THE GLADLY SOLEMN SOUND is a choir formed in 1992 in Lancaster, UK. We sing West Gallery Music: the all but forgotten rural church music of the 18th and early 19th centuries. At that time, most small churches were organ-less and their choirs were led by fiddles, clarinets, cellos, bassoons etc – music florid and lively, rhythmically energetic, delighting in earthy (sometimes unorthodox) harmonies and simple polyphony. Victorian reformers disliked the style preferring the more decorous ‘Hymns Ancient and Modern’, sung by children’s choirs, to organ or harmonium accompaniment.
We now number about two dozen and usually sing unaccompanied, though a small string band is sometimes added for special occasions. As you might expect, our repertoire consists mostly of English metrical psalm settings, anthems and carols (often taken directly from local manuscript sources), but we also sing related material: secular glees, American Sacred Harp music and pieces recently composed in a compatible idiom. We have performed at concerts, folk festivals, weddings (including a pagan wedding); in churches, caves, woodland glades, by waterfalls and on board lakeland steamers.
We have made three CDs: Repeat Their Sounding Joy – West Gallery Music from Wyresdale, Awake Ye Mortals All (Christmas Music) and A Different Lore – The Antient Psalmody of Cumbria.
Thanks to Barrie Marshall for the picture of us at the top of this page.