Folk choir's stage show impresses audience at Folk Festival

The cast of Spinster of This Parish

The cast of Spinster of This Parish - Credit: Maria McCarthy

Spinster of This Parish - a new stage show performed by West Midlands-based folk choir Stream of Sound - met with an enthusiastic reception from a packed house at The Manor Pavilion Theatre on Sunday, July 31. The show tells the story of Ethel Minty, the great-aunt of Caroline Price who is the musical director of the company. Ethel was born during Queen Victoria's reign and died in 1985, having lived though two world wars and significant social changes. The show was developed over two years, with Caroline working with co directors and writers Antonia Parker Smith and Marcus Paragpuri of theatre(ish).

It's a production proudly rooted in the heritage of the West Midlands, using songs and events from the area. The story is well crafted, following Ethel's life from childhood to old age set against a backdrop of events from the Cradley Heath female chain makers going out on strike in 1910 to the rise of the mini-skirt in the 1960s.

Jazzy Skidmore and Antonia Parker Smith

Jazzy Skidmore as young Ethel and Antonia Parker Smith as a more mature Ethel - Credit: Maria McCarthy

Jazzy Skidmore plays young Ethel, whilst Antonia Parker Smith portrays the mature version. They both give brilliant, heartfelt performances. Supporting them is a cast of 19 talented performers who both act supporting roles and contribute haunting a capella harmonies.

This entertaining and memorable story is enhanced by their beautiful and melodic singing. Bread and Roses, which closes the first half, is a particular highlight, as is the Embroidery Song. Ethel embroidered for much of her life and this song written by Caroline pulls together the threads of her story and reveals her as a real and vibrant person.

The production is enhanced by costumes in the style of the changing times, seamless lighting and scene changes and an attractive set which includes a tablecloth embroidered by Ethel herself.

Sidmouth Folk Festival audiences include many members who will be accomplished musicians in their own right, but it was clear from their rapt attention and delighted applause that they were hugely impressed by this exceptional and magical performance. There are plans for the show to tour the West Midlands, and Stream of Sound are hoping to return to Sidmouth next year with a fresh production.