World getting a bit weighty? Lift your spirits in the wilds of South Yorkshire at Soundpost’s 2019 singing weekend.
The Fairy Gathering 2019 (which takes place 10-12 May in Dungworth) will feature singers such as Marry Waterson, Fay Hield, Lucy Farrell, Ewan MacPherson and Ben Nicholls. The idea for this year’s weekend comes from the Modern Fairies Project, a unique collaboration between leading songwriters, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers and researchers to develop exciting new work, presenting fresh perspectives on what folklore means to us in the modern world. The weekend will see the artists delving into the world of folk tales and exploring how they can be made relevant to singers and listeners today.
They will present hands on workshops to help you develop your own singing and songwriting with plenty of opportunity to get involved and explore new ways to work with folklore and music.
“The fantasy of the fairy world offers escape to a place of light and beauty, of endless food and drink, of laughter and happiness, but the allure draws us away from what is really important into a dangerous world of make-believe. These vivid, timeless and enduring truths about human existence still speak to us powerfully today,” says Fay Hield, Soundpost co-founder.
Soundpost was formed in 2011 by Hield, Sam Sweeney, Andy Bell and Jon Boden to explore folk traditions through practical workshops, performances, debate and discussion.
The organisation’s annual weekends started in 2011 as a celebration of song, with workshops, talks and practical sessions. Last year’s Wanton Seed event featured content from the reissues of the classic folk song books Marrowbones and The Wanton Seed and the brand new omnibus edition, Southern Harvest.
Soundpost singing weekends are notable for their accessibility, whether you’re a singer, fairy fan, music teacher or keen listener. If you want to develop your singing or songwriting skills or if you just want to hang out with a group of amazing people and absorb the charmed atmosphere, the Soundpost Fairy Gathering is where the magic happens.
– £95 Weekend Ticket: Full Price (includes concert)
£75 Weekend Ticket: Students and Unwaged (includes concert)- £12 Saturday night concert ticket only (Max: two additional tickets only. If demand is high we may not be able to guarantee concert tickets. Refunds will be issued if this is the case)
Serendipity. It’s great isn’t it? I was just leaving John Lewis (other department stores are available -Ed), doing a spot of late-night shopping, when I became aware of a largish, youthful-looking group of musicians setting up to play in Cambridge’s Grand Arcade. Nothing particularly unusual there, except that flyers and t-shirts indicated that this was the EFDSS National Youth Folk Ensemble. Needless to say, the shopping trip was rapidly abandoned in favour of spending the next 40 minutes pleasurably listening in.
Opening with a Saraband from Playford, this group of young musicians quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with and attracted a decent crowd, heading swiftly into the second of their 8-track set, a sweet take on Catriona MacDonald’s ‘Show Me’. The tunes and arrangements showed the ensemble off pretty well as they roved around the country from Lancashire to Cornwall. The ensemble also showed some ability to create diverse moods, although this session – sensibly enough – was crowd-rousing stuff in the main. Sam Sweeney, the ensemble’s Artistic Director, was on hand giving support to this, his second cohort of students to pass through the EFDSS programme.
It’s a very tough gig playing in the swimming-pool acoustics of a shopping arcade to a bunch of strangers passing through who didn’t actually come to see you and have other priorities anyway, so these youngsters deserve every praise for handling themselves with grace and aplomb. It’s a minor point to say that at times they seemed more intently focused on the music, perhaps slightly at the expense of giving a performance to the audience, but given the distracting environment, maybe it’s not surprising. Overall, they gave a most convincing account of the enduring vitality of folk music.
For anyone attending the Cambridge Folk Festival, the EFDSS National Youth Folk Ensemble will be opening the programme of events on Friday lunchtime, 3rd August. Do try to give them some support: the future of folk music could look a lot like them.
Folk royalty Jon Boden’s latest album, Afterglow, is an excellent follow on from Songs From The Floodplain, which was released in 2009, and was Jon’s second solo album. Jon is a twelve time BBC Folk Award Winner who partnered celebrated concertina player John ‘Squeezy’ Spiers in Spiers and Boden, fronted Bellowhead, and comes out to play with his Remnant Kings now and again.
Afterglow is a story of urban lovers after dark. The ten fabulous tracks portray a journey after dark into the early morning leaving the previous night behind – their adventures into the night and what they experience.
The album starts with ‘Moths In The Gaslight’ – in true Boden melodic style then leading into the title track and bringing in a drum beat. ‘Wrong Side Of Town’ brings in the traditional Boden irregular beat we all know and love. ‘Fires Of Midnight’ is a spoken lyric in the traditional style of Boden. One of my favourites, ‘All The Stars Are Coming Out Tonight’ is a foot tapping track including fiddle, bodhran, Cajun and all!
‘Dancing In The Ruins’ includes off-beat rhythm and an electric guitar taking the listener into ‘Burning Streets’ telling the tale of the lovers escaping down the back streets to a racy beat. The penultimate track – ‘Yellow Light’ – has Jon’s traditional concertina, cello and quietens the mood down after the night’s activities. Afterglow ends with a track entitled ‘Aubade’ – the dawn is now breaking bringing the end of the night, the birds are now singing heralding in the dawn and a new day.
An excellent album as we would expect from a master of his craft. Ex-Bellowhead members Paul Sartin, Sam Sweeney and Ben Nicholls (Seth Lakeman Band) are involved on this album as are members of The Remnant Kings together with producer Andy Bell, and recorded in Sheffield. As always, Jon Boden’s albums are vivid and give beautiful imagery in the lyrics. This album is no exception to his pure talent.
Afterglow is now on general release. Available as a single CD, a de luxe version and a vinyl version and from the 6th November Jon is on tour solo. Jon while the Remnant Kings are touring in November from the 17th.
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After two very successful albums and sold out gigs, Leveret bounce back onto the music scene with Inventions, an album of original material which was recorded live at Real Life studios in April 2017.
Leveret comprises of fiddler extraordinaire – Sam Sweeney, who was 2015 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Musician of the Year. Not surprising as his talents have enhanced Bellowhead, also Folk Royalty Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band, and acclaimed singer/songwriter John Boden’s Remnant Kings, not forgetting his own very successful Made In The Great War project.
Melodeon player extraordinaire – Andy Cutting – has won BBC Radio2 Folk Awards Best Musician three times and has played with Topette, Rock legend Roger Daltrey, Blowzabella and June Tabor.
Concertina genius – Rob Harbron who leads the English Acoustic Collective summer school, collaborated with The Full English also Jon Boden, Fay Hield and many more.
So you would expect, with all this talent and skill for them to produce a CD of tunes that would be amazing to hear, and quite rightly, they have! ten glorious original tunes of varying tempos, ranging from reels, jigs and un-pigeon-holeable tempos, they delight the listener. If I have to be pushed for a favourite, it has to be the lively ‘Two Nights at Chieveley/Henry Blogg’.
I have seen them play live and can see the mutual respect for each other, impeccable timing, genuine love of playing their music and delighting the audience. Music at its best, but appealing to those who just like music!
This is a worthwhile album addition to anyone’s collection. I really enjoyed it and is the in the car taking me away from the hustle and bustle of reality. Keep an eye on their website for live gigs, check them out, pre-order the Inventions album and purchase their previous albums.
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Fay Hield and The Hurricane Party started their spring tour at a brisk pace – seventeen songs, including two encores, in a tight ninety minutes. I can imagine there being a bit of tension in this situation particular as Fay announced that ‘Fair Margaret And Sweet William’ had been arranged by Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron and herself only that afternoon. We probably wouldn’t have known if nothing had been said but it is rather impressive to write an arrangement and play it from memory a few hours later. Still, I do think they need to relax a bit.
Fay began, as his her custom, with ‘Willow Glen’ accompanied only by Harbron. The rest of the band appeared (Ben Nicholls being fashionably late) for the unusually jolly ‘Tarry Trousers’ and ‘The Weaver’s Daughter’. Fay did promise us a fair share of misery later and had also promised that she would bring her banjo on this tour. She was as good as word and proved to be a melodic player in what I suppose we must call the English style.
After ‘Old Adam’ it got an outing on ‘The Old Grey Goose Is Dead’ with a new sombre tune. I suppose that it’s a generational thing but Fay was surprised to learn that most of us knew it from childhood as ‘Aunt Nancy’ or ‘Aunt Rhody’ and I was surprised to learn that she didn’t. The geese got another name check in ‘The Grey Goose And The Gander’ and the first set closed with ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’.
The second half began in upbeat fashion with ‘Pretty Nancy Of Yarmouth’ and got back to the misery with ‘Green Gravel’ and the aforementioned ‘Lady Margaret’. The band took its turn with a version of ‘Bold Princess Royal’ before ‘Go From My Window’ with Roger Wilson handling second vocal and Sweeney switching to nyckelharpa. ‘The Lover’s Ghost’ made a suitably mournful closer.
The first encore saw Fay solo and unaccompanied with ‘Young Maid Cut Down In Her Prime’ with the Hurricane Party returning for ‘Long Time Ago’. The music was as splendid as ever and sometimes us oldies like to get home at a decent time but please guys, slow things down a bit.
They may be newcomers to the scene, but Stick In The Wheel are certainly making their mark, not just with their own recordings and associated artifacts, but in their involvement with the folk world in general, and the traditional in particular.
Band members Ian Carter and Nicola Kearey serve as curators, collaborators and producers for this collection of new live recordings by both the great and good and some of the lesser known luminaries in the genre. The remit for those involved was to record songs that explored either place or their musical identity, culminating in a gathering of field recordings captured in locations as diverse as a stone cottage in Edale, a bank vault and a garden at Robin Hood’s Bay using just two stereo microphones and with no subsequent overdubs.
As you would imagine, the tracks are stark and raw, first up being ‘Bedfordshire May Carol’, chosen by performer Jack Sharp, leader of psych-folk outfit Wolf People, as it supposedly originated just a few miles from where he grew up. Next up, Eliza Carthy leads a flurry of more familiar names with a self-penned number, ‘The Sea’, a new setting of the broadside ballad found in Manchester’s Chetham Library and featuring on her current album, the initial pizzicato fiddle giving way to more robust playing. She’s followed by one of the veterans of English folk, John Kirkpatrick, applying his accordion to a song from his lengthy repertoire and a folk club staple ‘Here’s Adieu To Old England’, while his sometimes musical partner, Martin Carthy, also chose a number he’s recently reintroduced back into his sets, ‘The Bedmaking’, a familiar tale of the abused and cast aside servant girl. fingerpicked here to a halting rhythm.
Sandwiched in-between is one of the rising stars of the few folk firmament, the Peak District’s Bella Hardy, who went to 19th century collection The Ballads and Songs of Derbyshire for ‘The Ballad of Hugh Stenson’, setting it to a more upbeat tune than the hymnal adapted by Jon Tams, while, another member of folk royalty, Jon Boden puts his squeezebox to work on a contemplative take on 19th century drinking song ‘Fathom The Bowl’.
There’s a couple of spokes from the Wheel, both unaccompanied, Kearey delivering glottal version of the much covered ‘Georgie’ and Fran Foote ‘The Irish Girl’. They’re not the only numbers to be sung naked as it were. BritFolk alumnus Lisa Knapp has a lovely treatment of the tumblingly melodious ‘Lavender Song’, while, also from the female side, Fay Hield tips the hat to Annie Briggs with her choice of ‘Bonny Boy’.
On the other side of a capella gender fence, Geordie folkie Stew Simpson mines his Newcastle roots for ‘Eh Aww Ah Cud Hew’ (which the accompanying booklet helpfully translates as “Oh Yes, I Could Pick At The Coals”), Sam Lee turns the evergreen ‘Wild Rover’ on its head to transform it into a slow, sad lament rather than more familiar rollicking rouser of Dubliners and Pogues note, and, from Wales, a deep-voiced Men Diamler closes the album with ‘1848 (Sunset Beauregard)’, a self-penned political protest ballad about Tory policies. The remaining unaccompanied track is actually a duet, Peta Webb and Ken Hall joining voices for an Irish in London in the 50s marriage of Ewan MacColl’s ‘Just A Note’, about the building of the M1, and Bob Davenport’s account of the dangers of ‘Wild Wild Whiskey’.
The three remaining tracks are all instrumentals. Bristol’s acoustic instrumental quartet Spiro are the only band on the collection and provide their self-penned ‘Lost In Fishponds’, apparently about getting lost en route to a gig, joined here by North Wales violinist Madame Česki, while Sam Sweeney brings his fiddle to bear on two tunes. ‘Bagpipers’, one of the first things he played with his band Leveret, and ‘Mount Hills’, an English dance tune from the 17th century. Which leaves Cumbrian concertina maestro Rob Harbron to provide the third with a pairing of ‘Young Collins’, a Costwolds’ tune learned from Alistair Anderson, and, another from the Morris tradition, ‘Getting Up The Stairs’, which, by way of a pleasing synchronicity, he actually learned by way of John Kirkpatrick on the influential Morris On album.
It more than does the job it set out to achieve, and, likely to loom large in end of year awards, fully warrants a place in any traditional folk fan’s collection.
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