The museums and archives of Bedfordshire and its neighbouring counties contain music manuscripts of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, painstakingly transcribed by hand by ordinary people who were often too poor to buy printed editions of music.  Their tune books included hymns and psalms which they sang for church services, weddings, christenings and funerals as well as secular music used for dancing, celebrations and feastings.

Our aim is to transcribe these manuscripts into modern settings and to give workshops and concerts where we perform this forgotten music, often for the first time in 200 years.  We want to restore this lost part of our cultural heritage back to its rightful place.

We have been fortunate enough to receive a grant from The National Lottery through Awards for All which enabled us to buy computer equipment for the transcription and setting of these pieces.

We are now working on a project to research local West Gallery and social music and to provide the museums, archives, churches and communities where we have found manuscripts with copies of their music in modern settings, and sets of searchable records which can be used as a permanent source of reference material.  Our research so far has uncovered three previously unknown local composers and as we continue we know that there is much more yet to find.

Original Manuscript The Old Meeting c.1840
Linda Reed entering data

Above, one of nearly six hundred original manuscripts catalogued so far. Top right, The Old Meeting, Mill Street, Bedford circa 1840 where many of these pieces were in use. Bottom right, working to create sets of searchable records