The Grace Darling Singers


WHEN they first met in July, 1990, the members of The Grace Darling Singers, based to the South of Manchester, had the intention of doing "something different" from most choirs. The idea was to gather together "a bunch of people who want to sing for the sheer pleasure of singing" and rather than tackling the large-scale works of the cathedral or concert hall, the Darlings might be able to dust down and share neglected but worthwhile "non-masterpieces" for the fun of it. And if that could be doing it for a good cause, so much the better.

WHY Grace Darling, though? Wasn’t she something to do with lifeboats?


AT the first rehearsals, there was not a great deal of music to choose from. There was the Gesang der Moorsoldaten, which the prisoners in German concentration camps sang as they marched to and from their forced labour(words / song / music). There was the Temperance hymn Throw out the Life-Line .... And there was The Grace Darling Song.

IT was certainly different. You would not really call it a masterpiece. Was it worthwhile, though? Well, we do not sing it very often now! But somehow the name stuck.


THE Grace Darling Singers came to develop a particular interest in West Gallery Music, the vigorous, heart-felt sacred music to be heard in English churches and chapels from about 1700 to 1850. You read about it in the novels of Hardy, for example. Much of that music has lain neglected and unsung for generations, but we are fortunate that our Musical Director, Sally Drage, is an academic specialist in the field, whose researches constantly expand our repertoire. Some of the music we sing is by composers quite local to our area.


OUR horizons are not narrowly drawn, though. Our members relish events which are special or unusual. We have sung in a remote Staffordshire church using the music of Uriah Davenport, who led the singing there for sixty years. We chartered a boat called The Grace Darling and sang up and down the Avon at Stratford. We have sung to ourselves in a Warwickshire church surrounded by the humps and bumps of a deserted mediaeval village and have performed in the Cathedral in Manchester and in a folk club in Cheshire. The only real criterion for any activity is whether it will be fun and rewarding. our Gallery Music, we also have a keen enthusiasm for American music stemming from the same tradition. Settlers in the New World naturally took with them their faith, their forms of worship and their sacred music. In the New World, particularly in the more rural parts, the Shape Note and Sacred Harp traditions, grown out of the Psalmody of the settlers, have continued to play a lively part in worship and, like Gallery Music in England, they are enjoying a revival of interest.  The Grace Darling Singers have a special affection for the compositions of William Billings (1746-1800), whose New England Psalm-Singer (1770), engraved by Paul Revere, is held to be the first collection of music entirely by an American, and for the music of Raymond C. Hamrick, the only living composer whose work we regularly sing!


   OUR first concert was at All Saints' Church in Siddington, on 15th November, 1991.


YES, they did like it and we have been back since!


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