Above: Bob Bray, well-known fine folk singer with a prodigious repertoire. A founder PACC member, Bob provided most of the reference material from which we learnt our early carols.
Above: Rod Stradling, legendary presence on the English music scene, described in Folk Roots as a 'melodeon guru' also a PACC original member.
Above: Danny Stradling, folk singer, percussionist and original member.
The Prince Albert Carol Consort (PACC) came out of discussions in the pub during 2001 among a group of regulars who’d a fondness for singing but no shared repertoire. We described ourselves then, and still do, as drinkers with a singing problem. Some among us are knowledgeable English music singers and instrumentalists and they talked of the surviving traditions of village carols in Yorkshire, especially around Sheffield, and parts of N. Derbyshire and Cornwall. Singing and drinking ticked the essential boxes for us so we resolved to learn some village carols and sing them in the Albert at Christmas.
Music and words were plundered from books and CDs and, remarkably, we learnt ten carols in the first year. Not all the parts were as well defined as they are now. In fact, many were simply improvised and there was a disproportionate swathe of unison singing of the tune which gave rise (and still does occasionally) to disputes about pitch to suit high and low voices. When Meg Holdsworth, our pianist, joined us later, the basses began to learn their parts properly with her help and tenors and altos followed.
From the outset we sang in the Albert each Sunday lunchtime in December leading up to Christmas. The first year we were twenty or so singers at most and were watched warily by a smattering of muttering lunchtime drinkers in the pub who presumed, erroneously, that we were a faith group.
Nowadays we fill the pub at each session and most people join in the singing and a significant number, perhaps the majority, are singing in parts. In this respect PACC compares favourably with surviving traditions such as at Dungworth, for example, where the parts, though sung, are not so clearly discernible in the mix. Much of the credit for this arises from an early decision to make words available at each session and to hold rehearsals to teach the parts and to add new carols to our repertoire which currently exceeds twenty carols.
Arranging, producing scores and teaching new carols is now the crucial contribution of Fran Wade and Kevin Bown. Several people research new carols and several of our recent additions have come from the West Country Christmas Carols Festival held in November each year and organised by Folk South West at Sidmouth.
- notes by Bob Bray, a personal account of the PACC's origins.
- notes by Fran Wade, including an account of PACC practice.
- an interesting study by Anne Gregson for her degree at Bath Spa University 2013