Report December 2015

Report on monthly talk on Friday 11th December 2015
At their Christmas meeting members of the Kineton and District Local History Group were hugely entertained by Richard and Elizabeth York, singing, story telling and playing a spectacular variety of ancient musical instruments designed to “Drive the Cold Winter Away”.
Richard and Elizabeth turned up an hour early in order to unpack about a score of instruments and tune some 200 strings. Their versatility was impressive, with 4 harps ranging from two large sit-down-to-play ones to an exquisite gem made in the Isle of Skye using only three pieces of wood and no nails or glue. We also heard a Spanish guitar no bigger than a ukelele, bag pipes with drones as tall as a man, drums, pipes with only three holes, an early type of bassoon that could sound vaguely rude, two hurdy-gurdys and a concertina. The Yorks touched on the Islamic background to some medieval music, particularly the suggestion that the hurdy gurdy developed from experiments investigating the music of the spheres. The tunes ranged from the 13th to the 18th century, from England and Europe, including some familiar ones. We learned that it wasn’t until the 16th century that Christmas carols were actually sung in church; the first was “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”. Elizabeth sang a gentle lullaby in early English about Mary retelling the story of the Annunciation to Jesus, but other songs were lively dance tunes and carols.
Richard gave us several medieval tales embroidering the Christmas story, usually with a clear moral message. The escape into Egypt was the setting for a cautionary tale to show how the rose bush got its thorns, the clove bush its smell and the sage bush its culinary and medicinal properties.
The evening was a delight; the rapport between Richard and Elizabeth and their enthusiasm for their subject was communicated to an appreciative audience, who even hummed along to some of the more well known tunes. After the Yorks had answered penetrating questions from the members, David Freke gave the vote of thanks, before the meeting fell on the traditional Christmas mulled wine and mince pies served by Ilona Sekacz and Jackie and Mark Walker.
On Friday 15th January our President Bob Bearman OBE will give our next talk, entitled “Stratford-upon-Avon’s Historic Spine” . Members and visitors are welcome at the Kineton Village Hall at 7.30.
DF 13.12.2015