringing references and jargon, and with a rousing chorus supported by the audience, ‘Ringing the changes’ was a fitting end to a most enjoyable concert.
Ann and Ruth first sang together in 1988, when they were asked to perform a couple of folk songs as part of a concert given by Haddenham Singers, of which they were both members. Shortly afterwards, they started singing together at folk clubs, and for many years worked as children’s entertainers, under the name Big Apple Pie, taking folk music and songs into schools. The songs they performed in schools were carefully chosen to complement the topics being studied by the children. Ruth has also run the Ely Folk Club since 1993. Ruth started bell ringing in March 2012 at Stretham, and also regularly rings at Haddenham and Bluntisham.
Whilst admission and refreshments were free of charge, members of the audience gave generously in support of the Ely Diocesan Association of Church Bell Ringers’ Recruitment and Training Fund, raising over £325. This will go towards the costs of publicity to generate enquiries from and recruit prospective bell ringers, and to pay for the equipping and operation of Ringing Education Centres delivering formalised training, tuition and practice facilities.