Posts tagged ‘Sussex’

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.

 

 

July 23, 2020

Week 291 – Come Write Me Down

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will know that I’m a big fan of the Copper Family. This must have been one of the first Copper songs that I learned, which means I must have been singing it for very nearly 44 years. Towards the end of our wedding reception – 32 years ago today – Carol and I led a mass rendition of this in the Geoffrey Chaucer School hall in Canterbury. And a couple of years ago we did the same again, during a party at a local village hall here in Oxfordshire. The recording below provides evidence that Carol and I number some very good singers among our friends.

I had it in mind that my mate Bob (“Bob the Curator” as he likes to be known) had sent me this recording. But actually, I’m pretty sure he didn’t have a phone capable of making such a good recording at the time. So maybe it was Cathy, who I’ve known literally my entire life? Or Eric? Whoever it was, thank you for recording this, and apologies for my failing memory (getting old you know!).

And massive thanks, of course, to all our friends.

1988

Andy & Carol leading Come Write Me Down, 2018

2018. Same song, different beer.

Normally in these blog posts I write about where the song comes from. But this morning, I can’t be bothered – you’ll find plenty of details on Reinhard Zierke’s excellent Mainly Norfolk site. Meanwhile, here’s a broadside printing of the song, entitled ‘Second thoughts are best’.

Second Thoughts Are Best, from Broadside Ballads Online

Second Thoughts Are Best, from Broadside Ballads Online

 

Come Write Me Down

 

April 18, 2020

Week 288 – Our Captain Cried

This blog started less than 9 years ago, but the wealth of resources that has become available in that time to folk singers and researchers is quite staggering. The EFDSS Archive Catalogue aka Full English was launched in 2013 and continues to grow both in terms of the number of collections included, and the number of records with some kind of media attached. New collections added over the course of the last couple of years include the James Madison Carpenter collection, which has sound recordings made at a time when hardly anyone else in England was making them – and which was previously inaccessible to anyone not able to go on a research trip to Washington DC – and Ken Stubbs’ 1960s recordings from Southern England. Meanwhile, more and more catalogue records now include an image, for instance a scan of the relevant page from an old Folk Song Society Journal. The catalogue record for this song is a case in point.

The one regret I have – and in truth it could easily be remedied – is that I no longer need to go up to London on a regular basis to visit the library. In the old days I’d find an excuse to go about once a year, often coinciding with a Library Lecture, or some other event at the House. Sometimes I’d be looking for something specific: songs from Kent or Oxfordshire, or folk carols. But latterly I’d let serendipity be my friend and just flip through the pages of a bound volume of Cecil Sharp’s Folk Tunes. If I saw something that piqued my interest, I’d copy the tune into a manuscript book, or take a photocopy, then look up the words in the relevant volume of Sharps’ Folk Words. Sometimes there was no entry – Sharp had only noted the first verse – or the words were incomplete, so then I’d consult the catalogue and find other versions. And then, naturally, one thing would often lead to another.

This approach yielded such songs as , , , and the version of ‘Rout of the Blues’ that Sophie Thurman sings on Three Quarter Time. It was actually that song which led me to ‘Our Captain Cried’. I knew ‘Rout’, of course, from the Dransfields’ LP of the same name, but had never really considered that the song might have been found in the oral tradition. Having found a couple of versions collected by Sharp, I then looked for other versions, and found one from Mr Henry Hills of Lodsworth, in an old Journal. It’s one of a considerable number of Sussex songs contained in ‘Songs from the Collection of W. P. Merrick’, Journal of the Folk-Song Society, Vol. 1, No. 3 (1901), pp. 66-138. I quickly decided that Mr Hill’s ‘The Blues’ wasn’t very interesting, but a few pages further on I found this – and if nothing else, I’m sure I was drawn in by the fact that the song is written out in 4/4 but with frequent shifts into 5/4. You could actually bar it in 13/4, which is not a time signature you expect to find too often in the English tradition (although, as Martin Carthy has been known to say, English folk songs are all basically one beat to the bar).

Our Captain Cried, from JFSS Vol 1 No3; from the VWML Archive Catalogue

Our Captain Cried, from JFSS Vol 1 No3; from the VWML Archive Catalogue

The tune, you’ll quickly realise, is a member of the ‘Monk’s Gate’ / ‘Who would true valour see’ family of tunes – Vaughan Williams having based that hymn tune on one he collected (as ‘Our Captain Calls’) from Mrs Harriet Verrall, 20-odd miles away from Henry Hill’s home in Lodsworth.

For another similar version – very nicely sung by George Sansome, and with a wonderful anglo-concertina accompaniment by Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne – check out the CD Wheels Of The World by Granny’s Attic.

Our Captain Cried

Andy Turner: vocal, C/G anglo-concertina

April 19, 2019

Week 282 – Seamen Bold

There’s a very well-known version of this song – usually known as ‘The Ship in Distress’ – set to a suitably dramatic minor key tune. The fine tune came from a Mr Harwood, of Watersfield near Pulborough, and was one of four versions collected in Sussex by George Butterworth. It’s in the The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs and Martin Carthy recorded it, with a typically atmospheric fiddle accompaniment from Dave Swarbrick, on the LP But Two Came By. I was familiar with both of those sources, I think, by my late teens. So when I came across another Sussex version (the song never seems to have been collected in any other county) in Bob Copper’s book A Song for Every Season, I was intrigued by the fact that this macabre tale was set to quite a jaunty major key tune – it’s pretty much exactly the same as the “normal” tune, but transposed from minor to major. Since noone else seemed to be singing this version I determined to learn it myself. And, some 40 years later, it’s finally happened.

You can hear Bob Copper singing ‘Seamen Bold’ on the Leader box set, A Song for Every Season (assuming you’re lucky enough to have access to this long deleted classic). He revisited the song  in 1998 on the CD Coppersongs 3, which is one of the few Copper Family recordings I don’t seem to have in my collection. More recently, an older recording became available on the Topic 3-CD set Good People, Take Warning – sung by Bob’s father Jim Copper in 1951.

 

Seamen Bold, noted from Jim Copper by Francis Collinson. From the VWML Archive.

Seamen Bold, noted from Jim Copper by Francis Collinson. From the VWML Archive.

If you’re interested in learning more about songs of cannibalism (or cannibalism narrowly averted) in the tradition, check out Paul Cowdell’s article Cannibal Ballads: Not Just a Question of Taste in the Folk Music Journal Vol. 9, No. 5 (2010).

 

Seamen Bold

August 12, 2016

Week 260 – Jolly Good Song

So, ladies and gentlemen, here is my two hundred and sixtieth consecutive weekly post. Which means that A Folk Song A Week is five years old.

When I started the blog, I guesstimated that I knew about 150 songs. Obviously that turned out to be a significant understatement – the last time I did a reckoning, I counted up about another fifty songs that I know, plus more that I don’t know yet, but really must get around to learning some time. Given time, I hope to post all of those here. However, after five years, I’m going to cut myself some slack. This is certainly not the end of the blog, but I will no longer be maintaining a strict weekly publishing schedule. That’s not to say there won’t be a post next week, or the week after – but don’t count on it. So, if you want to be sure of never missing a post, do subscribe using the tools on the right.

I have to say, starting up this blog was one of the best decisions I ever made. I started it at a time when I really wasn’t doing enough singing – this way, I thought, I’ll be forced to sing at least once a week. Also, a couple of years previously, I had had a medical problem with my throat, which prevented me from singing for the best part of a year. I was (am) afraid that the problem might return, and I wanted to document my repertoire while I could. Primarily for my own benefit, but also for my children, and for posterity – whether or not posterity was remotely interested.

Obviously, I can’t speak for posterity, but it has been exceedingly gratifying to receive many positive comments – here, on Facebook, and just bumping into people at gigs, sessions and elsewhere. So thank you, everyone who has had nice things to say. I started the blog for myself, but it’s still very satisfying to know that other people appreciate it.

So, what have I learned? Well, not very many new songs, I’m afraid. I’m sure there were others, but the ones that spring to mind are ‘Georgie, ‘The Bonny Bunch of Roses O’, ‘Ye Boys o’ Callieburn’ and ‘Jack Williams’. But then there have been other songs which I’d half known for years, but which this blog prompted me to learn properly; for instance ‘All things are quite silent’, ‘Master Kilby’ and ‘House in the Country’. And then there have been a great many songs which I used to sing, had somehow allowed to fall into neglect, and then – reviving them to post here – was delighted to find were really far too good not to sing: ‘Do Me Ama’ and John Kirkpatrick’s ‘Dust to Dust’ for example. Oh, and I’ve also gained a greater facility at knocking up simple concertina accompaniments – something I’ve tended to agonise over in the past – when the need arises: by way of example, see ‘Here’s Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy’, ‘Warlike Seamen‘, ‘Saint Stephen’ and ‘The Somerset Wassail’.

And I’ve learned so much writing up the weekly blog entries. Even where I thought I knew quite a bit about the song already, a bit of digging around on my bookshelves and on the web has invariably produced further information. There’s such a wealth of information online now for anyone with an interest in these old songs, and the sources continue to multiply. When I began, we were still marvelling at the EFDSS Take Six resource. But that turned out just to be whetting our appetite for the riches which the Full English archive would offer. The Bodleian, too, has expanded and improved its Broadside Ballad site. And then there’s sites like Tobar an Dualchais, Gloucestershire Traditions and, one I found just recently, The music of Sally Sloane.  My heartfelt thanks to all the people involved in building and updating these sites. And to everyone whose contributions to Mudcat I have plundered over the last five years, especially to the late Malcolm Douglas, who I never knew, but whose name I am always pleased to see cropping up on a thread about a song’s origins.

And a massive thank you to Reinhard Zierke, whose Mainly Norfolk site is normally my first port of call when researching a song (if only because it always provides me with a Roud number and a link to the Full English), and whose comments here have been unfailingly constructive and helpful. Reinhard – you’re a gent.

As for this song, for a long while I’ve had it stored up to use as The Last Song On The Blog. Well, this isn’t actually the Last Post, but it seemed like a suitable time to post it here. Bob Copper sings it on Turn o’ the Year, disc 4 of the Leader A Song for Every Season box set; although I learned it from my mate Adrian Russell, on one of the sing-songs we used to have driving between country pubs in Kent. Being polite, Bob Copper sings “give the old bounder some beer”. Adrian, I’m pretty sure, always used to sing “give the old bugger some beer”, which I imagine is closer to what Bob and his father’s Rottingdean companions actually sang between songs in the Black Horse.

At the end of a song, quite often the company in general would sing,

A jolly good song and jolly well sung,
Jolly good company, everyone;
If you can beat it you’re welcome to try,
But always remember the singer is dry.

Give the old bounder some beer —
He’s had some, he’s had some.
Then give the old bounder some more.

Half a pint of Burton won’t hurt’n, I’m certain,
O, half a pint of Burton won’t hurt’n, I’m sure.

s – u – p

(notes to Bob and Ron Copper English Shepherd and Farming Songs, Folk Legacy Records)

Three men discuss various local issues over a pint of beer and a cigarette at the Wynnstay Arms in Ruabon, Denbighshire, Wales. From the Ministry of Information Second World War Collection, Imperial War Museum. © IWM (D 18478)

Three men discuss various local issues over a pint of beer and a cigarette at the Wynnstay Arms in Ruabon, Denbighshire, Wales. From the Ministry of Information Second World War Collection, Imperial War Museum. © IWM (D 18478)

 

Clearly, it was not only in Sussex that this refrain was used in such a way. On Mudcat, Robin Turner (no relation, as far as I know) recalls

As a lad in the late 1940s and early 50s, I was taken to many concerts of the Ullswater Pack, in pubs such as the White Lion Patterdale, and the Travellers rest at Glenridding…

Many of the tunes I still recall, and I particularly recall the enthusiastic and knowledgeable audience participation at these concerts. After each singer, the MC for the evening would lead everybody in a short chorus of appreciation of the singer, which went:
“Its a Jolly good song, and its jolly well sung, Jolly good company every-one, And he who can beat it is welcome to try, But always remember the Singer is Dry!” followed by a common roar “Sup, yer Bloodhounds, Sup!”

 

And the same usage is described in this article in The Glasgow Herald, 18 September 1915

Old, old songs belonging to the early Victorian age were given by soldiers who had great emotion and broke down sometimes in the middle of a verse. There were funny men dressed in the Mother Twankey style or in burlesque uniforms who were greeted with veils of laughter by their comrades. An Australian giant played some clever card tricks, and another Australian recited Kipling’s “Gunga Din” with splendid fire. And between every “turn” the soldiers in the fiels roared out a chorus:—

“Jolly good song,
Jolly well sung,
If you can think of a better you’re welcome to try,
But don’t forget the singer is dry,
Give the poor beggar some beer!”

 

Meanwhile, in Yorkshire, where they pride themselves on plain speaking, this recording of the Holme Valley Beagles suggests that there’s no messing around with “bounder” or “beggar”. Here the refrain is

Sup, you bugger, sup!

And so say all of us.

 

Happy old man drinking glass of beer, 1937.

Happy old man drinking glass of beer, 1937.

 

Oh, there’s one last thank you before I go: to Jon Boden, whose A Folk Song A Day provided the original inspiration for this blog, and several others besides. Look what you started, Jon…

Jolly Good Song

July 15, 2016

Week 256 – Baltimore

A saucy song, and no mistake, which I learned from the Topic LP Round Rye Bay for More: Traditional Songs from the Sussex Coast, featuring Mike Yates’ 1976 recordings of the irrepressible  Sussex fisherman Johnny Doughty. Or, possibly, learned from my friend Adrian Russell, who had learned it from a Johnny Doughty recording.

I listened to Johnny singing this recently, and found that he only had  a few verses. I then looked online for fuller versions, and couldn’t really find any. So I have made use of my knowledge of the female anatomy, imperfect though I’m sure this is, to expand the song.

Baltimore

March 18, 2016

Week 239 – All things are quite silent

The first song in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, Vaughan Williams noted this on the 22nd December 1904, from Mr Ted Baines of Lower Beeding in Sussex. That’s just down the road from Monksgate, where RVW collected many fine songs from Peter and Harriet Verrall. He had only three songs from Mr Baines, but what a find this one was – like ‘Master Kilby’ and ‘The Brisk Young Widow’, it’s a song which has been collected only once from tradition.

Unlike those two songs, a broadside version has been identified – ‘I’ll mourn for my sailor; Or, The Compulsion’, printed in Hull, Manchester and London, but not yet (as far as I can ascertain) accessible on the web.

Vaughan Williams recorded that Ted Baines was an agricultural labourer, aged “about 70”. Malcolm Douglas, in his biographical notes in Classic English Folk Songs (the revised edition of the Penguin book) identifies an Edwin Baines in the 1881 census, aged 54, so quite likely our singer – except he doesn’t seem to be in the 1901 census.

‘All things are quite silent’ is one of those songs I’ve sort of known for years – since the late 1970s in fact, having first heard it on Steeleye Span’s LP Hark! The Village Wait. I’ve tried to sing the melody as collected – it’s a very simple AABA type tune, whereas most people, following Steeleye and Shirley Collins, sing an ABCA variation. The words, however, are a sometimes misremembered mixture of those found in the Penguin book, and some which have snuck in from other people’s versions.

All Things Are Quite Silent, as collected from Ted Baines, 22 Dec 1904. From the Full English archive.

All Things Are Quite Silent, as collected from Ted Baines, 22 Dec 1904. From the Full English archive.

All things are quite silent

March 12, 2016

Week 238 – The Faithful Sailor Boy

I always think of this as a Kentish song. I learned it from George Spicer, who was born at Little Chart near Ashford, and learned most of his songs as a young man in Kent. In the 1940s Francis Collinson noted it from William Crampon from Smarden. And in the 1980s, when I met Charlie Bridger, I found that he also knew the song – at least, he knew the first verse and chorus, and I was able to provide him with the rest of the words.

But of course the song was known throughout Britain, and further afield. In his notes to the Musical Traditions CD Plenty of Thyme by Suffolk singer Cyril Poacher, Rod Stradling writes

The Faithful Sailor Boy was written by George W. Persley towards the end of the 19th century. Few songs have achieved such widespread popularity among country singers and their audiences. It turns up again and again in tap-room sing-songs throughout Britain, even through into the 1980s. Gavin Greig described it as being “Very popular in Aberdeenshire in the early years of this century” (and, sure enough, Daisy Chapman had it in her repertoire), and we have heard it in both Donegal and Cork in the last few years. Two versions have been found in the North Carolina mountains (there’s a ’20s hillbilly recording by Flora Noles, Sailor Boy’s Farewell—Okeh 45037), while other other sets have been reported from as far away as Australia and Tristan da Cunha.

Actually, the authorship of the piece is unclear: the song’s entry in the New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs states

The song appeared on one or two late nineteenth-century broadsides, and was probably written about 1880. Several sources claim that it was composed by the well-known songwriters Thomas Payne Westendorf (1848-1923) and G. W. Persley (1837-94), but we have not been able to confirm this, nor have we found any original sheet music.

Blackberry Fold - Topic LP sleeve (from the Mainly Norfolk website)

Blackberry Fold – Topic LP sleeve (from the Mainly Norfolk website)

Although I learned this from the Topic LP Blackberry Fold I think the first time I ever heard it was at a meeting of the shortlived folk club which Alan Castle  (subsequently the organiser of the long-running Tenterden Folk Festival) ran at the Victoria in Ashford, circa 1979. On that occasion it was sung by Adrian Russell, at least one of the Creissen brothers (Terry and/or Gary) and probably Tim Bull. Adrian or Gary may remember – so if you’re remotely interested (and I can’t think why you would be, to be honest), keep an eye on the Comments below this blog post.

The Faithful Sailor Boy

January 15, 2016

Week 230 – Corduroy

Many of the Copper Family’s songs are much loved and widely sung – national treasures, you might say. This is not one of those, but there was a time when I would be called upon to sing it at least once a year. I learned it from the Copper Family 4 LP set A Song for every Season, and from Bob Copper’s book Early to rise. 

The entry for this song on the Copper Family website links to this Mudcat post where the late Malcolm Douglas provides the following background information:

This was a popular song of the mid-19th century; presumably it had its origins in the Music Halls–the tune is very much of that type. There are several broadside copies at the Bodleian Library Broadside Collection:

Suit of Corderoy Printed between 1846 and 1854 by E.M.A. Hodges, (from Pitt’s), wholesale toy warehouse, 31 Dudley street [S]even Dials.

The suit of corduroy Printed between 1860 and 1883 by H. Disley, 57, High-street, St. Giles, London. W.C.

Suit of corduroy Printed by Bebbington, J.O. Oldham-road, Manchester.

Suit of corduroy! Printed and Sold between 1849 and 1862 at Such’s Song Mart, 123, Union Street, Boro’ S.E.

There is also a mostly illegible Glasgow edition, which specifies the tune as that of Four and Nine.

Some of the above are in Standard English, others are written in the “Stage Cockney” of the day. There isn’t a great deal of variation in the texts, though locations and the name of the tailors vary. Evidently, the song made it to the USA as well; there is a songsheet at the “America Singing” Collection:

The Suit of Corduroys H. De Marsan, Publisher, 60 Chatham Street, N. Y. [no date.] Again, much the same, but with the incontinence episode omitted, perhaps for the benefit of tender American sensibilities!

 

Suit of corderoy. Broadside from the Bodleian collection. Printed between 1846 and 1854, by E. Hodges, Printer, (from Pitt's), wholesale toy warehouse, 31 Dudley street [S]even Dials

Suit of corderoy. Broadside from the Bodleian collection. Printed between 1846 and 1854, by E. Hodges, Printer, (from Pitt’s), wholesale toy warehouse, 31 Dudley street [S]even Dials

 

I have followed John Copper’s lead on the 1970s recording and inserted an additional raspberry into the last line of the song. As John so eloquently put it

Well, hardly worth paying a man for one raspberry

Corduroy