November 8, 2022

Week 307 – When Adam was first created

I must have been singing this song for very nearly 45 years. Always unaccompanied in harmony, of course, as is right and proper for a song from the Copper Family repertoire.

In the last year or so, I’d toyed with an arrangement in F on my C/G anglo. But this morning I decided to try it on the more sonorous Crabb F/C concertina which I found myself unable to resist at this summer’s Whitby Folk festival. It seemed to fit, and although my voice hasn’t been at its best of late, it didn’t seem too croaky. So I decided to slap it down on “tape” and post it here straightaway.

The song’s central point is – as James Brown would attest – that man is nothing without a woman. But, as with so many traditional songs, the words are written very much from the man’s perspective, and betray the fact that the song originated in a male-dominated society. I feel that the song’s heart is in the right place: it insists that Woman is not to be trampled upon by Man, but that she was created “his equal and partner to be”; but then blows it in the very next line by stating “when they’re united in one, sir, the man is the top of the tree”. Oh well.

Looking at broadside versions of the ballad on the Bodleian website, it’s clear that these lines weren’t inserted by the Coppers, but were there from the start. They’ve been softened a little in the the rather nice version of ‘When Adam was created’ which Sharp collected in 1918 from Jasper Robertson at Burnsville in North Carolina – in fact the song has been explicitly turned into a wedding song.

In praise of dear women I sing - ballad from the Bodleian website

In praise of dear women I sing – ballad from the Bodleian website

 

When Adam was first created

Andy Turner – vocal, F/C anglo-concertina

December 22, 2021

The Trees are all Bare / The Sussex Carol

It’s been a pretty quiet year for the A Folk Song A Week blog – although I have posted quite a lot of tunes on my Squeezed Out site (in fact, in a daring piece of cross-platform syndication, I shall be sharing this same video on that blog too).

The video here was filmed at the end of the final gig in a run of half a dozen Magpie Lane Christmas concerts, at the rather lovely 12th century church of St. Leonard, Bengeo, Hertford.

In the interval I asked the vicar if he’d mind filming the last number on my phone. At which point he introduced me to Dr Mike Howarth, an audience member who just happens to be a former BBC cameraman. Mike is clearly used to working with rather higher quality equipment than the camera on my Android phone, but he wasn’t going to let that get in the way of some rather more interesting camera work than the static point and shoot video I had been envisaging! So many thanks, Mike, for producing this lovely souvenir of our Christmas gigs.

What you have here are:

  • First, the Copper family’s ‘The Trees are all Bare’ – always the final song in our Christmas programme, ever since 1994. For more on this song, see Week 175 – The Trees are All Bare.
  • And then the obligatory encore (although on this occasion we had to prompt the audience to demand one!). This invariably consists of the Shetland tune ‘Christmas Day i’da mornin” segueing into ‘The Sussex Carol’. That, too, has been featured on this blog before – almost exactly 10 years ago, as Week 18 – The Sussex Carol.

Having not performed together since December 2020, it was great to be playing with Magpie Lane again. Even if I could never quite rid myself of the worry that, with a new variant on the loose, we were all in great danger of getting infected, just before Christmas.

Many thanks to

  • Ed Pritchard, for stepping in so magnificently to dep for Mat Green.
  • The event organisers who took sensible COVID precautions in order to keep band and audience safe
    (N.B. for anyone wondering if there should have been a comma after “event organisers” – no, a comma was very deliberately omitted, and you can make of that what you will).
  • The audience members who tested before coming to a gig, who wore masks, and kept their distance, but nevertheless (we hope) had an enjoyable night out.

 

The Trees are all Bare

Andy Turner – vocal, C/G anglo-concertina
Ian Giles – vocal
Ed Pritchard  – fiddle
Sophie Thurman – cello
Jon Fletcher – vocal, bouzouki

 

Christmas Day i’da mornin’ / The Sussex Carol

Ian Giles – vocal, percussion
Andy Turner – vocal, G/D anglo-concertina
Ed Pritchard  – hardanger fiddle
Sophie Thurman – vocal, cello
Jon Fletcher – vocal, bouzouki

November 24, 2021

Week 306 – Only Remembered

A couple of weeks ago I heard that Larry Gordon – great enthusiast for and promoter of Shape Note singing, and leader of numerous choirs, most notably Northern Harmony – had fallen off his bike, sustained irreversible brain damage and would shortly be taken off the ventilator. That same evening I heard that Barry Coope had died after a short illness. I didn’t know either man well. I’d probably not seen Larry for 20 years, and while Barry and I would say hello if we bumped into each other at a festival, that was about it. But the sudden, unexpected nature of their deaths – and, to be honest, the fact that Barry was only a few years older than me – made me feel quite emotional. The next day I found myself turning to songs associated with Larry and Barry which seemed appropriate. In Larry’s case it was a favourite Shape Note piece, ‘Parting Friends’, which he recorded with both the Word of Mouth Chorus and the Bayley-Hazen Singers. For Barry, it was Coope Boyes & Simpson’s sublime arrangement of ‘Only Remembered’.

That’s as perfect a slice of vocal harmony as you’re ever likely to hear. And if you search YouTube you’ll find other live recordings of the song, demonstrating that it was not just in the recording studio that they were able to attain this perfection.

‘Only Remembered’ started off as a hymn with words by Free Church of Scotland minister Horatius Bonar (1808-1889). The tune was composed by the prolific Ira Sankey – you can find the words and score at hymnary.org. It was adapted by John Tams for use in the stage production of Warhorse – in particular he made it less overtly religious by writing a new last verse (“Who’ll sing the anthems, who’ll tell the story” strikes me as particularly Tamsian line). And then it was adapted further by CBS – the rhythm changed from 4/4 to 3/4, and the harmonies are all their own.

I’d never thought of learning this song previously, but set about it immediately. Initially I toyed with learning the original version from my copy of Sankey’s Sacred Songs & Solos. But I soon decided that, as it was the CBS version that had made me want to learn the song, that’s what I should sing. I made this recording at the weekend. It’s not perfect. The concertina accompaniment is still in development. But I wanted to get it down and posted straightaway, as just a small tribute to an absolutely wonderful singer.

On their weekly radio show, Thank Goodness it’s Folk, James Fagan and Sam Hindley presented a tribute to Barry just a few days after he died. It could have been a solemn affair, but in fact it turned out to be a rather joyful celebration of, as guest Ray Hearne put it, a man with a heart of gold and a voice of silver. You can hear the programme on Mixcloud.

 

Only Remembered

Andy Turner: vocal, C/G anglo-concertina

June 13, 2021

Week 305 – The Prentice Boy

In 1995 Dave Townsend invited Ian Giles and me to sing on a new Mellstock Band record, Songs of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. We recorded our contributions over two sunny days at the Saydisc recording studios – namely David Wilkins’ house at Littleton-on-Severn. I may be wrong, but my memory is that all the singers and musicians were put up in the house; we ate breakfast and lunch together; and then in the evening we’d go down to the village pub for dinner and a few pints of Smiles’ bitter. A very enjoyable experience all round. The recordings themselves were largely stress-free and, though I say it myself, I was in particularly good voice at the time – although not in such good voice as the wonderful Julie Murphy, who Ian and I were encountering for the first time, and whose singing just blew us away.

True to form, Dave Townsend had come up with some interesting material. Ian got to sing a lovely version of ‘The Foggy Dew’ which we immediately pinched for ourselves, and which was subsequently turned into a Greatest Hit for Magpie Lane. I sang, and was able to add to my own repertoire, ‘The Mistletoe Bough’ and ‘The Light of the Moon’, plus ‘The Prentice Boy’. I never considered actually learning this one, as I already sang a version of Roud 263 (‘The Wexford Murder’ which I’ve been singing since the early 80s, but which I’ve yet to record satisfactorily for this blog). However, for the sake of completeness, I thought I’d include it here.

The song was collected by Henry Hammond from Joseph Elliott of Todber in Dorset, with some additional words here as noted by Thomas Hardy himself. The tune, it strikes me, is a modal version of ‘Highland Mary’.

Saydisc stopped producing new records some years ago, but I’m pleased to say that much of their catalogue, including this one, is still available both digitally and on CD. The record is listed on Spotify, but only a few of the tracks are available to play (maybe you need to take out a subscription, which is something I have absolutely no intention of doing). So here it is from YouTube. Now, the only other time I’ve featured a YouTube recording on this blog – and ranted a bit about how it really shouldn’t be there without the copyright-holder’s permission –  the track became unavailable within a few days. Such is my power! So if you want to listen to this song, you’d better do it quickly. Even better – and I say this without any financial interest whatsoever – treat yourself to the CD.

June 5, 2021

Week 304 – Winter in my heart

When I finished university I worked for a year in the public library in my home town of Ashford in Kent. Before long I had fallen madly in love with the Children’s Librarian. I was still screwing up my courage to ask her out when I discovered that she already had a boyfriend. With the wind so cruelly knocked out of my sails I had no choice but to wallow in my own self-pity for a while, and compose this song of unrequited love. Now I have never considered myself a songwriter. I’ve written maybe half a dozen songs in my entire life, and to be honest none of them has ever seriously been been designed for public consumption. Except I did once sing this one in public. I suppose it was Spring or Summer 1983, at the Wish It Was A Brewery folk club in Rochester. That was a club I hardly ever went to, and noone there really knew me, and this made it the ideal location to trot out my new composition. I sang it just so I could say “I once sang one of my own songs in public”, and I post it very here much in the same spirit.

Whatever the merits or otherwise of this expression of post-adolescent angst, I have to say that I still find the tune very singable.

The object of my affections, incidentally, went on to have a long and distinguished career with the library service in Kent, and was even awarded an MBE for her work.

Winter in my heart

March 14, 2021

Week 303 – Green Bushes

Having recorded the debut Magpie Lane album, The Oxford Ramble, we realised that we’d got a number of concerts coming up and 60 minutes of material wasn’t going to be enough to provide a full evening’s entertainment. This is one of the Oxfordshire songs I introduced to the band’s repertoire to make up the deficit. You can watch our very first performance of the song on YouTube, and we recorded it on our second CD, Speed the Plough, with Ian Giles on vocals and me playing concertina.

Over time Ian’s introduction to the song grew to be quite an epic. It featured a certain amount of fun around the man’s unprompted offer of beavers (beaver = a hat; but you knew that of course). And then much surreal nonsense about the route which the forsaken lover took en route to his tryst – “over yonder green lea, not around yonder green lea, not through yonder green lea…” culminating in a splendid woodland-based pun which I won’t reproduce here just in case we ever decide to bring the song back into lour live repertoire (also, it doesn’t really work when written down).

I always enjoyed playing that concertina arrangement and, back in the summer when I decided to have a go at learning the song, part of the attraction was the thought of reviving the anglo accompaniment. However, as with ‘Nowell Nowell’, I soon realised that arrangements I use when accompanying someone else often don’t work when I try to sing the song myself. So I’ve opted for the simple approach, and sing the song unaccompanied.

Our version of the song was noted by Cecil Sharp on 15th September 1922 – so towards the end of his life – from 78 year old from Joseph Alcock of Sibford Gower, in North Oxfordshire. I’m guessing that Sharp was accompanied – and possibly introduced to Mr Alcock – by Janet Blunt, as she noted the song from him on the same day.

Green Bushes as collected from Joseph Alcock by Cecil Sharp

Green Bushes as collected from Joseph Alcock by Cecil Sharp. From the VWML Archive Catalogue.

The song seems to have been widely printed on ballad sheets in the nineteenth century, sometimes in a version where the suitor tricks the young woman’s father – a shepherd – into granting  permission for him to marry her; but in other cases with words which tally almost exactly with those collected in oral tradition.

A new song called The green bushes, from the Bodleian Broadside Ballad collection.

A new song called The green bushes, from the Bodleian Broadside Ballad collection.

 

Green Bushes

December 28, 2020

Week 302 – King Herod and the Cock

We’re only a few days into the 12 days of Christmas, and the Kings supposedly arrive at the end of that period, so I’m a little premature in posting this carol.

It’s not a song that has ever really been part of my repertoire in any meaningful sense, but it’s very short, and at some point over the last 45 years I seem to have absorbed the words. I first heard it on the Watersons’ Frost and Fire, subsequently finding the words in the Oxford Book of Carols. We recorded it with Magpie Lane back in 1995, on our Wassail album. Tom Bower sang the carol, and arranged it – an arrangement which included Paul Sartin’s oboe on the instrumental.

In this form, it has been collected only once – Cecil Sharp took it down from the 85 year old Mrs Ellen Plumb at Armscote in Warwickshire in April 1911.

King Herod And The Cock, collected from Ellen Plumb, Armscote, 1911.

King Herod And The Cock, collected from Ellen Plumb, Armscote, 1911.

However the same story crops up in ‘King Pharim’, and it was originally part of a much longer song – a Child ballad no less – called ‘The Carnal and the Crane’. Here’s Sharp’s notes on the song from his English Folk Carols, published in 1911.

The words in the text are given exactly as Mrs. Plumb sang them. I have collected no variants. The tune is a form of the well known ” Dives and Lazarus” air (see “Come all you worthy Christian Men,” Folk-Songs from Somerset, No. 88).
Mrs. Plumb’s lines, although they tell a complete story, are but a fragment of a very much longer carol, consisting of thirty stanzas, called “The Carnal and the Crane,” printed in Sandys’s Christmas Carols, Husk’s Songs 0f the Nativity, and elsewhere. For traditional versions with tunes, see Miss Broadwood’s English Traditional Songs and Carols, and The Folk-Song Society’s Journal (I, 183 and IV, 22 with notes).
In this latter carol the Crane instructs the Carnal (i.e. the Crow) in the facts of the Nativity, of the truth of which the two miracles of the Cock and the Miraculous Harvest are cited as evidence.
I am unable to offer any explanation of the meaning of the word “senses,” which occurs in the last two stanzas of the text. In the printed copies it is given as “fences” – evidently a confusion has somewhere arisen between the letter “s,” in its old fashioned form, and “f.” “Thrustened ” = “crowed”; it is evidently a derivative of t he Mid. Eng. thrusch which meant a chirper or twitterer.
The origin of the carol, and of the legends associated with it, is exhaustively analysed in Child’s Ballads, to which the reader is referred. The conversion of King Herod to a belief in the power of the new-born Christ in the way narrated in the text is an early legend, and one that is widely distributed, traces of it being found in the Scandinavian countries and other parts of Europe. It is not, I believe, mentioned in any of the Apocryphal Gospels, although the second miracle in the carol, the Miraculous Harvest, can be traced to that source.

The story of a roasted cock getting up and crowing was originally associated with St. Stephen. In the Journal of the Folk Song Society Vol. 4, No. 14, discussing ‘The Carnal and the Crane’ in the article Carols from Herefordshire, Lucy Broadwood refers to

the legend of the conversion of King Herod to the belief that Christ is born, by means of St. Stephen, who causes a roasted cock to rise in the dish and cry “Christus natus est!”

If you look at the VWML Digital Archive you’ll see that James Madison Carpenter also collected a Scottish version of Roud 306, although to my uninformed eyes there’s actually precious little to link the two verses of ‘Lood crew the cock’ with this carol.

 

King Herod and the Cock

Andy Turner: vocal, C/G anglo-concertina

December 20, 2020

Week 301 – Nowell, Nowell

A carol with strong connections to Cornwall. The version of ‘The First Nowell’ sung at carol services up and down the country for the last century or more is based on that printed by William Sandys in his Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (1833). Sandys commented

The carols contained in the Second Part, with the exception of the last four, are selected from upwards of one hundred obtained in different parts of the West of Cornwall, many of which, including those now published, are still in use. Some few of them are printed occasionally in the country, and also in London, Birmingham, and other places, as broadside carols; others have appeared, with some variation, in Mr. Gilbert’s collection, having been derived from similar sources; but a large portion, including some of the most curious, have, I believe, never been printed before.

This is one of those which had appeared – in a slightly different form – in Davies Gilbert’s 1822 publication Some Ancient Christmas Carols. Gilbert, from Helston in Conwall, had the carol from a manuscript prepared around 1816, and now with the Archives and Cornish Studies Service in Truro, A Book of Carols collected for Davies Gilbert Esq. M.P. and F.R.S. by John Hutchens.

Cecil Sharp only collected the song twice, both times in Cornwall, and on consecutive days. He noted this version from Mr Bartle Symons of Camborne on 10th May 1913. Mr Symons said he had learned it when he was a boy from a Mr Spargo. David Sutcliffe’s excellent new website Cecil Sharp’s People identifies this as most probably

Thomas Spargo, born 1811, a stonemason who married a widow Sally Bartle in the 1830s. She brought 3 boys and a girl to the marriage (by her first husband William Bartle). Although Sally died in 1862 and Thomas Spargo remarried, he continued to live near to the Bartle/Symons family. He did not die till 1888 and the link between the two families must have been maintained perhaps at Christmas time in the singing of this carol.

 

Nowell Nowell, as collected by Cecil Sharp from Bartle Symons

Nowell Nowell, as collected by Cecil Sharp from Bartle Symons

Sharp published the song, slightly amended, in the 1914 Journal of the Folk-Song Society. The American collector James Madison Carpenter had Mr Symon’s words in his collection, but he appears to have typed them out from the Journal. However he did encounter the carol several times on his visits to Cornwall, and you can hear cylinder and disc recordings made by Carpenter on the VWML site – for instance this recording of an unnamed singer from the late 1920s or early 1930s.

Had yesterday’s Magpie Lane concerts taken place yesterday, this carol would almost certainly have been in the programme (we left it out last year, so it was due for a comeback). We recorded it on our 2006 CD, Knock at the Knocker, Ring at the Bell, and it’s been a regular part of our Christmas repertoire ever since. Having stood next to Ian Giles for so many years, I thought I probably wouldn’t have too much trouble learning the words, and this proved to be the case. But although I sing it in the same key as Ian, I found that I couldn’t sing it and play my normal concertina part. So I’ve switched to a different concertina, with different fingering, and that seemed to make things easier. It also helped to make this a bit less of a pale imitation of the Magpie Lane version. To distinguish it further, I decided to retain the 6/8 rhythm as noted by Sharp. This felt really awkward to start with – and, to be honest, I still prefer it in three-time – but I eventually settled into the new time signature. Just to cement the rhythm in my head, I prefaced the song with ‘The Rose’, one of many splendid morris tunes from the Oxfordshire Fieldtown tradition. Think of it as a Christmas rose.

The Rose / Nowell, Nowell

Andy Turner: vocal, G/D anglo-concertina

December 19, 2020

Magpie Lane at the Holywell, 2017

Today, I should have been playing two Christmas shows at the Holywell Music Room in Oxford with Magpie Lane – my favourite gigs of the year. Alas, it was not to be.

As a small consolation, Tim Healey has sent us two videos he shot at one of our Christmas gigs in 2017, and these are now on YouTube:

Tim filmed these on his phone, from the back of the hall, so they’re not super-high quality. But they do capture something of the joyful spirit of our annual Christmas concerts.

Like many others, we’re desperately looking forward to a time when it’s safe to play in public again.

 

The ‘Wren Boys’ Song’ is associated with Irish wren-hunting traditions on 26th December, St Stephen’s day – for a bit more information see www.magpielane.co.uk/sleevenotes/knock_at_the_knocker/wren_boys.htm

‘The Trees are all bare’ is from the Copper Family of Rottingdean in Sussex. We’ve recorded this twice now, on Wassail and our most recent CD, The 25th. There are two other live recordings on this blog, from December 2013 – see Week 175 – The Trees are All Bare.

 

December 7, 2020

Week 300 – Shepherds Arise

I started this blog in August 2011 and posted to it religiously, week in week out, for five years. Since then posts have been sporadic, appearing at completely irregular intervals, but I decided to retain the “Week…” prefix. In the summer I realised that I was fast approaching Week 300 and decided this should be celebrated in some way. I’m not sure what form that celebration would have taken in a normal year, but in 2020 there seemed to be only one thing to do – assemble a virtual choir. And the choice of song, once it came to me, seemed obvious: record my favourite Christmas carol, the Copper Family’s “curly tune”, ‘Shepherds Arise’.

I transcribed the song from A song for every season, added a few extra notes to Ron’s bass line, and wrote two extra harmony parts. I then sent out the score plus a midi backing track, and invited people to record themselves singing along. In terms of musical direction, all they got was “have fun, and channel your inner Copper Family / Sheffield Carols / West Gallery spirit”. And that, it would seem, is exactly what they’ve done.

So here you have the finished article, performed by a bunch of wonderful human beings who also happen to be wonderful singers.

This being folk music, singers have interpreted the written notation in slightly different ways. And – just as I hoped they would – people have sung the carol in their own individual style. The end result is not the smooth polyphony of a cathedral choir, but – to borrow a word I’ve heard Dave Townsend use in relation to choirs of the West Gallery period – heterophony. You can hear the individual singers, and it’s all the better for it. When recording stuff remotely, on your own, with a four-square backing track, there’s the danger that it all ends up sounding a bit lifeless. Not so here. I reckon we’ve captured the spirit of a really good carol-singing session – the kind of session I love to be part of, and which we’ll all be missing this year (although, as one contributor has quite rightly commented, “I ain’t never been to a pub carol-session as tight as that before!!!”).

If you fancy joining in, well, obviously you can just make up your own harmonies and sing along to this recording. But I’ve also set up a Google folder with all of the written parts, the midi track, and even a video where you can see exactly where you are in the score as you sing along (a bit like a bouncing ball video, although there isn’t actually a ball). That video can also be found at https://youtu.be/_5fooV0OPv4

In previous posts (Week 284 and  Week 285) I wrote of how my school friend Mike and I – and eventually a number of other people – used to go out “wassailing” around Ashford and Saltwood in Kent. Mike had been given a copy of the single LP A song for every season for his seventeenth birthday. We learned ‘Shepherds Arise’ from there. We sang it the first year we went out, and it remained absolutely central to our Christmas repertoire thereafter. It was in the fact the carol we had just sung when told by a usually appreciative householder “I have to say I thought that was dull as ditchwater!”. To be fair, I suspect we sang it a lot slower than we do in this recording.

Cover of the single LP version of A Song for every Season, from discogs.com

Cover of the single LP version of A Song for every Season, from discogs.com

In terms of the oral tradition, this carol is unique to the Copper Family (if you look at the VWML entries for Roud 1207 ignore the references to ‘Abraham Newland’ – that’s an error which should be corrected shortly). And so far it only seems to have turned up a few times in manuscript sources. William Adair Pickard-Cambridge (1879 – 1957) published a four-part setting in 1926, in his book A Collection of Dorset Carols. Some of the pieces in this book had been written down by his father, who had been rector of Bloxworth in Dorset. ‘Shepherds Arise’, it seems, came from an anonymously-authored manuscript from nearby Winterborne Zelston. Pickard-Cambridge may well have tidied up both the harmonies and the words. We shall never know, as the original manuscript was destroyed when his house was hit during the Blitz, in 1940. However another Dorset version has been discovered, from Puddletown, and this is safely preserved in the Dorset Record Office. This version, transcribed and edited by Rollo Woods, was printed in West Gallery Harmony: Carols & Celebrations (WGMA, 1998). And you can find another arrangement on the Roding Music website.

(Information in the preceding paragraph based on the Wikipedia article on ‘Shepherds Arise’, the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website, and Francis Roads’ article on Pickard-Cambridge’s Dorset carols).

 

I was delighted to be joined on this recording by friends from various parts of my life. Most of the contributors have sung with at least one other person here, but we’ve definitely never all been in the same room together. There are people who, in a normal year, I would sing with regularly, with Magpie Lane and/or Christminster Singers. There are people I’ve never sung with before, except possibly in a pub session. And there are people who I sang with often back in the 1970s/early 1980s, but very rarely since.

To everyone who took part, an enormous, heartfelt, Thank You.

I’d like to mention in particular those people who rely on music for their income. Like everyone in the arts world, 2020 has been a disastrous year for them. Do check out the links I’ve given below – you might find a few tasty CDs you could buy as presents for friends or family, or even just for yourself. Every little helps.

 

Several of the singers on this recording are, or have been, associated with the Oxford folk scene in one way or another.

Jon Boden is one of several people here who, I’m sure, need no introduction. He now lives in the 21st century folk Mecca that is Sheffield – indeed, his nearest pub is one with a flourishing carol-singing tradition. But he has strong links with Oxford, having lived for several years in a room above the Half Moon, the city’s best known session pub. It was of course Jon’s A Folk Song A Day project which originally inspired me to start this blog, and it’s chastening to think, as I celebrate 300 posts, that Jon did considerably more than that in just one year.

https://www.jonboden.com/ – and look out for the 2021 Spiers and Boden reunion.

Jackie Oates and I were both involved in a project put together by Paul Sartin for the 2011 Broadstairs Folk Festival. She moved to Oxford shortly after that, and has since become a leading light in the local folk scene. In 2019 she was Musician in Residence at the Museum of English Rural Life, part of the University of Reading, where I work. Some of the songs to come out of that residency were included on her most recent CD, Needle Pin, Needle Pin, recorded with John Spiers.

https://www.jackieoates.co.uk/

Jim Causley is a big champion of Devon traditions, so it’s entirely appropriate that I first saw him singing at the Sidmouth Festival. We first met, I think, at a pub session in Bampton, Oxfordshire, and over the years our paths have crossed at various folk clubs and festivals. Jim has kept himself busy during lockdown, releasing the entirely home-made Cyprus Well II, and with a new CD, Devonshire Roses, due for release soon.

https://www.jimcausley.co.uk/

George Sansome and I have met only once, and briefly at that. He’s singer and guitarist with the excellent Granny’s Attic and earlier this year released a really good eponymous solo album. Through various online exchanges it emerged that I really like his stuff and, rather gratifyingly, he’s a fan of both Magpie Lane and this blog.

https://georgesansome.co.uk/

Ian Blake was the original clarinettist in the Mellstock Band, and we got to know each other while recording the album Under the Greenwood Tree. Ian has lived in Australia for many years, but that doesn’t stop him from playing with the group SANS, whose other members hail from the UK, Finland and Armenia.

https://www.ianblake.net/

Sophie Thurman is a fellow Magpie Laneite. Round about now we’d have been limbering up for a series of Christmas gigs, the highlight, as ever, being our afternoon and evening concerts at the Holywell Music Room in Oxford. That’s one of my favourite days of the year. But, much as I miss playing gigs with Magpie Lane, what I’ve really missed this year is meeting up with the rest of the band, and the enormous fun we all have, whether we’re performing, recording, or just rehearsing.

Some people reading this will already have all the Magpie Lane CDs. But did you know you could also get a restorative shot of Sophie’s vocals by buying a CD by Jenkinson’s Folly?

Tom Bower was a founder member of both Magpie Lane and the Christminster Singers. And he provided the magnificent cover illustration for our most recent Christmas CD, The 25th.

https://sites.google.com/site/worktombower/

Marguerite Hutchinson was Tom’s replacement in Magpie Lane, appearing on Six for Gold and Knock at the Knocker. She returned to play Northumbrian smallpipes on The 25th.

She’s joined here by her husband Giles Hutchinson, and her niece Lucy Davies.

Caroline Butler sang on the Under the Greenwood Tree album, and is now a fully-fledged member of the Mellstock Band. She’s also a member of the The Oxford Waits. We sing together in the Christminster Singers, and have been playing together in the dance band Geckoes for 30 years. Caroline is also an accomplished artist.

http://carolineritson.co.uk/

Becca Heddle is another member of the Christminster Singers, as well as being an award-winning writer of books for children.

 

I’m particularly pleased to be joined on this recording by the members of my first ever folk group, Gomenwudu.

Mike Eaton was my best friend at school and, as detailed in various posts here over the years, played a vital role in turning me on to folk music: he lent me his Dad’s copy of Below the Salt around this time of the year in 1975, and then he introduced me to the Copper Family.

Jonathan Jarvis was in the year below Mike and me, but we got to know each other through school choir and orchestra (where he was a much more accomplished performer than Mike and me). The three of us  were talking one lunchtime just inside the main school doors, when some spotty little oik from the third year – no doubt trying to get in from the playground when school rules said only senior boys were allowed in – commented “you look like three twins”. I don’t know if Jon remembers that, but I was pleased to find recently that it’s as fresh in Mike’s mind as it is in mine.

We got to know Gill Wren through her brother, who was in our class at school, and when we discovered that she liked folk music, she was quickly invited into the group.

As was Alison Tebbs. Her family home was absolutely at the centre of our social world when Mike and I were in the sixth form. Her wonderfully hospitable parents George and Beth put up with the presence of countless teenage boys in their living room and kitchen, talking too loud, making rubbish jokes, drinking famously dreadful coffee, and listening to music (there must have been others, but I particularly remember Dylan, the Beatles, Steeleye, Lindisfarne, Sex Pistols, Horslips, and Barclay James Harvest). At the end of the evening, no matter how many of us there were, George would pack us all into the back of his estate car and drive us home.

When making her recording for this project, Alison was joined by her daughter, Zoe Tebbs.

Gomenwudu singing at my 18th Birthday party, 1978

Gomenwudu singing at my 18th Birthday party, 1978.

And – last but not least – I’m joined by family members Carol Turner and Joe Turner, both of whom have made previous appearances on this blog.

Carol and I have been members of the Christminster Singers since the beginning. Carol sang harmony vocals (“spine-tingling” vocals according to Dave Arthur, and I’m not going to disagree) on my first, and so far only, solo album; and in the summer of 2012 she depped with Magpie Lane for an unwell Ian Giles at a couple of festivals.

Joe has also depped for Mat Green with Magpie Lane and, in 2010 stood in for Paul Sartin at a few Bellowhead gigs. More often playing electric guitar or drums in recent years, you can check out Joe’s band Junk Whale at https://junkwhale.bandcamp.com/music.

A massive Thank You once more to all of them.

And, finally, many thanks to the Copper Family whose treasury of songs and singing traditions continue to be a joy and an inspiration.

 

Shepherds Arise

Alison Tebbs, Andy Turner, Becca Heddle, Carol Turner, Caroline Butler, George Sansome, Giles Hutchinson, Gill Wren, Ian Blake, Jackie Oates, Jim Causley, Joe Turner, Jon Boden, Jonathan Jarvis, Lucy Davies, Marguerite Hutchinson, Mike Eaton, Sophie Thurman, Tom Bower, Zoe Tebbs – vocals.

 

 

Detail of a miniature of the Annunciation to the Shepherds, from the De Lisle Psalter. Copyright the British Library.

Detail of a miniature of the Annunciation to the Shepherds, from the De Lisle Psalter (Arundel 83 II). Copyright the British Library.