Posts tagged ‘dancing’

May 28, 2016

Week 249 – Whitsun Dance

I first heard this circa 1977, as the conclusion to Shirley and Dolly Collins’ magnificent Anthems in Eden Suite. I’ve always liked the song, but it had not occurred to me to learn it until a year or so ago. With Whitsun approaching, a few weeks back I thought I’d better get on with it. Having been so familiar with the song for so long, I was surprised to find that I had to apply quite some effort to get the words into my head. But here it is, and I’m really glad I made the effort – it really is a good song.

It was written in the late 1960s by Shirley’s then husband, Austin John Marshall, whose comments on the song can be found on the Mainly Norfolk site:

Many of the old ladies who swell the membership lists of Country Dance Societies are 1914/18 war widows, or ladies who have lost fiancés and lovers. Country dancing kept the memory of their young men alive. When Shirley Collins started singing the piece to the tune of The False Bride, the impact was disturbing, for many people in audiences identified with it. Tears were frequent. Now a sharp relevance in contemporary song is one thing but such a pessimistic effect was not what was intended. So when Shirley recorded the song we showed the way the spirit of the generation sacrificed in the mud of France had been caught and brought to life by the new generation born since World War II by concluding with the chorus of the Staines Morris.

 

Dancers at Ilmington, with fiddler Sam Bennett. 1920s? From the Bob and Jean Turner postcard collection.

Dancers at Ilmington, with fiddler Sam Bennett. 1920s? From the Bob and Jean Turner postcard collection.

I suppose there probably weren’t many women’s morris teams in the sixties when Austin John Marshall wrote these words, but by the time I got involved in the folk scene in the late 1970s they were very much in evidence, and I’ve always associated the ladies dancing at Whitsun with morris rather than country dance. There will be many out dancing this Whitsun weekend, so here’s to the Esperance, and  these unknown (to me) women dancing at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1912, and morris teams such as Windsor and Oyster, who started in the 1970s and are still going strong.

Morris dancers at Stratford-upon-Avon, 1912. From the Bob and Jean Turner postcard collection.

Morris dancers at Stratford-upon-Avon, 1912. From the Bob and Jean Turner postcard collection.

 

Windsor Morris

Windsor Morris

 

Oyster Morris

Oyster Morris

 

P.S. I do realise that Whit Sunday was actually two weeks ago, but Bampton still refer to their annual day of dance as Whit Monday, and that’s good enough for me.

Whitsun Dance

Andy Turner – vocal, G/D anglo-concertina

March 1, 2015

Week 184 – Painting the Town

Bing Lyle. Photo from the Brighton Acoustic Session blog.

Bing Lyle. Photo from the Brighton Acoustic Session blog.

I don’t sing very many modern songs in public, but occasionally I come across a song and know immediately that I want to learn it. That was the case with ‘Between the Wars’ and it was the case with this one too. It was written by Bing Lyle, and I first heard him sing the song at Wingham Folk Club, near Canterbury, circa 1986.

I’d known Bing a bit for some years – he would occasionally turn up at Oyster Morris / Band events and turn in a crowd-pleasing performance of, say, ‘I’m an old cowhand from the Rio Grande’, or ‘Little Red Rooster’. I got to know him better in the mid-1980s, when we both found ourselves living in Faversham for a few years. Having heard him sing this at Wingham, and decided that I wanted to learn the song, I then had to wait some years before I heard it again. He moved away to Brighton, then I moved to Oxford, and although our paths would cross from time to time, it seemed to be in situations where Bing was singing more traditional material (we were both involved, for instance, with The Keys of Canterbury, Pete Castle’s first Kent-themed compilation). In the nineties, however, Bing teamed up with fiddle-player Ben Paley, and they recorded the CD We are melting. Which, among a number of other good songs written by Bing, included ‘Painting the Town’.

I have unconsciously changed the tune a bit over the years. And consciously changed one of the lines. In the last verse, the original lyrics say “a million to one, it’s not you”. I learned the song round about the time the National Lottery was launched, in which the odds of winning were famously calculated to be around 14 million to one. So the odds of achieving happiness on “the big wheel of happiness” were correspondingly lengthened.

You’ll search the Internet in vain, I’m afraid, for a Bing Lyle web page. There’s not even a photo of him on the website of the Sussex Pistols, the Brighton-based dance band he plays with. However, I was pleased to find this 2011 video of him singing ‘Painting the Town’ at the (sadly now defunct) Royal Oak folk club in Lewes.

Painting the Town

Andy Turner – vocal, C-G anglo-concertina