Many people have felt unwilling to criticise Kennedy, or to expose his illegal Folktrax publications, on the (pragmatic) grounds that he has actually made the recordings available. They are no longer available from the EFDSS… and much of the BBC material has been lost… Like a black-marketeer in wartime, Kennedy has been tolerated because “Where else can you get a pair of nylons?”
Rod Stradling, in an article on the more questionable aspects of the collector Peter Kennedy’s work, at http://www.mustrad.org.uk/enth53.htm
I never owned more than a handful of Folktrax cassettes – I was put off by the shoddy packaging as much as anything. But I have to admit (as proof of Rod’s point) to being rather glad that I bought a copy of Folktrax cassette FTX-504 The Bitter Withy: Early Folk Carols, as it contains a number of songs which are not, as far as I’m aware, available elsewhere. The opening track is ‘All Hail and Praise’, sung by Ralph Thomas from the village of Ashton-under-Hill (now in Worcestershire, but part of Gloucestershire until the 1930s). It was recorded, not by Peter Kennedy but by Peter Duddridge, in May 1958.
Gwilym Davies told me that there had once been a flourishing carol-singing tradition in and you can read more about this on his excellent Gloucestershire Christmas site:
The Ashton carols were sung by the bell ringers when they came round the village on Boxing Day, but were not sung in the church and the custom died out just after World War II. The carollers were Ken Pratt, Ken Pratt’s father, Albert Langley, Charlie Moore and Frank Whittle (who lost a leg at Mons and who had a lovely voice). They sometimes sang in parts (although it is not clear to what extent Mrs Roberson wrote the published parts). Between the Wars Ralph Cotton used to accompany the carollers on violin. The carollers went round late at night with a lantern on a bean pole. The very last time they sang was in the 1960s when Fred invited them in to sing in the Tudor room at Stanley Farm. One of the carols ‘All Hail and Praise the Sacred Morn’ used to be sung at in the nearby Worcestershire village of Elmley Castle at midnight on New Year’s Eve, after which the singers would go to the church gates and sing it there. That was last done in the 1970’s when Reg Berry was one of the carollers.
Naturally Gwilym’s site also includes a page on ‘All Hail and Praise’, where you can hear a recording of the carol being sung by Ralph Thomas.
We sang this for a couple of years with Magpie Lane but, even at the time, I’m not sure I ever got a firm grip on the words. For this recording I had them in large print right in front of me. I’ve never come across this set of words anywhere else, and they just don’t seem very memorable somehow. Maybe, having over the years sung ‘Arise and Hail the Joyful Day’, ‘Arise and Hail the Sacred Day’, ‘Arise and Hail the Glorious Star’, ‘Awake Arise Good Christians’, and any number beginning ‘Hark! Hark!’ or ‘Hail! Hail! Hail!’, I’ve simply reached saturation point with carols. Still, if you go wrong, it should be fairly easy to improvise, as long as you can string together a bunch of lines rhyming born/morn, star/far, bring/sing/king, earth/birth/mirth and – if you’re from the West of England – join/divine.
Incidentally, keen Roud number-spotters will be getting really excited about this one. It didn’t seem to be in Mr Roud’s index, so I got in touch with Steve, and he’s had a rummage around in his bottom drawer, and found a spare one for this carol – it’s now Roud 25791.
All Hail and Praise
Andy Turner – vocal, C/G anglo-concertina