Attorney Chris Boldt and his wife Carolyn will perform with the Sandwich Singers at two Christmas concerts this year: Sunday December 16 at the Methodist Meeting House in Center Sandwich and Wednesday December 19 at the Tamworth Congregational Church. Both concerts will be at 7:30 p.m. and are free, though contributions are gratefully accepted.
The Singers are co-directed by Peggy Johnson and Allan DiBiase, who have been doing so for the past twelve years. The group has existed primarily for Christmas music for well over thirty years, since being formed by local legend, Bob Bates. This year’s program includes music from American and European traditions, and a commission based on a Celtic tune, the Welsh Gower Wassail.
Johnson is music director at the Melvin Village Community Church. She was co-director of the Singers with Bates for several years before his death, and was a singer in the group before that. She also works at the Cook Memorial Library in Tamworth, writes and paints.
DiBiase has worked at Franklin Pierce College and Plymouth State University, both as an associate professor of philosophy, whose special interest is the philosophy of education, and as an accompanist to others working in the music department. He is an avid hiker and photographer, well known for holding his classes along local trails.
Both of the directors are associated with the Yeoman’s Fund for the Arts, which has commissioned the Gower Wassail. In many areas of old Britain, it was the custom in rural districts to sing the Wassail song outside the homes of neighbors. The custom is probably Saxon, as “Wassail” would seem to be a contraction of “wes” (be) and “hal,” (whole), therefore “be well.” The newly commissioned Gower Wassail is based on a song that the singer Phil Tanner learned from his father and grandfather, both weavers. Diddling, or “lilting” seems to have been a Celtic custom. When there were no instrumentalists available, a person who could “diddle”, or make “mouth music” could substitute and “play” the dance. Tanner said he learned to do this when a fiddler died and left no one to play his songs, which Tanner had memorized. You can hear the excellent Phil Tanner recording of the Gower Wassail on YouTube. Prior to Tanner making the recording the tune had not been written down in music notation.
The seven verse setting of the Gower Wassail commissioned for the Sandwich Singers by the Yeoman’s Fund for the Arts was coordinated by head composer Jonathan Santore, Chair of the Plymouth State University Department of Music, Theatre and Dance. Hannah Chambers, Brad Dumont, Kyle Quirion, and Eben Brown, all students in Dr. Santore’s advanced music composition class have contributed verses to the piece. The commissions began years ago as unison descants to traditional holiday carols. But gradually over the years more ambitious projects have been created. The Gower Wassail is written for mixed chorus, children’s chorus, French horn, soprano sax and piano. The hornist is Ron Wold of Wonalancet, the saxophonist is Kyle Quirion. The children are students at K.A. Brett in Tamworth and Sandwich Central School. For more information, please go to http://artstamworth.org/.