This week we have struggled to get the time to learn a new song as we spent the majority of the week up in Glasgow and then this weekend at a spa hotel for a bit of R&R (even folkies need a hot tub every now and then!). So this week we did another car journey rehearsal, and as we recently celebrated November 5th we went for a protest song. This is a modern folk tune written by the amazing Karine Polwart.
Karine is a multi award winning folk singer/songwriter from Scotland and won “Best Original Song” at the 2013 BBC R2 Folk Awards for the song we chose to perform: King Of Birds.
In mythology the King of Birds is the tiny Wren; who shocked the mighty eagle by beating him in a flying competition which was convened to decide who would be the next King. In this song the “Wren” character is a metaphor for Sir Christopher Wren and his designing of St. Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire Of London.
The song is split into 3 periods of history: the construction of the Cathedral in the 17th Century where the tiny king of birds flutters down to build a citadel. In this verse she uses the cathedral as a symbol of hope for London after such a devastating period of history. This symbolism continues into the 2nd verse which is based in London during The Blitz.
Here again we see London enduring a time of great strife (“Through the siren’s scream the heavens burn again”). And once again St. Paul’s is used as a beacon of enduring strength in a dark period.
The 3rd verse shows London enduring a very different peril. This time it is the current capitalist elite that are the great evil to be faced by London; depicted as “the towers of smoke and mirrors”. Here the cathedral is shown as a mecca for those of the Occupy Movement; who gathered in solidarity and protest against the current economic situation that the majority of Londoners find themselves in.
The song was written by Karine in honour of this Occupy Movement who, in her words, “rang the bells that needed ringing”. It’s a beautiful song, filled with amazing imagery and a wonderful story. We also loved the idea behind the song that even the smallest bird can change the world (and Rob enjoyed having an electric guitar to play with!). We were completely knackered when we recorded this one but even so we thoroughly enjoyed playing it, and will keep it in our repertoire for a long time to come.
So here is our latest Folk Song A Week: King Of Birds by Karine Polwart, hope you all enjoy it 🙂