Folk Sounds Best at Cecil Sharp House

Folk Sounds Best
The English Folk Dance and Song Society has unveiled its line up for the 2017 summer music and performance season at England’s national folk arts centre, Cecil Sharp House in London.

Elliott Morris
Wednesday 21 June, 7.30pm
Tickets: £12 | £10 under 26s

Elliott MorrisWith hundreds of gigs behind him Elliott Morris has a formidable reputation as one of the hardest-working and most sought-after young artists on the acoustic scene.  The singer-songwriter, featured in Acoustic magazine as “The Next Big Thing”, taps the strings and beats the guitar’s body to create an intricate spectacle, together with an original and unique sound integral to his songs.

Elliott’s original compositions marry intricate guitar lines with heartfelt, honest vocals and clever wordplay, combining elements of folk, roots, jazz and country. Embracing the traditional and the contemporary – this is folk music for the 21st century.  Elliott’s versatile blend of folk, pop and rock has complemented a range of major artists he has supported including Frank Turner, Seth Lakeman, Lau, Big Country, and The Three Degrees, and revered folk veterans Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick. He has also supported Paul Carrack (Squeeze, Mike + The Mechanics, Eric Clapton) on many of his UK tour dates.

“One of the most impressive guitarists to grace our studio for a very long time…a compelling listen – and mesmerising to watch!”  Dean Jackson – The Beat / BBC Introducing

The Takeover
Sunday 9 July, 7pm
​Tickets: £6

Showcasing talented young folk bands and musicians, this concert wraps up an evening of activities for young people, including ceilidh dancing and a jam session. The Takeover is curated, organised and hosted by EFDSS ‘​ Youth Forum and EFDSS’ resident folk collective, London Youth Folk Ensemble.

Venue website: www.cecilsharphouse.org/csh-whats-on.

THE SHEE – Continuum (Shee Records SHEE4)

ContinuumThe concept behind Continuum, supported by Celtic Connections, was to celebrate their tenth anniversary by having each of them commission a musician of their choice to write a piece of music for the album. That’s only half the story, of course, for the band had then to arrange the music for six players and write some pieces to bind the whole thing together.

The opening song is ‘From The Shadows’ by Laura-Beth Salter. It’s a powerful call to arms to … ah, well. It could be a feminist piece, the logical first thought, but it could be a warning to the rich and powerful that the poor and oppressed aren’t going to take it any more. Next come two atmospheric pieces by Kathryn Tickell; one evoking the borders and the other with a Scandinavian feel. The playing, needless to say, is exquisite.

Rachel Newton commissioned Karine Polwart and the result is ‘Song For Mary’. The Mary in question is Mary Brooksbank, composer of ‘The Jute Mill Song’ and an archive recording of one verse forms the introduction. We’re not told that it’s Mary herself but I’d like to think it is. Amy Thatcher naturally turned to a box-player and who better than Andy Cutting? Olivia Ross’ choice was Chris Wood who shares the credit for ‘Cradle Song’ with lyricist Hugh Lupton. The Shee turns what could be a pretty little song into something quite strange so you’re not sure whether this a mother singing to her baby from the safety of a warm fireside or struggling home from the storm outside.

Laura-Beth, Amy and Shona Mooney provide the next two tune sets with Shona responsible for the wonderfully titled ‘The Vampire Rabbit Of Newcastle’. Olivia wrote ‘Precious Tears’, a song for children – possibly the band members’ own – and Brian Finnegan wrote a trio of tunes with Lillias- Kinsman-Blake’s flute and a journey through India in mind. Finally, we have Martin Simpson’s song for his mother. ‘Dance With Me’ might be seen as the companion-piece to ‘Never Any Good’. Laura-Beth sings it and plays mandolin where Martin would use guitar and the band play what is almost an orchestral accompaniment.

Continuum is a monument to musical collaboration and the exchange of ideas but more than that, it is a tribute to six exceptionally talented musicians.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the THE SHEE – Continuum link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: https://theshee.com/

‘Ower Late For The Lasses/Sheepolska’ and more with Kathryn Tickell live at Celtic Connections 2016:

MADE IN THE GREAT WAR – Live at Forest Arts, New Milton

MADE IN THE GREAT WAR – Live at Forest Arts, New Milton
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

The show opened with Sam Sweeney stepping onto the stage and taking THE fiddle from its place in the spotlight. He played ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’ and ‘Jean De Paris’ before introducing Rob Harbron who joined him for ‘The Battle Of Prague’ and ‘British Grenadiers’. As Sam pointed out these were four tunes that led a double life as both folk tunes and military marches – this was the beginning of an “overture” to the show itself.

The fiddle is one left unfinished by Richard Spencer Howard of Leeds when he went to war in 1916 and which, though a long series of events, was bought by Sam Sweeney who realised that there was a story behind the instrument.

Paul Sartin and Hugh Lupton completed the line-up on stage. Paul sang ‘The Scarlet And The Blue’, a song which has passed through countless regiments and, indeed, armies and Hugh recounted a story from his show, Barbed Wire For Kisses which immediately set me thinking of War Horse. It was the perfect link to ‘Home, Lad, Home’. The first set closed with ‘Rose Howard’, an extra track on the album which didn’t find space in the show.

Original tour programme
Original tour programme

On record, the focus of Made In The Great War is Hugh Lupton’s narration – the story is the most important element. On stage, other factors take over. The set poses, variously, as a music-hall, a trench and a battlefield. There are visual elements, film and slides as well as the set dressing and the performance is cleverly choreographed – there is barely time for a round of applause between the set pieces. Indeed, applause sometimes feels intrusive.

There was clowning during ‘The Palace Of Varieties’ and drama. ‘The Battle Of Messines’ was signalled by furious drumming by Sam, synched to film of explosions, which made the audience jump after the relative quiet of ‘June 17th 1917 – Zero Day’ and there were two more highlights. The first was Sam’s singing of ‘The Ballad Of Richard Howard’, alone in a spotlight, with so-subtle support from Rob and Paul. It is a powerful song owing something of its origins to ‘The Cruel Sister’. Finally he played ‘Epilogue’ alongside film of him playing the same tune standing by Richard Howard’s grave in Belgium. Initially, he watched the screen, carefully matching his playing with the film but later he looked down and let the music take over.

There can be no encore. You can’t follow that but the story continues. It transpires that a second Howard fiddle has come to light – Sam’s is No.6 and now No.2 is known to have survived – and Richard Howard’s grand-daughter, not knowing the full story, has contacted Sam. Made In The Great War has been toured twice and I hope that Sam and the company will tour again. It is a show that has to be seen by as many people as possible.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Website: www.madeinthegreatwar.com

Sam Sweeney plays ‘The Last Post’ by Richard Howard’s grave: