The Bleak Choir record York satirist Graham Sanderson’s carol, all the way from Frome

Frome was built in a day: In The Bleak Choir’s midwinter, Somerset musicians gathered remotely to record Graham Sanderson’s A Carol For The Cabinet

IT began as a topical revision of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, Brexit, Covid et al, under the title of A Carol For The Cabinet.

Now, York Settlement Community Players’ stalwart Graham Sanderson’s words of wit and frustration have been set to the traditional tune of the 15th century carol by a group of singers…from Somerset.

CharlesHutchPress is not one to blow its own trumpet but Frome musician and video producer Patrick Dunn happened upon the new carol through this website, asking to contact Graham via the editor.

“Hi – myself and a bunch of friends want to perform this and film it. Is that OK? Do we need your/his permission? Thank you!” Patrick first enquired of this site.

“Hi Graham – I hope you don’t mind me contracting you,” his email to Graham opened. “A group of friends and myself were so taken by your re-working of ‘God Rest Ye Merry…’ that we’ve all recorded and filmed it, and set it to music (the correct music, of course). I’ve spent the day compiling the video, then it occurred to me I should ask your permission!”

His email expanded: “So, is this ok with you? It’s just a group of amateur singers performing the whole re-worked carol, each filming at home on their phones. I think it sounds lovely, in a casual, congregational kind of way. I’m a musician and video producer by profession, so the basic standard is reasonable. We’re all in Somerset by the way, so the other end of the country.”

Graham replied: “That’s fantastic!  Please go ahead. I’m really looking forward to seeing and hearing it! I was brought up in Bath, by the way, so Somerset is familiar and well-loved ground!”

The singers in question are the (mainly Frome) Bleak Choir, a name to resonate with Sanderson’s sentiments. “The video’s up now on YouTube, and we’re pretty happy with it,” says Patrick.

“It’s really just a bunch of friends, mainly from around Frome, who were amused by Graham’s words. We’re a close, musical and artistic community – ranging from casual amateur musicians to long-term professionals – and I thought we’d perform this well, so I asked around on Facebook and initially had about 70 people offer to sing.

“In the event, I got about 25 videos, all taken in isolation – and believe me, that’s more than enough! I just stuck them together really and added a cathedral organ in the background.”

Patrick could call on his own creative skills: “I’m a classical violinist by training, though never made it as a pro, so I’ve made a living producing videos and visuals for the music business, particularly over the past few years,” he says.

“I’ve done live visuals for Billy Bragg, The Orb, Tangerine Dream, Banco de Gaia, The Afro Celts and quite a few more although, of course, it’s been something of a quiet year! Fingers crossed for next year, all round.”

Graham is delighted by his “unexpected Christmas surprise”. To hear The Bleak Choir’s “alternative carol” version, go to:

Graham Sanderson: The eyes have had enough of 2020

Here is Graham Sanderson’s A Carol For The Cabinet:

God rest ye poor nonentities
Let nothing you dismay;
You made a mess of Test and Trace,
But Brexit’s on its way
To save us all from Euro power,
Keep foreigners at bay.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy,
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

In Ukip and the ERG
This blessed plot was born,
And laid before the people
As a glorious new morn,
And Boris was the chosen one
To welcome in the dawn.
Oh, tidings of Prejudice and Fear,
Making it clear,
We will not have asylum seekers here.

Oh, poverty of intellect
And fear of full debate,
Means Covid was neglected –
Equipment came too late,
On order by a nod and wink
From a Minister’s old mate.
Oh, tidings of Chaos and Despair –
Panic in the air –
Pretending to the people that they care.

God rest ye feeble ministers
And clueless Upper Class;
You witless, gutless Nationalists,
So full of piss and gas;
Self-serving opportunists
Who’ve brought us to this pass.
Oh, tidings of nastiness and sleaze –
‘We do as we please’:
A once beloved country on its knees.