How dedicated singers are keeping the traditions of local carols alive

Jack Goodison Local Carol Concert, Stannington: LtoR Mick Linacre, John Housley and Andy Krupa from Stannington Mixed Choir
Jack Goodison Local Carol Concert, Stannington: LtoR Mick Linacre, John Housley and Andy Krupa from Stannington Mixed Choir

Are ‘Hail Smiling Morn’, ‘Diadem’ and ‘Spout Cottage’ on your festive playlist this year?

Possibly only if you’re of a certain age, as singer and soloist Mick Linacre said: “You tend to come to the local carols later in life. It fits in with being a boring old fart.”

Singing teacher Hilary Osborn added more delicately: “If I say to young students ‘what do you know about the folk tradition of our local carols?’, they look at me as if I’m from a different planet.”

The Jack Goodison Local Carol Concert was revived after a ten year break last Saturday, at the Lomas Hall in Stannington.

“We realised the tradition of the local carols could be dying if we’re not careful,” said concert organiser, and Hilary’s husband, Steve Osborn. “So part of the idea tonight is an attempt to get young people involved and get it moving again.”

The community Christmas concert at Stannington was first launched by carol stalwart and organ player Jack Goodison in 1993.

Jack had collected the well-known local carols into his now famous ‘red book’ to both promote the carols, and to raise money for Weston Park Hospital and St Luke’s Hospice, in memory of his wife Mary.

Jack died five years ago, and Hilary and Steve felt the time was right to renew the tradition.

“Jack grew up with the local carols, and he also collected some he’d heard as a young boy, like ‘Christmas Tree.’ He was a decent man with a big heart, and a big faith as well. He had a great sense of service to the local community.”

Jack Goodison was a local councillor and school governor, and worked in the local china clay industry - Hilary remembers him pointing out the window to nearby Ughill and remarking to her: ‘You see that hill? We took it away and put it back again.’ I’m glad this concert is reappearing tonight,” said Mick Linacre. “In Stannington Jack was known as Mr Carols, although I do remember once when he was playing the organ in the Royal Hotel and insisted on playing in the ‘book key’ which was far too high for most of the singers. There was a bit of unrest.”

Saturday’s concert raised over £500 for Sheffield Children’s Hospital, and included the carol veterans of Stannington Mixed Choir and teenage newcomers from the Music Academy, one of a handful of Government funded centres for advanced music training, based in Sheffield, which has over 130 students aged from 8 to 18 on its books, from South Yorkshire and beyond.

“Tonight we’re hoping to break down some barriers, with the young musicians learning from the older people taking part, and vice versa,” said Hilary Osborn.

“In the past young people would have learned these carols at home from their parents and grandparents. That does still happen in some families, but it is difficult now to get kids into choirs because they want to do solos like they see on X Factor.” The mixed generation concert at Lomas Hall went down very well with the audience, many of whom were already asking for a repeat in 2014.

Mick Linacre, from Stannington Mixed Choir, said: “The carols are an important community connection with the past, and they’re fun with a drink at the same time.”

Traditional pub singing can result in ‘ruartin’, said Mick - translated from Stanningtonian as ‘singing rather too loud for comfort.’ “At the concert here it’s a bit more controlled and melodic than it is at the pub.”

The carol season is now in full flow until the end of December, at several pubs in Northern Sheffield and Derbyshire where traditional singers are often joined by world and folk music lovers, musicologists and folk tradition academics.

“Local carols are a folk tradition that have grown from the people rather than written by high-brow musicians,” said Hilary Osborn.

“I’d say to anyone who hasn’t heard the local carols before to get themselves to a sing and enjoy it. Christmas is losing its meaning, so it’s worth taking time out to participate in live music. Even if you can’t play an instrument, just go along and sing.”

Or, if you prefer, ruart.