Join In: Folk Song Workshop for Winter


LESTER SIMPSON FOLK SONG WORKSHOP

SECULAR WINTER SONGS

LEARN AROUND 5 SONGS

long LONGEST NIGHT BASIC LOGO2 copy

SATURDAY 28TH NOVEMBER 2015

12:45- 17:15

ST HILDA’S CHURCH HALL

COURTRAI ROAD SE23 1NL

bus routes 122, P4, 171, 172 stop on the corner.

train to Crofton Park or Honor Oak Park 10 minute walk.

advanced booking required

Book Here

£25

INCLUDES REFRESHMENTS

all abilities welcome.

 

Pretending poetry, songs of liberty and Ursula le Guin


The thing about running your own business is that holidays become almost entirely theoretical. It’s a holiday to leave the computer for long enough to hang out the washing on a sunny day, it’s a holiday to take the long way to the post office, it’s a holiday to read something that isn’t for work, or to listen to something that requires your full attention on the radio, or to take a day to learn new songs.

The thing about running your own business is that you can build a holiday in anywhere you want to, and around anything you want to, and justify it as ‘work’.

So a week in Cumbria because one of the poets in The Other Side of Sleep had organised a reading in Grange-over-Sands and it’s too far to go and not stay over, and if you have to stay over, well…

A few days with friends in Bath and a stop over with another on the way to Cheltenham.

So I briefly pretended I’m a poet last week. As I said whilst doing so, I am not a poet, I occasionally write poetry, it really isn’t the same thing. So here’s me pretending to be a poet, with one poem and two flash fictions that happen to kind of work as poems.

cherry grange os

If you want to hear how real poets do it you can listen over on the Arachne Press website. I’ll be pretending again at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival on Saturday in the company of Angela France, Math Jones, Bernie Howley, Kate Foley and Jennifer A McGowan.

In the meantime I’ve been listening to Ursula le Guin on Radio4, first an epic 2 hour catch-up with The Left Hand of Darkness, and then a 30 minute documentary, with the woman herself, and various writers who admire and were influenced by her, including Neil Gaiman,  Karen Joy Fowler and David Mitchell. I found myself falling in love with LHD all over again. I read it first in my teens, and again about 5 years ago, and I am in awe of le Guin’s talent and the subtlety of the adaptation for Radio by Judith Adams, everything I remember is there, and the bitter, bone deep cold swells through the recording so, so well. Listening to Gaiman and Mitchell say words to the effect of ‘this is why I became a writer’, I wonder: is this why I became a writer? (and unlike ‘poet’ I do identify as ‘writer’ because even when not writing I obsess about it – think about my characters, interrogate my bad habits, consider plot twists, discover great titles in over heard conversations…) and I think the answer is probably YES.

The Left Hand of Darkness has been one of  my favourite books since I first read it, and unlike many others was even better on the second reading, and still made me cry (and I think another re-read is due). Discovering it so early, probably about the time I began to seriously think I might write ‘for real’, it must have had a huge impact. It is hard to tell, I read voraciously at that point, three books a day at weekends, back to back, swimming in words. I’m sure I amalgamate many of those books in my mind, not sure what comes from where, but LHD stands out from the morass, as do other of le Guin’s books: The Tombs of Atuan and The Lathe of Heaven in particular. They are doing an adaptation of A Wizard of Earthsea (My first ever le Guin read, when I was probably nine or ten) on Radio4 Extra next week – LISTEN!

Did you think you were going to get away without a reference to music? Ha! fooled you.

I spent Saturday immersed in songs about making choices and community and freedom, taught by the marvellous Lester Simpson in preparation for the next ‘big idea’, a celebration of Magna Carta in the week of the actual 800 year anniversary of the first draft being signed (if you ignore the change of calendar in the 18th Century). Nearly 50 people turned up and we sounded amazing. Here’s a sample…

You’ll get a chance to hear the songs we are working on in a more polished format at West Greenwich Library, 7:30 on Thursday 18th June. More on that nearer the time. There is a call out for STORIES for the event over at Arachne, you have til Mayday.

Right. Off to my next ‘holiday’, in Bath for readings of Solstice Shorts at Oldfield Park Books, this evening!

Celebrate 800 years of Magna Carta in song


Join
Lester Simpson
of Coope Boyes & Simpson
in celebrating
800 years of Magna Carta
with
Songs of Liberty
A Folk Song Workshop

Cotton Augustus II.106St Hilda’s Church Hall
Courtrai Road
London SE23 1NL
Saturday 18th April 2015 12:45- 5:15
£25

Tickets available here advance booking essential

 

Listening between the notes


Monday Night, Croydon Folk Club, Coope Boyes & Simpson gig.

I know I spend a lot of time writing about music, but there is method in it. In the right circumstances, and these were they, being in the front row, singing along with professional musicians who encourage joining in, not only do the spirits lift, but the brain uncreases and all sorts of weird and wonderful ideas get flowing, despite the slightly wistful I wish I could do that that takes over when I hear someone at the top of their game as CB&S are.

Coope Boyes & Simpson are very relaxed, unassuming performers, they chat quite happily between songs, but when they are singing they pay close attention to each other, giving the impression that they might just be improvising, not that I think they are, and there is a feeling that you are eavesdropping on a private session. They feel no need to drag the audience in, there is no need to do more than sing.  The timing is exquisite (The Cool of the Day), the harmonies clever and the contained way in which they deliver quite devastating songs (Hill of Little Shoes) is perfect.

To get singing (and song writing – Falling Slowly and Turn Your Face to the Light) of this calibre in a prefab shack at the back of Ruskin House is extraordinary. Worth missing the last train for. Lester Simpson claims to not know anything about music theory, describing one of the songs as not being in 4/4 time, but the changes in tempo in his songs are one of their highlights.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Live music works on two different levels for me, I get completely engrossed in the music, (which is so totally three-dimensional compared to recordings) at the same time that I am following and playing with the harmonies, which have their own spacial existence, I also listen to the spaces between the notes.

I was once asked to explain harmony to a Deaf choreographer, eventually I said, when you have more than one person dancing, what they do reflects and follows and contradicts what the other dancers are doing, and they create shapes that only exist in the relationship between each dancer? (Poor interpreter, that stretched him), Yes yes, she said. Right, that’s what harmony is, just in sound, I said, sweating a little with the effort. She beamed, completely understanding.

So I do, on some level, experience sound (in particular music) as being shape and space and three dimensions,  (I’m sure in terms of the physics of sound waves that this is true, if not quite how a scientist would describe it) and that creates room for something else.

Inspiration.

Festive Spirits


Christmas is all about singing for me, either performing, or in the audience.  This year was no exception, starting with a superb workshop of traditional folk carols with Lester Simpson on the 1st December. We learnt Adam Lay ybounden (15th Century),  Dunstan Lullaby (very simple, very effective) and a couple of variants of While Shepherds watched, one of which, Shepherds Rejoice was absolutely glorious. Lester is a fearless teacher – here is this group of thirty people most of whom have not sung together before, and he has us in four parts (despite only having 2 basses), with echoes and offset rhythms, and we just rose to the challenge. We hope to make these workshops an annual event (Christmas wise) and perhaps fit in one or two more during the year. If you are interested in attending contact me and I will make sure you are told when the next one is.

Shepherds Rejoice sung at Lester Simpson’s Workshop

The following day we were in the audience for the Trade Winds concert at St Johns in Catford, which we made by the skin of teeth, going straight there from the launch of Stations at the Brunel Museum. We knew many of the songs and joined in happily.

Then there was the Raise the Roof Christmas Concert at the Horniman. The final one under the direction of Melanie Harrold, which made it rather emotional.  We sang a lot of the same songs as Trade Winds, but RtR has always made a raucous, joyous, racket, so the style was a little different even though the same arrangements.

During the rehearsal I started feeling really tired and had to sit on the floor; and by Monday (rehearsal for Vivaldi Gloria at Blackheath Halls) was feeling decidedly below par.

Wednesday rehearsing for carol singing with Summer All Year Long, couldn’t hold a tune or remember a part.

Thursday, dress rehearsal for Gloria, too ill to go.

Friday, performance, got through the Gloria (and it was rather fine) and went home in the interval to nurse my temperature. Not a happy bunny, week-long singing all thrown into a mess by a cold.

Saturday, Carol singing with SAYL at Hills & Parkes – Me A, M and P all with colds or worse, T with a broken rib, not our finest hour, minute audience. Further carol singing at Brockley Christmas Market (in the rain), ditto, though joined by L, and S turned up to help shake the collecting tin.  I don’t think Shelter did very well out of our efforts this year.

So, I had really got to the point where I didn’t think festive spirit was going to stir at all, and we had tickets for Michael Morpurgo’s On Angel’s Wings, in Salisbury Cathedral for the Saturday that all the trains were up the creek due to flooding.  The reason for this overland trek was that the story was being interpreted by Michael himself, with Juliet Stevenson, and Coope Boyes & Simpson (joined by Fi Fraser, Jo Freya and Georgina Boyes) singing carols including the ones we had learnt with Lester, and we really wanted to hear him sing them as they should be sung..

If we get to Waterloo and its even a bit dodgy we are coming straight home we promised each other, coughing fitfully.

And the train was half empty and left on time.

And the Cathedral had an actual donkey and sheep tucked away in the cloisters, to keep the queue amused.

And we got reasonable seats.

And  (once they got all the microphones working) it was lovely – a charming story beautifully told, first class music and one of the best buildings in the country. Festive spirit woke up with a bang.

Quentin Blake’s beautiful illustrations were projected onto a huge screen, there were (rather sinister) angels suspended from the columns, and CB&S and friends sang magnificently.  In particular Shepherds Rejoice, the song Lester had taught us, there was a moment (goodwill to men, and peace and endless love… it didn’t happen like that when we sang it – one day we will be able to match the accoustic glory) when so much was going on it didn’t seem possible it was only six voices, it was worth the journey just for that fleeting, golden moment.

Gearing up for Yule


I don’t care how many shopping days, what matters now is, how many singing days are there til the Solstice?

And how many reading days? My evenings are  split roughly equally between singing and promoting the books between now and Christmas.

Rehearsals every Monday for Vivaldi Gloria at Blackheath Halls Christmas Concert

Tuesdays at the Horniman Museum preparing for the end of term Raise the Roof concert (the last under the organic direction of Melanie Harrold)

Lester Simpson workshop on 1st December (folk carols, my favourite kind.)  All afternoon get tickets to join in here

Squeezing in Summer All Year Long rehearsals for our gig at Hills & Parkes in aid of Shelter on 15th December at 3:30, which might be followed by other places including Brockley Christmas Market.

Reading STATIONS at Canvas & Cream Wednesday 28th November 7pm

and Deptford Lounge Thursday 29th November at 7pm

The Official Launch at Brunel Museum on Sunday 2nd December 12:30-2:30

Hills & Parkes Wednesday 5th December at 6pm

and Brick Lane Bookshop Thursday 6th December at 7pm

So, no I don’t care how many shopping days it is, because I’m not going shopping! Friends and Family: your choice – you can have a copy of Stations or London Lies as your festive gift, or I could sing you a carol…?

The Singing Season


Not that the singing season ever went away, it’s a bit like football, the break gets shorter all the time; but we didn’t do Sing for Water this year because of A’s broken leg, so larynx and lungs feeling a bit under used.

So the good news is that Raise the Roof is back next week, and we’ve already started Summer All Year Long back into a regular schedule (although it may be disrupted by Arachne Press activities – or not, actually as some of the repertoire is London songs with the thought that we might have a musical interlude at some of the readings.) And we’ve signed up to sing the Vivaldi Gloria for the annual Christmas spectacular at Blackheath Halls, where rumour has it Wendy Dawn Thompson will be joining us as one of the soloists.  We love Wendy, she is great fun to sing with. I’ve already bumped into two people we sing with whilst doing the rounds of bookshops and venues for readings of London Lies, and anticipation is running high!

Plans are also afoot for another workshop with Lester Simpson of Coope, Boyes & Simpson for 1st December, and on a consumption front we are booked to go to the ‘Last Night of the Mini Proms’ where the lovely and talented Messrs Grant Doyle and Nick Sharratt with whom we have sung on numerous occassions, are singing (amongst other things) the Pearl Fishers Duet, which will be distinctly lush.

© Cherry Potts 2012