Archive for April, 2017

April 30, 2017

Welcome the May! Part 2

Ah, the merry month of May. This is another of those “here’s some I prepared earlier” blog posts, with songs celebrating the coming of May, or just where the action takes place in May.

I’ll be singing some of these at an event in Canterbury on 13th May. This is part of TRYST, an exhibition organised by my artist friend Cathy Ward (I featured some of her fantastic hairscapes in Week 264 – Dowie Dens of Yarrow). It takes place at Conquest House, one of the oldest buildings in Canterbury. Cathy and I have known each other literally all our lives and, having gone in very different directions in our teens, when we met again 15 or 20 years ago, found that we still had an awful lot in common – and that we both shared a love for English traditions.

You’ll have seen corn dollies made by Cathy if you’ve watched Nick Abrahams’ video for Shirley Collins recent re-recording of ‘Death and the Lady’. Nick will also be taking part in the TRYST exhibition.

I’ll be singing, playing some tunes, and also showcasing some of the images from my parents’ collection of old postcards of morris dancers, maypoles, musicians, hop-picking and more – scanning the whole collection could take me years, but you can see several hundred already scanned at http://bit.ly/turnerpostcards.

Tryst poster

 

So, to get to the music. Let’s start with a couple of dance tunes to get us in the mood.

Month of May / Spirit of the Dance (from my Squeezed Out blog)

 

Whitstable May Day 1984 - Robin Hood and Maid Marian dance in front of the Jack-in-the-Green

Whitstable May Day 1984 – Robin Hood and Maid Marian dance in front of the Jack-in-the-Green

 

Now some songs to welcome in the May. Here are a couple collected in Bedfordshire by Fred Hamer, and one from North Oxfordshire:

Northill May Song

Week 36 – Northill May Song

 

Good morning lords and ladies 

 

Swalcliffe May Day Carol

Week 88 – Swalcliffe May Day Carol

 

Great Chart May Day, Kent, early 1900s.

Great Chart May Day, Kent, early 1900s.

 

There are countless folk songs where a young man man walks / rides / roves / roams out on a May morning. Almost inevitably a romantic / sexual encounter ensues. Sometimes both parties are happy with the arrangement, and all ends well. As, for example, in these:

Queen of the May 

Week 37 – Queen of the May

 

The Spotted Cow

 

But often things do not turn out so happily. Sometimes the young man has his wicked way with her, then leaves her in the lurch. As in:

The little ball of yarn

 

The Nightingales Sing

 

Sometimes, the woman refuses to have anything to do with him, and leaves the young man lamenting:

The Woodman’s Daughter

Week 89 – The Woodman’s Daughter

 

Or is far too clever for him:

Stroll Away the Morning Dew

Week 39 – Stroll Away the Morning Dew

 

Sometimes, it’s not entirely clear from the song exactly what’s gone on, but it is clear that things have not ended well:

As I roamed out

 

In other songs, the action is set in the “merry month of May” but any thoughts of merriment are soon dispelled by the dark story line. The classic example has to be

Barbara Ellen

Week 93 – Barbara Ellen

but see also

George Collins

Week 38 – George Collins

 

Polly on the Shore

 

Bridal, from Gathering in the May by Catheryne Ward and Eric Wright.

Bridal, from Gathering in the May by Catheryne Ward and Eric Wright.

And, finally, a song which starts so promisingly

As I walked out one morn in May
The birds sing and the lambs did play

But, in the starkest tale of all, a wealthy young woman meets with Death himself. And as Terry Pratchett fans will be very much aware THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY THIS CAN END.

 

Death and the Lady

Week 92 – Death and the Lady

April 23, 2017

Week 267 – The Grey Funnel Line

I have two Cyril Tawney songs in my repertoire. I posted ‘Sally Free and Easy’ almost a year ago; now here’s the other one.

Written in 1959, it was the last song Cyril Tawney wrote before leaving the Royal Navy. You’ll find his own account of its composition at https://mainlynorfolk.info/cyril.tawney/songs/thegreyfunnelline.html.

I learned it from the Silly Sisters LP, which I must have got not long after it came out. Actually I say I learned it – it’s one of those songs where at any given time in the last 40 years I could probably have sung about 95% of the song, but never properly nailed it until now. And I have to say it was worth making the effort to learn it properly – it’s a really good song.

On this recording, the accompaniment is provided (unwittingly) by Ian Kearey playing an epinette de Vosges with two pencils (HB, as I recall). I sampled this from an old Oyster Band LP, looped it, pitch-shifted it slightly, and played around with it a bit more in Audacity, Nero Wave Editor and Magix Audio Cleaning Lab. And hey presto! here it is.

The Grey Funnel Line

April 23, 2017

Welcome the May! Part 1

Magpie Lane will be playing a May Eve concert in Oxford next Sunday afternoon:

Sunday 30th April – Holywell May Eve concert

Holywell Music Room, Holywell Street, Oxford OX1 3BN

2.30 – 4.30

Promoted in association with www.maymorning.co.uk

Tickets from https://www.ticketsoxford.com/whats-on/all-shows/welcome-the-may/4734
or ring Tim Healey on 01865 249194

Welcome the May poster

There’ll be a lot of Magpie Lane Maytime favourites, including Dave Webber’s May Song, the Swalcliffe May Day Carol, Martin Graebe’s Jack-in-the-Green, and tunes such as The First of MayJack’s Alive and Round about the Maypole.  When the band first started we always used to do concerts at Maytime, and are very pleased that Tim Healey has given us the opportunity to revive the tradition.

 

In other news, we’re about to send off a series of 0s and 1s, and in return, in a few weeks’ time, we’ll be receiving 40 boxes of shiny silver discs – yes, the long-awaited new album, Three Quarter Time is very nearly here.

You can sample some tracks from the new record at https://soundcloud.com/magpielane/sets/three-quarter-time – I hope you like them.

I will of course let you know as soon as we have copies of the CD, and how you can get hold of one. Or, indeed, several.

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April 13, 2017

Week 266 – Dwelling In Beulah Land

Swan Arcade recorded this song on their 1986 album Diving for Pearls, and it’s an outstanding example of their exuberant, no-holds-barred approach to harmony singing. I got the words from Hymnary.org (other online hymnals are available) from where I learn that it was written in 1911 by the prolific American hymn-writer Charles Austin Miles (1868-1946). I don’t know where Swan Arcade learned it from, but there are various recordings you can find online, including one by the Sons Of The Pioneers, with Roy Rogers on vocals. It’s OK, but not a patch on the Swan Arcade version.

I worked out some time ago that this would sound great on a C/G anglo – but that I couldn’t actually sing it comfortably in C. So when I asked Bampton Morris Fool Rob Fidler if I might borrow his Bb/F instrument, recording this song was uppermost in my mind. I must confess I still haven’t learned the words properly, but I thought I’d better get it recorded sooner rather than later – one of these days Rob is going to ask for his concertina back!

Dwelling In Beulah Land

Andy Turner – vocal, Bb/F anglo-concertina

April 9, 2017

The week before Easter, the morn bright and clear

Well it is one week till Easter, and where I’m sitting, the morn is indeed very bright and clear. In stark contrast to the weather 4 years ago, when I first posted the Copper Family’s A Week Before Easter.

In the absence of any new posts recently, here’s a Spring / Easter ‘playlist’ for you.

Easter carols and religious songs

Week 33 – The Leaves of Life

 

Week 189 – The Holly Bears a Berry

 

Week 139 – There is a Fountain of Christ’s Blood

 

Easter customs

Week 84 – Pace Egging Song

Hector is slain by St George - Midgley Pace Eggers in Todmorden, Calderdale, West Yorkshire, on Good Friday 1965. Photographer: Brian Shuel. http://www.collectionspicturelibrary.co.uk

Hector is slain by St George – Midgley Pace Eggers in Todmorden, Calderdale, West Yorkshire, on Good Friday 1965. Photographer: Brian Shuel. From http://www.collectionspicturelibrary.co.uk

 

Tip Top Polka (Bacup Britannia Coconut Dancers tune, from my Squeezed Out blog)

 

Spring

Week 243 – When Spring Comes In

 

Week 134 – The Birds in the Spring

 

Week 34 – The Banks of Sweet Mossen