In ‘Bristol Harmony’, we concentrate on the music of Bristol and the West of England: for new material, we search 18th-19th century printed music books and manuscripts. We sing from our own music book, which is compiled from the original sources. We also collect lively, singable tunes from elsewhere in England and America, especially for Christmas. We usually rehearse with instrumental accompaniment, and many people find this the most attractive aspect of West Gallery music.
Our favourite composers include Arthur Bedford, Benjamin Belcher and Robert Broderip, who all worked in 18th-century Bristol. We have a special interest in Henry Harington, from Kelston (east of Bristol): one of Henry’s compositions is mounted on the wall of Kelston church, and he is buried in the churchyard.
We especially enjoy a sense of place, and the commemoration of our (usually anonymous) forebears. West Gallery music is vernacular, rather than popular, but it belongs to the culture of working people, rather than the milieu of high art, and in this lies its special appeal.