Back to the future as Great Ryburgh church concert raises the roof

A village is harking back to a musical episode from its Victorian past as it seeks to raise the rest of the money needed to pay for a major restoration project at the parish church.

On Saturday, April 18, 1891, six members of the family of a former rector of Great Ryburgh, the Rev George Tatham, gave a concert in the village. Or rather 'concerts', for this was performed in two parts, at 3pm and 8pm. The aim was to raise funds for St Andrew's Church and the parish.

On Saturday, April 14, 2012, those performances are being re-created at Love and Duty, the latest musical event in a series to raise present-day funds to restore the church roof.

It takes its title from a song by Frederic Hymen Cohen (aka Cowen) that is included in the programme.

And, in keeping with the original, there will be two parts to the performance: one starting at 3.30pm and the other at about 5.30pm, after Victorian Tea at the rectory.

Putting together the April 14 concert has involved lots of detective work for Ryburgh villager, craftsman and lutenist Peter Trent.

He explained: 'I found the (original) programme, now in a very fragile condition, whilst looking at some old records kept by the church and have spent the last 18 months bit by bit tracking down copies of the music, having had to resort in the last instance to the British Library for four of the more obscure items.

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'With the exception of two unidentified piano items by Schubert and Beethoven, the music was 'modern' – of the previous 20 years – and some may even have been unpublished at the time.'

Mr Trent said the Tathams lived in the Wensum Valley village between 1860 and 1884 and the performers were the rector's wife Betha and five of her offspring, ranging in age from 16 to 31.

Their talent and versatility was obvious from the programme, which included everything from violin, piano and vocal solos and duets to cello pieces and 'rousing and now highly inappropriate finales in which they all took part', he added.

Taking on the matriarch's role for the 21st-century concert will be accompanist Gill Smith, and the 'family' will include instrumentalists and singers Meg Starling, Bridget Snasdell and Nigel Wickens. Compere is Robert Collingwood, a descendant of the Rev Tatham, who has collected information and photos of the original performers. These will be displayed in the church.

The 1891 performance took place the week before the dedication of a new ring of six bells at St Andrew's.

For Mr Trent, that occasion has special interest: he is one of Norfolk's most prolific ringers, is Norwich diocesan adviser on church bells and has taught many people to ring at the church.

Restoration work at St Andrew's is almost complete, but villagers still have some �20,000 to raise.

Tickets for the event will be �10, available in advance on 01328 829413, at Ryburgh's village shop or on the door.