New Harmonie and the Sussex Smugglers

For several years New Harmonie has commissioned verse set to music based upon a well known children’s story ( The Pied Piper of Hamelin) or local history/folk lore ( St Leonard and the Dragon of Horsham). Players then run music/drama workshops in mainly rural primary schools. The piece is performed in words and music and then the children characterise and dramatise the story.

In 2008, New Harmonie, with funding from The Ernest Cook Trust, commissioned Ges Lonsdale to research the Hawkesbury gang’s smuggling exploits in West Sussex during the 18th century. Ges Lonsdale created “ A Smuggler’s Tale” in verse which Ben Pope then set to music for oboe, clarinet and bassoon with narrator.

This piece is the third in a series of commissions by New Harmonie and all available for West Sussex schools. “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” uses the original poem by Robert Browning and has provided over eighty music/drama workshops in West Sussex primary schools. This was followed by “St Leonard and the Dragon of Horsham” researched and written by Ges Lonsdale and set to music by Ben Pope. New Harmonie took this, as a music/drama workshop, into more than forty West Sussex primary schools and ten Horsham Brownie packs after school.

In 2011, a second grant from The Ernest Cook Trust enabled New Harmonie to take music drama workshops based upon “A Smugglers Tale” into seven more primary schools. During the 2012 summer term, players visited St Peter’s Cowfold, Northchapel and Rusper Primary Schools. During the autumn term, the schools included are Holy Trinity Lower Beeding, Jolesfield PS Partridge Green, St James Colwaltham and St Augustines Scaynes Hill.

The tale in verse tells the story of the Hawkhurst gang who used to bring cargoes of silk, tea, spices, rum ashore along the Sussex coast from sailing ships and then take the cargoes by horse up to London. Meeting in the “Oak and Ivy”, the leader Jeremiah Curtis ( known as Yarmouth Charles) and his gang plot their next haul. Avoiding the customs men, they collect their cargo from the beach and set off for London to sell their haul. Elizabeth daughter of the gang’s leader is in love with one of the custom’s officers – a young lad Samuel Collier. What a dilemma! On the way back from London, the gang are intercepted by the Revenue men and soldiers and finish up in Horsham gaol awaiting trial in the court ( old Town Hall). They escape and set sail for the New World but should Elizabeth go with her father or follow her heart’s desire?

Dr Geoffrey Richardson who leads New Harmonie said “We are extremely grateful to the Ernest Cook Trustees who had the confidence in us to make it possible for New Harmonie to commission “A Smuggler’s Tale” and for agreeing this year to support our work in these seven schools. The feedback from children and teachers has been very positive”

Written comments sent to New Harmonie by the children of
St James CE Primary School Coldwaltham

9-11 years

“Dear Dave Thank you. I especially enjoyed the music that the bassoon played Thomas and Juniors”

“Dear Geoff Thank you for playing the clarinet in the Smugglers Tale. I think you played very well. I hope to do the workshop again because it was really good” Kirsty and Juniors”

“Dear Lovely Lady that plays the Bassoon. Thank you very much for doing the workshop with us and playing your instrument. I really liked the bit where we were on the beach with the ghosts. I hope we can do it again one day. Maisie and Juniors”

“Dear Sarah. Thank you for doing a lot of hard work to make the Smugglers Tale. I think it must be hard to blow your oboe. I enjoyed the bit when we were trees and the soldiers hid behind us. Jack and the Juniors”

7-9 years

“I really enjoyed the music. I thought they were very good. I really want to do it again" "

"I liked the acting best - the story was a bit confusing but that didn't matter at all. It was lovely music"

"I really enjoyed the workshop. I hope to do it again. It was great"

"I really enjoyed the acting. The best bit was putting the smugglers in jail"

"I liked the part where they read the story. I have got better knowledge on the smugglers now"

"I enjoyed it when you played the Smugglers Tale and especially when you played the music to the story. It was fun"

"I really enjoyed the Smugglers Tale even more than things I have done and I learnt a lot about smuggling"

"I like doing the acting because I liked being the point at the front of the boat. I liked listening to the music and hearing the story"

"I really enjoyed the acting. I didn't really understand the story but I really liked it. I also liked the music"

“I really enjoyed the morning and especially the miming “

“I enjoyed the acting to music. The story line was quite hard to understand but in the end I got it"

"The best bit was catching the smugglers and putting them in jail"

"The best bit was when the smugglers got out of jail by bribing the guards"

"I enjoyed acting out without talking. I liked the Smugglers Tale because it was new to me. I enjoyed the bit when I and Archie were in prison"

"enjoyed the acting bits where we did the beach parts. Thank you"

"I liked the acting. The first story telling I couldn't really understand because the music was overpowering. During the second telling after acting it I understood a lot more! “

“I thought it was very very good. I loved it. It was the best thing ever"

"I really liked the workshop and my favourite bit was where we were acting the story of the smugglers"

“I really enjoyed the music and loved acting the parts. Thank you"

“I think we should have costumes so it could be better viewed and we will know who is who. Loved the music and the acting - was lots of fun"

"It was an enjoyable experience and I loved the music and the story. I would love to do it again even though I know a lot about smugglers already. Thanks for coming"

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