Folk. Always


I  have been singing folk carols for something like 6 hours today, because Vocal Chords, my regular (as opposed to occasional forays elsewhere) choir, are doing a recording. Carols in August, why not?

I love folk music. It’s something to do with the ability to tell a story, and not be afraid of really going for it, whether it’s the Dunstan Lullaby which gets its point across in 3 verses (one of which is repeated) of 4 lines, in which only 2 lines change, or something like Anarchy Gordon which goes on telling its deadly tale of lost love, brutality and despair for verse after verse after… (I’ve not counted – 24?) And then there’s the deceptively simple tunes, some designed to be sung solo, some raucously joyful harmonies. I like loads of types of music – I sing in operas, I was in a punk band briefly, but you could say that folk is my default setting.

So when the idea for Solstice Shorts Festival landed pretty much fully formed in my head in January, as soon as I realised that there would be music, folk rose steadily to the top of my list of possibles. Partly because the theme is Time, and I was struggling to find much classical music that was suitable and that I liked whereas folk is chock full of it; partly because it became clear there wasn’t going to be much room so the musical groups needed to be small; partly because so many pop/rock songs we thought would work turned out to have seriously dodgy verses (either plain bad, or offensive).

(Help us get the festival to happen – contribute to our crowd fund)

Folk is adaptable. That’s why folk carols exist – when the church took against the gallery musicians and insisted on carols that could be directly linked to the bible, the people who had been singing and playing carols since who-knows-when, stood outside the church and sang in protest, moving to the pub when it turned chilly. (Is this really how it happened? Or is it just another good folk story?)

Anyway, the point is, FOLK. so I contacted our friends Sue & Nyge at The Goose is Out and asked for suggestions. So, provided we get our funding, we have folk music happening on 21st December – the Winter Solstice – from Sunrise to Sunset, interspersed with new short stories.

Let me introduce you to our musicians:

(Help us get the festival to happen – contribute to our crowd fund – think of this as the chorus)

Ian Kennedy and Sarah Lloyd

Ian and Sarah are local musicians who delight in blending their voices in live unaccompanied harmony. Their repertoire covers traditional folk songs, including nursery rhymes and the occasional long ballad. Having warmed their vocal chords at The Goose is Out Singarounds, they now regularly sing floor spots at the Goose club nights in Nunhead, Tooting, Sharps and Islington folk clubs and as far afield as the Towersey Festival. In the last year, they have supported both Thomas McCarthy and the Copper Family for sell out nights at the Ivy House Community Pub in Nunhead. Earlier this year, Ian and Sarah performed as a duo at Cecil Sharp House for the launch of the EFDSS Yan Tan Tethera textiles and song project. They are also founder members of the Dulwich Folk Choir.

Shadrack Tye

Shadrack Tye have won critical acclaim from audiences and promoters alike for their performances at venues and festivals in London and around the country. All members of the same family, they perform folk arrangements and original songs bringing to both a multitude of musical influences.Tina and Paul have had long careers playing for top London orchestras and as music educationalists, while Sony artist Sam also sings with vocal jazz harmony group Vive, recently featured on both BBC television and radio.

I look forward to hearing some more of their stuff because it’s different and very, very interesting…..like it very much …

Mike Harding- Folk Show

In their first year out Shadrack Tye were invited to play in the Folk Rising series at Cecil Sharpe House and also performed at the Purbeck, Wessex and Folk Thing festivals.In 2013 they debuted most successfully at the Rochester Sweeps and Broadstairs folk festivals, while this years firsts included Gate to Southwell and  the London Folkfest at the Bedford, Balham as well as an invitation to return to the main stage at the Wessex Festival. More recently they have headlined at venues in London and the south, most notably at the famous Bush Hall in west London.

Last year they achieved multiple radio plays on the Tom Robinson Show, BBC Introducing Mixtape and Mike Harding Folk Show and in addition, after being heard live by the producer of the International Ronnie Scott’s Radio Show, they were given the opportunity to record their much-loved cover of “Big Yellow Taxi” for the Joni Mitchell Special aired in the UK, USA and Canada.

They were also the featured band for Spiral Earth’s “Introducing” article in November 2013.

Their self-released EP – “The Lovers Tale”, was described by Mike Harding as “damn fine” and they are currently creating their next album due for release in 2014.

Rosemary Lippard

Rosemary has been singing British Traditional Music in folk clubs for nearly 3 years now. She often sings unaccompanied but is also in folk duos, with consummate guitarist Tim Graham, and as Country Parish Music with Steven Collins, founder of the Owl Service and Stone Tape Recording. She has played at gigs for The Goose Is Out in South East London, Leigh On Sea Folk Festival, Oxford Folk Weekend, The Islington Folk Club (from whom she won the Trad2Mad award in 2012) and the Green Note Cafe, Camden supporting artists such as Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin, Ewan McLennan, Long Lankin, The Askew Sisters, and Jim Causley. Rosemary hopes to be doing a few gigs this September, with Tim Graham, around England and potentially Wales… and for there to be enough gigs to call it a tour…

Pepper and Shepherd

Pepper and Shepherd are James Pepper and Anthony Shepherd. They play intricate, honest folk music on mandolin, guitar, ukulele and harmonies. They formed in 2009 and both live in Peckham, South London.
Their second album, Kings on the Rye was released on last August Bank Holiday. A bittersweet collection of eight original folk songs, written, recorded and produced in a tiny flat on Peckham High Street in the spring of 2013.

(Help us get the festival to happen – contribute to our crowd fund – you are thinking of this as the chorus – yes?)

And finally, and most personally, Summer All Year Long

Summer All Year Long (SAYL) is a group of friends who meet in my living room to sing for the pleasure of it, and sometimes do this in public, usually in connection with an Arachne Press event.

Since January we have been ploughing through what seems like thousands of songs about or related to time, trying things out and rejecting them, or making up arrangements. A lot of wine has been drunk, many, many songs have been discarded, and we are getting very excited about the few that have passed the no-one hates it, we can all sing it, the arrangement sounds great test. Not all of them started out as folk songs, but they are now!

(Help us get the festival to happen – contribute to our crowd fund – We’ll be very grateful and there are loads of fun and interesting rewards…)

 

Singing and ringing and feeling like christmas


So: Saturday was a singing day, 3 hours or so, rehearsing, performing, singing with the audience, interspersed with beer at the lovely Ivy House.

We like to have a theme or a project for Vocal Chords, in the summer it was love songs for the planet, this autumn  it has been folk carols, learnt from Lester Simpson and dragged out of our collective record collections and memories, and performed with gusto!

The arrangements sound quite complex and the parts can get a little  competitive as to who can sing loudest, but they are actually quite simple so long as you can keep in time.

Here is a sample, my absolute favourite of the songs we sang, although it is a hard, hard choice, as I loved all of them!

This is the definition of Joyous, for me, cynical old atheist though I am.

And then Sunday we were selling Arachne Press books at a christmas market at the delightful Alexandra Nurseries (still singing under our breaths, both ‘Curly Hark’ and snatches of Britten’s St Nicholas, mostly ‘landlord take this piece of gold, bring us meat before the cold’although we weren’t cold, thanks to our lined walking trousers, winter coats, hats mittens, long-johns…) It was a very jolly day, good weather and plenty of punters.

SO apart from all the events we are going to and taking part in over the next week – Liars’ League Snow & Stars tomorrow, Story Sessions Wednesday, (where I am reading as well as compereing)The ‘work’ xmas party with my fellow WooA writers,  and christmas shopping at Brockley Xmas market & the £3 christmas bazaar and enjoying V G Lee and Rose Collis’ drollery at Bah Humbuggers (Dyke the Halls) on Saturday – all spare time is going on rehearsing for St Nicholas, which we are singing at Blackheath Halls in the Christmas Concert on Friday 20th

St Nicolas posterand for our Carol Singing in aid of Shelter with Summer All Year Long around Brockley, Honor Oak and Forest Hill on Saturday 21st.

final stop the station

final stop the station

 

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.

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