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29 October 2014

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The children rehearsing the songs
Being put through their paces

Pupils sing for the North End

Music played a big part in North End life and thanks to composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, many traditional songs have been recorded. Children from King's Lynn have now recreated these songs for a celebration of life in the North End.

The Northend fishing community may have disappeared but the melodies linger on.

Thanks to the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, much of the music sung by the fishermen has been preserved.

He toured the country at the turn of the last century seeking out folk music which he wanted to use in his own compositions.

Singing in the pub

He was warned not to waste his time in King's Lynn. He ignored the advice and, thanks to a local vicar discovered The Tilden Smith pub (which remains to this day as The Retreat).

It was January 1905 and the fishermen couldn't get out into the Wash. Instead they were singing in the pub.

Among them were community stalwarts Duggie Carter and Joe Anderson, who provided several of the tunes.

In April 2007 more than 100 primary schoolchildren came together for the BBC Radio Norfolk Northenders Project to sing three of the traditional songs.

Radio Norfolk worked in partnership with the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust which arranged for folk singer and teacher Alan Helsdon to go into four schools to work with the children.

The children rehearsing outside
Singing in the open air

The schools involved were Reffley, Greyfriars, St Edmund's and Gaywood Community.

They joined up at the King's Lynn Arts Centre where they were recorded by Simon Elliot of Ivory Tower Recording Studios and BBC cameramen Graeme Stuart and Dean Arnett, under the direction of Northenders project manager Tony Mallion.

Fitting recreation

"They were absolutely brilliant. They took to them ever so easily and they learned them very, very quickly," said Alan Helsdon.

"The class teachers were a great help. But the really lovely thing was that I felt they owned them, they were their songs, they came from King's Lynn," he said.

"Some of the children had the same names as some of the old fishermen which made a huge impact on them, I think," he said.

Dogger Bank Homeward Bound and Mermaid were recorded for the BBC Norfolk website and will also be shown at the Celebrate Northend! concert in St Nicholas' Chapel in King's Lynn which was once the heart of the North End community.

Music which might have disappeared a hundred years ago has been passed on to yet another new generation.

last updated: 08/06/07
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