40th Anniversary Poem

Our 40th Anniversary Poem written by Choir Member Elizabeth Stott

Lines in bold say all together

Ave Marias in the Little Black Dresses…

…here are a few of our favourite things!

Oh, clap your hands! Oh clap your hands…

the Castlegate ladies have been around for forty years,

and we think it’s not a winter too long.

Deo gracias! Deo gracias!


The dames in black and white

and blue and yellow and green…

The little black dresses

with a hint of sweetpea, a daffodil pin,

a virtuous red rose at Christmas.

O, Ave Maria!


We have sung for joy,

we have sung for fun.

we have sung for charity and Christmas cheer.

We have sung with kids,

we have sung with brass.

We have sung with some pipers piping (hot).

we have even sung with men.

You know who you are

(Flimby Male Voice Choir).


It all began in that year of drought,

nineteen seventy-six.

Cockermouth was floundering in the heat

and the Derwent crawled to a stop.

Then a young man strode into town…

His name, was Richard Bennett.


He said – forget the heat, let’s do some singing

and, voilà:

two dozen singing women.

Bennett’s Babes, the Castlegate girls.

The ladies in black and white,                                                                              

and blue and yellow and green.                                                                            

The little black dresses                                                                                          

with a hint of sweetpea, a daffodil pin,                                                                

a virtuous red rose at Christmas.                                                                         

Oh Ave Verum…                                                                                                   


We sang spirituals and classicals,

musicals and madrigals, requiems,

folk songs ancient and modern.


In Cockermouth and Brigham

and Fletchertown

in Whitehaven and Torpenhow.

In Maryport and Embleton

and all around,

the girly choir is a winner.

OMG Ave Maria.


Lets go!

In 84 we impress the guests from Marvejols

singing Aprés Une Rêve in perfect French.


In 86 we celebrate ten years

with a concert,

the tickets a steal at a pound.

A La Nanita Nana!



On our fifteenth, in 1991,

we ladies cross the channel.

Off to Marvejols –


Lots of wine,

and song…

and women, it goes without saying.

Of our singing, they say:

Elles réjouissent les oreilles.

Pour Richard, une médaille d’honneur!


Avec nos voix exquises

et nos soirires radieux,

nous sommes

les anges de Richard!

Nous mangeons du pintadeau

Vallée D’Auge,

et beaucoup d’autres choses!



  1. We celebrate our twentieth,

With Lloyd Webber

Vaughan Williams, Purcell,

and the Psalms…

For Dancing…Hallelujah!


O Clap Your Hands,

and a new man appears.

In 98 we become

Wood’s Women.

With Rutter,

some Wood work for Christmas,

Thou Little Tiny Child,

and a dollop of Benjamin Britten.


  1. The millennium and the century end.

With Full Fathom Five, Fauré’s Requiem,

and a trio of Ave Marias.



In 2000, we sing madrigals, motets

and evergreens

of the century just departed.


The girls in black and white                                                                            

and blue and yellow and green…

The little black dresses

with a hint of sweetpea, a daffodil pin,                                                             

a virtuous red rose at Christmas.

O Ave Maria, Ave Verum

Agnus Dei, In Paradisum.                                                                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2001 – it’s our quarter century.

Shine Out!

And flourish,

ladies of Castlegate choir

who Once Loved a Lad, endured Stormy Weather.

Were Three Little Maids From School

who rocked Vivaldi’s Gloria

and fell in love with Rutter.


In 2006 we turned thirty,

but had no cause for despair.

We Made Joy

sailed down Moon River

Rolled Down to Rio with Bobby Shaftoe.



The women in black and white                                                                                     

and blue and yellow and green…

The little black dresses

with a hint of sweetpea, a daffodil pin,                                                                        

a virtuous red rose at Christmas.

O, Ave Maria!                                                                                                                


We are still singing in 2008

to celebrate twenty-five years

of Marvejols twinning. Ooh, la, la.


Then Wood things come to an end

(but not really!)

when Valerie Hetherington takes the helm.

It’s the year of the inundation, 2009

but we carry on singing in the rain.

The Castlegates keep the Christmas lights shining

with The Shepherd’s Pipe Carol,

Let It Snow, Gaudete

The Holly and the Ivy

(and we are on the telly)


Val’s Gals sing with attitude

nursery rhymes at the Georgian Fair.

We board the Chattanooga Choo Choo,

and Blow the Wind Southerly.


We master Cantique and Nocturne from Dr Wood.

and some lovely (but tricky) tunes from Mr Cook.



The repertoire expands (not the waistbands of course)

and we embrace sixties ballads

and some ladies’ barber shop.

We made friends with Diamonds,

loved the Summertime (not so easy).

Admired that Girl from Ipanema,

who gave at least as good as she got.

And of the Sloop John B, least said the better,

but we got to Nassau in the end.

We still love those bluesy spirituals,

adore folk songs old and new.

We still sing musicals, madrigals and requiems

and more than a psalm or two.

Christmas has become Ruttertide,

and we love a chance to party

with the holly and the ivy

and dust off the big red book.



Not forgetting

the twelve days of festive glee,

the blessed partridge in the wretched pear tree,

the five gold rings, the calling birds,

the three French hens…

The quarrelsome pair

who never made it up.

Despite all the piping, and bother

over swans,

it must be recorded

that Janet partied on.

Remember that drummer?

He’s nowhere to be seen.


We are the ladies in black and white                                                                       and blue and yellow and green…

The little black dresses

with a hint of sweetpea, a daffodil pin,                                                                    

a virtuous red rose at Christmas.

O, Ave Maria, etcetera, etcetera!


But three cheers for the accompanists

without whom we’d be toast.

The patient, unsung heroes

who play us all the notes.

Without these magicians

our songs would never soar

our rhythms never fascinate

and our notes would all turn sour.


Hurrah for:

David Buckley

Sue Rawlinson

and Duncan Murray.

Val Hetherington

and Anne-Marie Kerr.


Special thanks too, to

the folk behind the scenes…

The partners and the husbands,

the families and the friends

who sell for us the tickets

and help shift all those chairs.

Dear audience, long may we entertain you.

How about another 40 years?