Song Workshop at Ansells Farm, 29th November 2014: Out of the Darkness, songs from the composers & poets of WW1

In this centenary year of commemmoration, regret and gratitude it would be a strange omission if we didn’t celebrate the legacy to music of those precocious talents who died in or were profoundly affected by the Great War.

Some of the finest poems in English, and some of the most moving and astonishing songs, remain as the promise of what might have been had things been different. In contrast to the exquisite songs of e.g. Butterworth, Gurney, Farrar, Denis Browne, Vaughan Williams and Holst are the hundreds of popular songs written to keep up the spirits of the folk at home.

Of course this was truly a world war, so what wartime songs from other countries can you find to balance this feast of Englishness? We invite you to choose those which sum up for you the pride, patriotism and pity of that extraordinary time, and move us afresh as we try to imagine what it must have been like.

Contact us at for more details of these days, or to be added to the mailing list for future workshops.

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Song Workshop at Ansells Farm, 18th October 2014: Lyric Landscapes

We invite you to join us for the first of our Ansells Song Workshop Days after this warm and pleasant summer.

One of the themes which has constantly inspired composers and poets through the ages is the landscape. In Britain alone we have open heaths, hills and dales, cityscapes and village greens, woodlands and farm fields, open roads and hidden paths – and then there’s the rest of the world! Close your eyes and let some armchair travel carry you to deserts and oases, mountain ranges and icy wastes, azure seas and exotic jungles…. and if all that’s not purple enough to get you thinking of songs to bring to our next workshop, your imagination needs an MOT!

Contact us at for more details of these days, or to be added to the mailing list for future workshops.

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2014 Summer Music Weekend a success

Ansells 6th Summer Music Weekend June 27th-29th 2014

Once again our annual festival of words and music was a marvellous success. We had a brilliant evening on Friday 27th when husband and wife actors John Woodvine & Lynn Farleigh joined Stephen Varcoe for the delightful programme ‘The Best Years of our Lives?’ Songs ranging from Schubert to Sting, and the unforgettable transformation of venerable actor into uncouth teenager for Martin Newell’s poem ‘I wanna be a Goth’ were just some of the highlights.

Saturday evening saw a welcome return by international chamber ensemble The Fibonacci Sequence, for this occasion morphing into a piano, horn and oboe trio. Wonderful musicianship and exuberant, joyful music-making of the highest quality!

Sunday afternoon found our group of singers presenting their short programme of songs on which they had worked with Stephen – and as always, there were lots of cakes for tea!
We missed the showers by the skin of our teeth all weekend, and from the feedback we’ve received the consensus is that it was our best festival yet.

Next year’s festival will be from Friday 26th – Sunday 28th June, so put it in your diary now!

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Ansells Summer Music Weekend 2014

In conjunction with our annual Workshop for Singers Weekend, two fantastic concerts with world-renowned artists plus a relaxed tea-concert to hear what our students have achieved during the weekend workshop:

Friday 27th June 8pm THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES? A celebration of childhood and youth in songs & words with Stephen Varcoe (baritone), distinguished actors Lynn Farleigh & John Woodvine (readers) & Christina Lawrie (piano)

Saturday 28th June 8pm THE FIBONACCI SEQUENCE, internationally acclaimed chamber ensemble with Stephen Varcoe, music for oboe, horn, voice & piano by Saint-Saens, Schumann, Dukas, Berlioz, Schubert and more.

Audience welcome to bring a picnic and enjoy the garden from 6pm before concerts

Sunday 29th June 3pm INFORMAL CONCERT by singers on the course, plus tea and homemade cakes.

Friday concert 8pm £13 incl. glass of wine

Saturday concert £13 incl. glass of wine

Sunday concert 3pm £5 incl tea and cakes

BOOK ALL THREE FOR ONLY£26.50, a saving of £4.50!

Tel: 01787 269570 or


to reserve seats. Programmes on the door.

Limited space so hurry!

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Song Workshop at Ansells Farm, 10th May 2014: Songs of the Stage

Song Workshop at Ansells Farm, 10th May 2014: Songs of the Stage

Another successful workshop, with all places filled.

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Song Workshop at Ansells Farm, 22nd March 2014: Planning a Programme

Song Workshop at Ansells Farm, 22nd March 2014: Planning a Programme.

The workshop was full and a tremendous success.

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Song Workshop at Ansells Farm, January 2014: Benjamin Britten, a centenary celebration

Saturday 25 January 2014

[Update] Our November 2013 Workshop has had to be postponed to Saturday 25th January. As the Britten/folksong theme provoked plenty of interest, we’ve decided to offer it again and stretch the centenary into 2014!

There can’t be many who are unaware that Benjamin Britten was born 100 years ago on November 22, St Cecilia’s Day. So much has been made of his centenary year, with good reason, but we’d like to widen the musical horizon for this latest Workshop to encompass music of the British Isles in all its richness, including his own well-known arrangements. The English Folk Song Society was formed in 1898, for example, and two of its keenest supporters were Vaughan Williams and Grainger. But we also have mediaeval ballads, stories and legends, songs of love and of battle, and of course the wonderful legacy of Scottish and Irish traditional poetry and song.

Contact us at for more details of this day, or to be added to the mailing list for future workshops.

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Song Workshop at Ansells Farm, October 2013

Our next Workshop Day will be on Saturday October 12th , with the title ‘Anything Goes’. As you might imagine from this, we’re encouraging participants to bring any songs they choose to work on with Stephen, and we’re hoping for some unusual and interesting offerings!

(NB The list for this workshop is now full, but we sometimes have last minute cancellations, so you can be put on the waiting list if you’re keen to come; and let us know if you’d like your name added to the mailing list for future events)

If you would like information about any of our workshops, or about singing tuition and coaching, contact Stephen on

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Annual Music at Ansells Weekend 2013 a great success!

Our annual music festival has acquired quite a following since we started it in 2009, and the 28th-30th of June saw our 5th Summer Weekend take place here at Ansells. This year we were delighted to welcome eminent actor Julian Glover, who joined Stephen Varcoe at the opening concert on Friday night – songs, poetry and readings about The Sea, with everything from dramatic shipwrecks to end-of-the-pier shows covered along the way. On Saturday night Crispian Steele-Perkins, one of the finest baroque trumpeters in the world, presented a fascinating and sometimes very amusing programme of music and stories about the trumpet and its history, demonstrating on a few of his dozens of instruments just why he has been at the top of his profession for so long. And as usual on Sunday our eight resident singing students gave an entertaining teatime recital of songs they’d prepared with Stephen during the course of the weekend sessions – a great way to round off another splendid weekend.

Next year’s festival will take place from Fri 27th-Sun 29th June – more details next spring, but put it in your diaries now!


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5th Summer Music at Ansells Weekend, 2013

June 28th-30th 2013

Singer Stephen Varcoe and his wife Melinda have been running extremely successful Song Workshop Days at Ansells Farm, Alphamstone for ten years. And this summer for the fifth time they’re presenting a whole weekend of musical delights, in conjunction with workshops for solo singers, all taking place in the barn at Ansells.

The weekend begins with “Full Fathom Five” at 8pm on Friday June 28th, a celebration of the sea in songs and words, with baritone Stephen Varcoe & distinguished actor Julian Glover and pianist Christina Lawrie. Programmes for this are available from Ansells at £13.00, to include a glass of wine.

Why not bring a picnic and enjoy it in the garden before the concert, from 6pm?

On Saturday night June 29th, also at 8pm, we welcome world-famous trumpeter Crispian Steele-Perkins with accompanist Leslie Pearson, and his hugely entertaining show “The Trumpet shall Sound”. Tales about the trumpet’s history and Crispian’s eventful career as an international musician, lots of music, plus surprise contributions from Stephen Varcoe, mean this is going to be an evening full of fun! Programmes are on sale from Ansells at £13.00, to include a glass of wine.

Again, any concert-goers who want to enjoy a picnic beforehand are welcome, from 6pm.

Lastly, the informal concert by course participants will be on Sunday June 30th at 3pm. This is a chance for each of our course participants to perform the songs on which they’ve been working with Stephen, accompanied by pianist Susi Morrow, and their choices will reflect the seaside spirit of the weekend. Tea and plenty of homemade cakes (which are the real reason for the popularity of our workshops!) are included in the admission cost of £5.

This promises to be a really special weekend, and space is limited, so book your seats for these musical treats as soon as possible; and for those who choose to come to all three, we offer a special price of £26.50, a saving of £4.50!

Contact: Stephen and Melinda Varcoe

Ansells Farm

Tel: 01787 269570

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