The Mellstock Band - Music In Quiet Places 2024
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The Mellstock Band - Music In Quiet Places 2024

The Shepherd’s Calendar follows the festivities of rural England from winter, through spring and summer to harvest-time.

Part of our Music In Quiet Places season.

The Shepherd’s Calendar follows the festivities of rural England from winter, through spring and summer to harvest-time. Join the band as we dance and sing our way from bonfire night, through Christmas, Whitsun revels and hay-making, to cider-pressing and the harvest, taking in courtships, weddings and public celebrations on the way.

A costume presentation of music, song and spoken word, with the words of Thomas Hardy, John Clare and the Somerset parson John Holland introducing music and songs, with fiddle, clarinet, concertina and serpent.


Dave Townsend (Director) - Concertina, Voice

Tim Hill - Clarinet, Voice

Philip Humphries - Serpent, Voice

Caroline Butler - Fiddle, Voice

THE MELLSTOCK BAND take their name from the works of Thomas Hardy, who gave this fictional title to the singers and musicians of the parish of Stinsford, where his father and grandfather were prominent in leading the dancing, carolling, merrymaking and church singing, and where the young Thomas Hardy played his fiddle for weddings and parties.

With their authentic instruments and songs they have performed all over England, and taken their music to Europe, Africa and America. They have also appeared in productions for film, television, radio and theatre, most notably in the BBC’s adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

The fiddle and concertina are both known to have been played by Hardy himself, and he often mentions the clarinet, and the “rich, deep note” of the serpent, a baffling hybrid of brass and woodwind, easily recognised by its snake-like shape. The unique blend of these tones, combined with the forceful singing of the band, creates afresh the vigour, richness and excitement of English village band music.

DAVE TOWNSEND is the band’s director and founder. He is a well-known singer and instrumentalist, and one of the leading researchers in west gallery and village band music. As arranger and composer, he has provided music for film, television,  radio and theatre, and for numerous recording projects.

CAROLINE BUTLER has performed and toured widely as singer and fiddler with numerous groups, including Jumpleads, Geckoes, and currently with The Oxford Waits. She has also featured on numerous recordings with these bands and others.

TIM HILL is an inventive wind player and composer whose background performing on clarinet, flute, saxophone and shawm embraces early music, free improvisation, theatrical performance art and mainstream jazz. Projects have included Pandaemonium, Noise Eating Monsters and Street Band workshops.

PHIL HUMPHRIES studied at Trinity College, London, and embarked on a career as a big-band trombonist with The Andy Ross Orchestra. After returning to his native Dorset, he became involved in early music, and is now one of the country’s leading serpent players.  He is a member of The London Serpent Trio and music-hall duo The Lost Chord, and guests regularly with various orchestras.

THE MELLSTOCK BAND present the genuine sound of the English countryside - merry and majestic tunes, songs of love and laughter, carols and original harmonies. Mellstock was the fictional name Thomas Hardy gave to his native village of Higher Bockhampton, near Stinsford in Dorset. His family were leading local musicians, who led the church band and played for dances. Hardy’s vivid descriptions, his family’s music manuscript books, and music from local tradition were the initial inspiration for the formation of The Mellstock Band in 1986. They regularly perform themed shows in period dress - unique entertainments of music, song and spoken word, using authentic instruments and wearing costumes representing rural Sunday-best of the 1840s. The poetry and prose come from Hardy and other writers, and they combine with the music to illuminate its background and summon up the spirit of the era. They also play formal concerts, informal dances, and public and private occasions of all kinds. The Band and its members have appeared in TV dramas Pride and Prejudice, Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and The Way We Live Now, and have featured in productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company, Chichester Festival Theatre and The Royal National Theatre. Their albums have become standard works of reference for traditional music and song of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

See our other Music In Quiet Places events:

The Chapel Hill Duo - Thursday 30th May

Serenata - Thursday 13th June

Korros Ensemble - Thursday 25th July

Book Tickets

Important Information

Venue: St James Church, Aslackby, NG34 0HZ

Tickets: £16 (£14 concessions)

Part of our Music In Quiet Places season


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