WITH their roots in the South Dorset Ridgeway and inspired by the rich sources of locally collected folk songs and West Gallery carols, The Ridgeway Singers and Band led by Tim Laycock and Phil Humphries have once again tuned their fiddles and voices to present a joyous celebration of Christmas past and present this winter.

They will perform a special concert in St Christopher's Church, Winfrith on Sunday.

Originally formed as part of an Artsreach project exploring the South Dorset Ridgeway, the groups' Christmas Carol concerts have proved hugely popular across the county.

Yvonne Gallimore, Artsreach co-director said: “When we initially formed the choir, we had no idea just how popular their traditional carol concerts would be. With a wealth of local songs and dance tunes recorded over the years, we are exciting to hear what new numbers the group will be presenting this Christmas.”

Sung by village choirs in English country churches from the 18th century onwards, West Gallery music’s demise was brought about by the innovations of the organ and harmonium, and the accompanying musicians who played the fiddle, the cello and the serpent might have been no more than a footnote in history, if it hadn’t been for this style of popular music being recorded by writers such as Thomas Hardy, the traditional music he knew as a boy, and the wonderful stories and poems in which he evoked the singers and musicians who performed it.

This seasonal programme will include works from Puddletown, Durweston and Hinton St Mary manuscripts, together with newly composed carols in the West Gallery tradition. Interspersed with some sparkling instrumental pieces and midwinter stories, plus a few Ridgeway favourites, expect a heart-warming seasonal celebration of all things Dorset!

See The Ridgeway Singers & band at 4pm at St Christopher's Church, Winfrith on Sunday (17). Call 01305 853783 for tickets. They are also available from artsreach.co.uk