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

One Comment to “Welcome the May! Part 2”

  1. This is lovely Andy, Thank you Great images & songs Thanks for the write up too

    Exhibition is going to be good.. Lots of interest building & will take some time to install & regrettably no down time this weekend as still framing & packing so will miss all May celebrations

    Bye for now Cathy

    >

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