How it all started

Sheena PhillipsMirren ChildsFrances CockburnMichael BuckDouglas ShawPeter Hawkins and Peter Hill have remembered quite a bit of the early history of Rudsambee. This is a compilation of their notes, edited by John Wexler. There’s too much to fit on this page, so follow the links above to find more, or try early repertoire or early performances.

Sheena: Arguably the first seed started to germinate at the prompting of Teresa Martin. I first met her at a ‘natural birth’ class (my first child Jamie and her first child, Claire, were born at about the same time) – and later she used to come (with many of the other birth class members!) to a mothers and toddlers music group which I had started at The Engine Shed. She told me about a friend of hers in the Netherlands who sang in a choir and asked if I had ever thought of setting up something like that……

Peter clearly remembers us beginning in November 1993 – I’ll have to take his word for it as I was in a permanent fug of sleep deprivation at that time, Matthew having been born in January.

Something Peter remembers correctly about those early days is doing African songs. I had bought the wonderful book Sing Africa published by Christian Aid and was inspired by how both easy and appealing the songs were. We also very quickly introduced two other strains of music which became lasting features of Rudsambee repertoire: early music and British folk music. I know we sang A l’entrade del temps clar (At the start of the good weather), from 12th century Provence, with percussion (tambourine and drum?), upstairs at the Tron – presumably some time in spring of 1994. We had just two other items in our performable repertoire at that point: the Eriskay love lilt, and one that I can’t remember. In any case, a group of well lubricated male Fifers told us we had made their trip worthwhile. Another early performance was at the Meadows Festival (presumably in 1994). I think the wind blew most of our words away, but several people complimented us.

Initial personnel included me, Peter, Teresa from Balerno, and Anthony Kramers from Leith. Other ‘early’ folk included

  • Jenny (who saw a notice in the public library),
  • Mirren, whom I met at a Cappella Nova workshop on early music (West Linton, April 1994) and recruited instantly,
  • Begoña (a lovely Spanish woman who repatriated to Madrid),
  • Nick Hayes (a teacher, bass, very tall, who later went back to his first love, barbershop),
  • Paul Carline (who joined us at Christmas of 1994, during a freezing carol sing for charity at Waverley Station – yes, during; he actually came up and started singing with us),
  • Janice (an acquaintance of Paul’s).

There’s a photo of 10 of us standing in front of blooming clematis montana at 13 Kilmaurs Road – the earliest photographic record I have of the group – and the line-up is Nick Hayes, Anthony, two very pleasant looking women whom I can’t remember at all, Begoña, Jenny, Peter, Teresa and a friendly looking guy whom I have also forgotten entirely.

I’d like to put in a mention of Gerald Dreaver from New Zealand – he’s not in this picture but sang valiantly for a year or two before going home. There was also a young Indian woman, Shampa Ray, who sang with us for over a year, with a few breaks.

At the North Fife Family Festival, 23rd July 1994, the personnel were, according to Peter Hill,

  • Janet Bevan-Baker (who moved back north to Invergordon when her dad sadly died)
  • Mirren Childs
  • Jenny Fardell
  • Nick Hayes
  • Peter Hill
  • Begoña Juárez-Perez (originally from Santiago de Compostela but who went back to Madrid)
  • Anthony Kramers (spoke to him last week, wishes us well, too busy to sing with us)
  • Teresa Martin (whose idea the whole thing was)
  • Sheena Phillips (director)
  • Mark Sheffield (bearded Welsh lad)
  • Francoise Wemelsfelder (Dutch, went to Nepal – saw her later in Edinburgh but she never came back to sing with us)
  • Helen Yewdall (now living in Balerno)

Other bright lights were Lucy Bateman, who eventually went off to Africa, Sari, who arrived from Finland, kept leaving but also kept coming back, Magali, from France (now in Leicester), and the beautiful Julia Salmond, whose wedding we sang at. We had a very high energy Brazilian (or, Peter wonders, was she Venezuelan?) computer scientist called Isabel Rojas for a while, and a young student named Rachel Dean, whom I think I had met in my days working at Friends of the Earth (Scotland).

Kaye Brewster joined in the summer of 1994 – a date she can pinpoint pretty accurately as it was just before she got married.

I remember one or two people trying us out for a week or two and not returning – a testing combination of atrocious seating conditions (exhausted foam sofa, very low futon, or hard chair), overcrowding (quite quickly there were about eight or ten people in a small room), non-professionalism (we were really feeling our way) and quite possibly mediocre singing. But many people stayed!

In April 1995, Peter Hill reports the following singers at Cluicheadairean Dhuneideann’s Gaelic play at Church Hill Little Theatre on Friday 28th:

  • Kaye Brewster,
  • Paul Carline,
  • Mirren Childs,
  • Rachel Dean,
  • Jenny Fardell,
  • Peter Hill,
  • Anthony Kramers,
  • Teresa Martin,
  • Sheena Phillips (director),
  • Shampa Ray,
  • Isabel Rojas,
  • Mike Spring

He remembers: Mike Spring designed the poster but rang me for a Gaelic quote (am bi thusa ann? – so will you be there?), and I also came up with the byline ‘Dangerous Harmonies and Deadly Counterpoint’.

Sheena again: I found a photo of us singing at the Steiner School at Christmas 1995 and the line-up is: Paul, Gerald, Peter H, Michael, Frances, Kaye, Sari, Shampa, Teresa, Janice, Isabel, Sheena.

Special mention here of two other people who (on photographic evidence) had joined by the end of 1995: Michael Buck, future treasurer and in-house composer, and Frances, current director, in-house composer, tour-leader and she can name what else.

The next key moments in Rudsambee’s history were when Frank and the Wexlers joined. Frank joined first. I met his daughter Alison somehow (I suspect through Solsequium, the recorder group) and that led to Frank getting involved – after he’d heard us sing at St Fillan’s, Aberdour, in March 1996. The Wexlers were ensnared by a double pronged strategy. First, I managed to get them involved in one of the eight choirs rehearsing for a performance of Tallis’ 40 part motet Spem in Alium (to celebrate Richard Neville Towle’s 40th birthday). This gave me their address and phone number and the useful information that they were recorder players. So, when we did a benefit concert in Aberdour for the victims of the Dunblane massacre and the first Bosnian atrocities – with recorder consort Solsequium – we sent them a flyer and they came – and soon after were persuaded to join Rudsambee.

By this time (mid 1996) the group must have been about 15 strong. We had moved into the living room at Kilmaurs Rd, bringing in every possible chair from all corners of the house. Making the tea and coffee at the end of rehearsals was becoming a major production. I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but it was a huge relief when the Wexlers offered to hold rehearsals at their house!

Most of our activity after that can be traced from the past performances list. For a few years we tried entering competitions of one sort and another, and even achieved a few prizes.

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