Wednesday, 24 July 2013


ORIGINALLY from London, Pete Linnett has moved to Wales, Exeter and Monkton Wyld before eventually settling in Lyme Regis in 1999, where he set up the Lyme Voices choir seven years ago. Pete is a self-employed and, as well as Lyme Voices, is the musical director of Langport Community Choir and is launching a choir in Stockland this September. He also runs music and drama workshops for adults with disabilities and teaches music at Axminster Community Primary School. He is married and has a teenage daughter.

WHAT kind of music does the Lyme Voices choir perform? 
The focus in Lyme Voices is not just on performance: it's also about having a good time singing together. The essential feature is it's all taught by ear (and supported by parts recordings), so a good whack of the songs come from the repertoires of cultures where harmony singing is something done by everyone, or is not just the province of musicians - it’s people’s music in some way. For example Gospel and South African music have been formative for me and a recurrent part of our repertoire. We also sing lots of songs written or arranged by community choir leaders for community choirs like Lyme Voices,  including classic pop and all sorts of songs from everywhere - Georgian, Balkans, British folk-song arrangements etc. I also arrange things myself.

TELL us about your involvement in the recent 'Sing For Water' event in Bristol...
Sing for Water is a fundraiser for WaterAid that's been happening in various places around the country since 2002. Sing for Water West happens every two years in Bristol, but this is the first time we've taken part. I was bowled over by the enthusiasm of the choir for taking part!  I think the challenge and the whole fundraising aspect of it fired people up. We raised almost £200 from a busking event in Lyme (singing some of the Sing for Water songs), and choir members raised, we think, about another £300 from various projects - including hand-knitted socks and afternoon tea. On the day we gathered with about 1,000 other singers at the Harbourside in Bristol and made a huge sound! More than £3,000 was collected in the buckets but most of the money raised comes from sponsorship, that’s still being counted, but last time they raised £53,000.

HOW would you encourage others to join the choir? 
I’d just say that anybody can sing and you’ll find us a friendly and welcoming crowd. You don’t need to have any previous experience of singing in harmony with others. My own experience is that it’s uplifting and mood enhancing! Your first one is free, so you can try it out.

DO YOU have any more events coming up? 
Nothing is fixed yet, though there are various possibilities. We’ll doubtless have some sort of Christmas event (sadly, I’ve been planning Christmas for a while!). We meet after the summer break on September 12th and I’d like to talk to people about how we follow Sing for Water.

HAVE you always been musical? 
Of course, like everyone, I can sing but just never stopped. Music is one of those things I love and somehow need to do. I also play flutes, whistles and pipes, so over the years between gigs, ceilidhs, theatre and community choirs I’ve always been involved with music. The things that I do are often about bringing people together in some way, about music as a community activity, as something we do together. 

WHAT are your other personal interests? 
Increasingly I’m awe-struck by the rich diversity in our local environment. I’m particularly interested in the flowers, especially around Ware and along the water’s edge, but anywhere, really. It’s not about rare flowers for me - have a look at the thistles at the moment! I like literature, history and popular science books. I’m really enjoying doo-wop and that sort of thing from the 50s and 60s - though that’s a bit work-related, too.

WHAT do you like about the local area? 
That natural diversity I mentioned, plus I love to swim in the sea (in the summer!). I also love that feeling of being connected to all sorts of people that you get in a small, friendly place like this. Somehow all of us humans need to learn to get on with all and sundry. Of course we can have our problems, but there’s a lot of knowledge in places like ours about how to do this.

WHAT would you like to add to or change about the local area if you could? 
According to an article I read in the paper, Lyme Regis could fail new clean water standards coming in in two years time at Back Beach and we’ll be obliged to display a warning to visitors! I’m hoping the council is on the case with this...

WHERE is your ideal holiday destination and why?
Anywhere I’ve got some contacts to get me into the local area. We went to Tamil Nadu (in India) a couple of years back. Amazing place - not exactly your comfy holiday though! We go to Voice Camp every year - bit of a busman’s holiday, there’s so much singing and a great feeling of celebration. And there’s a lot of opportunity to just hang out and chat. Of course, when the weather’s good, camping is bliss. And when the weather’s not good - well, that never happens in England!

WHICH three guests would you invite to your dream dinner party?
I like pretty low-key events with friends, and the famous are famous for different reasons than friendliness. But I reckon Chaucer, Shakespeare and Joyce would be good value if a bit overwhelming - three big-hearted and very human geniuses. I reckon the wine bill would be a bit steep, though. 

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