Meet the Winners: VoiceMale Folk Choir

Thursday 27 June 2013, 15:09

Catherine De Val Catherine De Val

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VoiceMale are using their Community Music grant for a vocal development project along with women’s choir Werca’s Folk. ‘The Coble, The Kye & The Coal’ is a music collection that reflects various aspects of Northumberland’s culture – be it rural, maritime or industrial. This will used as the stimulus for three full day workshops followed by evening concerts given by the two choirs and the workshop participants.


1. Who are VoiceMale Folk Choir?

VoiceMale Men’s Folk Choir, comprising of men from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life, came into being in 2001 as the result of a workshop initiative by 20,000 Voices in response to an increasing demand for a men’s folk choir in Northumberland.  A similar initiative by the same organisation in 1995 had led to the formation of the women’s choir Werca’s Folk. The project, ‘The Coble, The Kye and The Coal’, is formed on the basis of a collaboration between the two choirs.  Not only do both choirs share the same parentage, but Sandra Kerr, the Musical Director of Werca’s Folk since its inception, was also responsible in the formative months of VoiceMale before handing over the reins to our current Musical Director, Graham Stacy.

Werca’s Folk take their name from Werca, who was according to legend either a witch or a holy woman and after whom the village of Warkworth is named. More romantically, the name VoiceMale is derived from several pints of beer and a brainstorming session in Morpeth’s Tap & Spile pub – the choir’s favourite watering hole.

Initially VoiceMale were regarded by Werca’s Folk as something of an unruly kid brother  whom they were obliged to tolerate at the occasional shared gig, but both have always operated independently and developed as different and lively entities along their separate paths. Both are independent choirs who sing ‘a capella’ and are united by the common bond of singing for pleasure whilst at the same time striving for the best possible performance.

2. How will the BBC Performing Art Fund Community Music grant help the group?

The members of both VoiceMale and Werca’s Folk will benefit from the experience of singing together as a mixed voice choir.  We have done this on a few occasions in the past, but this will be an opportunity to explore a wider range of material and add more polish to the end product.   Members of the choirs will work alongside workshop participants in the project and encourage others from different communities to get involved in choral singing and possibly set up their own singing groups.

3. Tell us about the best day VoiceMale has had to date?

Whilst Werca’s Folk have achieved much acclaim in the world of competitive singing,  VoiceMale’s limited forays  into that sphere have met with less success but at the  same time provided the choir with one of its most memorable and unifying experiences. In 2005, as a comparatively inexperienced choir acting in blind optimism with almost total ignorance of what was expected, we entered the Coleraine International Choral Festival.  The performance of the choir, whilst not being a total disaster, was like the festival itself, a little disappointing. But on returning to the hotel the disappointment and frustration of the competition was instantly forgotten and replaced by spontaneous singing and good humoured banter.  This went on into the early hours and was only stopped by less than subtle hints from the hotel management. Highs and lows have come and gone since then, but the unique experience of that weekend will always be remembered by those who were there and will remain a foundation stone in the VoiceMale folk memory.

4. What was the best reaction from the group when they found out about winning the BBC PAF grant?

An assortment of ‘Brilliant’,’ Great’, ‘Fantastic’ and ‘Yessssssss!’ and one wry
‘What have you got us into this time?’

5. Give us 3 words that describe a performance by VoiceMale

Varied.  Uplifting.  Entertaining. 

The first ‘The Coble, The Kye & The Coal’ workshop will be on Saturday 29th June. You can find out more from their website.

Meet the Winners is a feature introducing you to some of the groups and individuals who have recently received a grant from the BBC Performing Arts Fund. We get to hear about so many fantastic projects and people who are keeping the performing arts alive in the UK that we thought you should know about them too.

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The BBC Performing Arts Fund is a charity committed to developing new performing arts talent from across the UK. This blog provides the latest news on our grant-making, as well as tips and advice from experts in the business and updates on previous grant winners.

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