The Gardiner Centenary

The Gardiner Appreciation Group (GAG), Village and Community Choirs and the Gardiner Concerts

A hundred years ago George Gardiner, a Scot with a longstanding interest in folk song, made his first foray into Hampshire in a quest for singers who could, in his own words "warble a song as old as the Parish church", which eventually gleaned some 1,400 songs.

GAG with Bob Askew and Paul Hawkins

See also Paul Marsh's 'Hampshire Voices' pages
and details of the Petersfield Concert on Saturday 18 September 2010

Bob and Paul (L-R below) have been researching George Gardiner's Hampshire operations, revisiting the scenes and tracing descendants of the original source singers with many local examples covering places like Titchfield, Fareham, Southampton, Portsmouth and the Test Valley. Bob Askew's illustrated talks concerning Gardiner and his Hampshire collecting are being given in various venues around the area, with performances from Bob's daughters Emily & Hazel, from Paul Hawkins and from Anne Winter, from groups like Tangle and Schiehallion - and not forgetting Frank Purslow's invaluable ground work. These shows target Folk Clubs, Local History Groups, Libraries and the like and are individually tailored to the area in which they are given. Sadly, Frank Purslow who was to have been awarded with the EFDSS Gold Medal for his early work with the Gardiner collection, died recently. Hazel and Emily Askew together with Craig; Morgan; Robson have recently held a Concert series and issued the 'Axford Five' CD based around the songs collected by Gardiner from five women in the Hampshire village of that name. Performances continue at the Sidmouth, Dartmoor and Whitby Summer 2009 Festivals.

The EFDSS 'Take Six' project is bringing Gardiner's songs to Hampshire schools, and June 9th saw the launch of the Take Six internet site, which gives free access to every song collected in Hampshire by Gardiner. The Take Six launch celebration at Cecil Sharp House on 27th June focused on six song collectors including George Gardiner. It featured a short talk by Bob Askew on Gardiner, and performance of Hampshire songs by Craig; Morgan; Robson and the Askew Sisters.


A flavour of the material may be obtained form this reprint of the Southampton Talk, although for the full effect you need to hear the songs with which these talks are always illustrated, part of the pleasure consisting in hearing the actual local variants. Visit the GAG website for more information.

There is an ongoing series of events based round this research and the anniversary, which have included a SOUTHERN SONGS FORUM and the HAMPSHIRE SONGS AT SHEDFIELD Concert as well as a continuing series of Community Choir Concerts like those described below.

The Community Choir Concerts

In the summer of 2006, amongst other celebrations of the centenary of Gardiner's efforts, around 150 people gathered in different parts of Hampshire to sing these songs - the folk music of their very own county with performers drawn from the community choirs in Andover, Alton, and Winchester. The driving force behind this project was a team consisting of Sarah Morgan, Carolyn Robson (both of Craig;Morgan;Robson), Paul Sartin (Faustus, Bellowhead) and Freya Tabbush (the Tabbush Sisters). They worked hard choosing and arranging songs and teaching them to the choir members, and they are pleased to say that they featured two of Roger Watson's [TAPS] original arrangements, plus others by Paul, Sarah and Anna Tabbush. As well as songs from the choirs, the concerts included solos and some readings from Gardiner's letters, from highly respected Hampshire singer Steve Jordan, and instrumental pieces based on the song melodies, played by some of the multi-talented choir members.

One of the most exciting things about the project is the great enjoyment which the performers (very few of whom have any connection with the "folk scene") found in singing these songs, some of which are several hundred years old. But when you listen to the songs, that is easier to understand, because they tell stories of people like us, who fall in and out of love, suffer accidents and misfortunes, and at times, enjoy a good old moan about how "things aren't what they used to be". So look out for the concerts and come and support Hampshire people keeping Hampshire songs very much alive.

For further information email Sarah Morgan

This project was supported by Hampshire County Council and local folk, blues and traditional music recording label Forest Tracks.

More about these and other Village and Community Choirs in the South

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