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.

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

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

Song Workshop at Ansells Farm, May 2013: The Merry Month of May

Saturday May 4th 2013

With any luck, by the time we reach this date, cherry trees will be full of blossom, the birds will be fledging their latest families, the thoughts of young and old alike will be turning to the approaching summer in all its glory – and the snow will finally have vanished for another year! What a perfect time for celebration of all things fresh and lovely, so hey nonny nonny, and come and sing a roundelay at Ansells. Composers of many centuries and nationalities have been moved to write about this special time of year, and we want to hear the songs you think the best and most interesting, even if there’s only a passing whiff of apple blossom in the lyrics…

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

Song Workshop at Ansells Farm, March 2013: Sensational Songs!

Saturday March 16th 2013

Our theme for the March workshop is the Five Senses – taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. We invite you to search out any pieces inspired by sensory pleasures or pains – and that covers most of the vocal repertoire, at least those songs which have anything at all to do with life and being human. Scents redolent of the countryside or nostalgic for the past; city bustle, rural peace or battlefield clarion calls; the caress of a lover or the touch of a ghostly hand; drinking songs and feasting for stomach or eyes – the potential is almost endless.

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

Song Workshop at Ansells Farm, January 2013: The Generation Game – Songs for and about the family, children and childhood

Are we being self-indulgent in focusing our latest workshop on babies, children and family life? We should come clean and admit that impending grandparenthood may have influenced our choice this time, but then why not? There’s a wealth of material in the vocal repertoire which reflects the love of parents for children and vice versa; lullabies, nonsense songs, and fairytales both dark and cheery; Victorian tales of brave orphans and selfless daughters, tender tributes to young mothers, stories about naughty children, pious hymns about good ones. Composers have dedicated music to their own children, and been inspired by them, as well as writing with other peoples’ in mind.

We invite you to explore these possibilities, and perhaps to come up with some more unusual slants on the theme (you don’t have to restrict yourself to human families, for instance) – family life can be very comical (or tragic) too…

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

Song Workshop at Ansells Farm, December 2012: Whatever the Weather…

Whether the weather be fine,
Whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not!

What’s guaranteed to figure in a typically British conversation? Yes – the weather! No other nation seems to talk, write, complain and even sing about it quite as much, so we thought it would be fun to explore songs (not only English ones, of course) which celebrate the best and worst aspects of this defining feature of our lives. From stormy weather to sunny summer idylls, from snow and frost to dismal drizzle, whether it calls for a solar topee or a fur coat, there’s bound to be a song to reflect every mood and style. Dig out some old favourites or dare a new discovery or two – the run-up to Christmas is the perfect time for dreaming of tropical climes or winter wonderlands – the choice is yours…

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

Song Workshop at Ansells Farm, October 2012: Tales of the Unexpected

Saturday October 20th, ‘Tales of the Unexpected’.

With Hallowe’en just around the corner, visions of ghosts, gods and all things Gothic provide the subject matter for our latest Song Workshop. Whether it be a mystical experience, an eerie folk legend, a story of mischief wrought among men by the immortals, or something altogether darker and more macabre, let your imagination conjure some spells and incantations in song form, and bring them along to chill the blood and tingle the spine. If vampires and witches are not to your taste, you could lighten the mood with the cherubs, fairies and sprites which abound in songs through the ages. Or perhaps offer a helping of heavenly harmony? Whatever aspect you choose, there is plenty to explore here, and we look forward to some interesting ideas.

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

Music at Ansells Weekend June 29th – July 1st 2012

Our 4th annual music weekend was the other major national event of this summer, taking place as it did between the Jubilee celebrations and The Olympics! Friday night’s opening concert saw Stephen Varcoe and the marvellous soprano Patricia Rozario, with pianist Christina Lawrie, presenting a sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant programme of words and music ‘All Creatures Great and Small’.

Then on Saturday world-renowned chamber ensemble The Fibonacci Sequence played music by Mozart and Bach, ending with Poulenc’s enchanting ‘Babar the Elephant’ narrated by Stephen Varcoe, for many the highlight of the entire weekend. Sunday afternoon’s tea concert, given by the singers participating in the daily workshops, rounded off another wonderful, intense musical experience; the sun shone for us, as it always seems to do, despite the dismal weather this summer, and all agreed it had been a tremendous few days.

Plans are already afoot for next year’s Music at Ansells weekend, which will take place from Friday 28th- Sunday 30th June 2013. Put the date in your diary, and watch for more information nearer the time.”

Ansells Song Workshop Weekend, June-July 2012

As part of our Ansells Song Workshop Weekend we are promoting three concerts on the evenings of June 29 and 30, and the afternoon of July 1. The first, entitled All Creatures Great and Small, is a partly serious, partly hilarious safari through the animal kingdom in words and music, featuring the wonderful soprano Patricia Rozario, Stephen Varcoe (baritone) and Christina Lawrie (piano).

The second concert will be given by the chamber music ensemble The Fibonacci Sequence, who will be playing Mozart and Bach, and Poulenc’s highly entertaining Babar the Elephant, with Stephen Varcoe narrating.

The third concert on the Sunday afternoon will be given by the participants on our singing course. Prices are £14 for Friday, £10.50 for Saturday and £5 for Sunday, or £25 for all three.

Please email for bookings and further information.