Immanuel's Ground is a costumed group of singers and instrumentalists who perform music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, reviving the psalmody and hymnody of the rural parish church from around 200 years ago, so much beloved of Thomas Hardy and exemplified in his novels and poetry.
This raw and exciting music is genuinely "music of the people", which found its way from the established church into the independent chapels, before becoming lost and almost forgotten by the beginning of the twentieth century. The Quire's repertoire also includes secular music from the Georgian period, and psalmody from the American tradition in the same era, taking to heart the instruction of John Wesley to "sing lustily and with good courage".
Formed in the Autumn of 2001, the Quire currently has some 29 singers, plus one or two instruments on each part (SATB). Members of the Quire come from all over the "Heart of England" (generally speaking Oxfordshire, Northants, Worcestershire and Warwickshire) and meet to rehearse at Northgate Methodist Church in Warwick each Wednesday night at 8.00 pm, excepting those in August.
The Quire has appeared at events, both sacred and secular, including church services, carol concerts, the Bromsgrove Proms, Harvest Festival day at Cogges Rural Museum at Witney, and the Nelson Bicentenary celebrations at Burton Dassett. It also hosts an annual Workshop Day featuring music by local composers, and a Carol Day immediately after Christmas, both in the village of Byfield, Northamptonshire.
The name Immanuel's Ground is taken from Isaac Watts ' Hymn XXX, Book 2, vv. 1-3 & 8-10:
Historically, Gordon Ashman, who was a co-founder with Dave Townsend of the West Gallery Music Association (WGMA), found these words set to the tune BIRMINGHAM in a church manuscript music book written by one John Moore who was a nurseryman in Shropshire. Born in 1820, Moore wrote two manuscript books of music in the early years of Queen Victoria's reign. By the age of 17 he was already an accomplished musician, having collected together some 80 hymn and psalm tunes, and nearly twice that number of dance tunes which must have been popular at that time. These were the subject matter of his two manuscripts, leaving one to guess whether they were meant for eventual publication.
This setting of BIRMINGHAM has traditionally been used by the WGMA as the opening piece at each of its meetings, although we have gone further and adopted the name from the words of the last verse. Here is a midi file of the music, also a music file in four-part harmony suitable for use with the 'Capella' music writing programme. Download a pdf file of the music and words for BIRMINGHAM.