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What we sing

We perform a wide range of music from the West Gallery tradition together with other songs in the same style, from both sides of the Atlantic. It is robust, uninhibited and exciting music with powerful harmonies.

What is West Gallery music?

This unorthodox music, slowly being revived in Britain over the last ten years, was current in British churches from the early 1700s to the mid-1800s. Then ideas of how people should behave in church changed and the music was found to be too lively and irreverent to remain there. It largely died out, but many traditional tunes for carols originate in this tradition, including the famous Sheffield pub carols, sung to this day.

The West Gallery revival was started in the late 1970s by a few dedicated researchers and musicians. The Christminster Singers are lucky in having one of the leading researchers of this music, Dave Townsend, as their director. He also directs and performs with the Mellstock Band.

Why ‘Christminster’ Singers?

The original repertoire of the Christminster Singers came out of Thomas Hardy’s family carol book. Hardy wrote about the Gallery singers and musicians in some of his poems and the novel ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’. We formed in 1990 from the singers who helped to record Under the Greenwood Tree with the Mellstock Band. Being a choir connected to Thomas Hardy and from Oxford, we chose his name for Oxford – Christminster – as our own.