An Unwilling Sailor

So first of all I should apologise for being a lazy sod and not having written a blog for our last 2 songs; I’ll give you a quick round up!

First off we went mega christmassy with our song on 20th December with a classic carol In The Bleak Midwinter (which happens to be the favourite of both our mothers!)

 

Then after Christmas we had the very great pleasure of inviting our Friend Anna Hester along to sing a song which she chose: Midwinter Toast by Thea Gilmore, which we absolutely loved recording with her.  She’s an amazing singer and songwriter so please everyone go and check her out!

Anna Hester Soundcloud

 

So anyway, that’s what we got up to at the end of 2015.  Onwards and upwards into the new year!

This week we have gone back to basics and picked a short, traditional English folk tune called All Things Are Quite Silent.  It is a story of a lamenting bride who’s husband was snatched from their marriage bed by a press gang and forced to serve in the King’s Navy.  The woman bemoans the loss of her “jewel” of a man, mourning in the first half of the song.  The second half shows her as maintaining a sense of optimism, believing that one day her husband may still come back to her; although we never find out if he does or not!

The song was initially collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1904 in Lower Beeding, Sussex, although it will have been relatively old even at that time.  Press-ganging, although never legally banned, had pretty much faded out of use by around the 1830s so one would assume it is from around the late 18th or early 19th century.

We really enjoyed this one as once again we got to put our own arrangement on a classic tune rather than doing a straight cover, and I got to play my new guitar! Her name’s Michelle and I love her!

So here we go, thank you everyone for your support and kind words in 2015, we can’t wait to see what tunes this new year will send our way!

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A Mother’s Lament

This week sees Becca’s turn for a solo spot in our Folk Song A Week project, and she has chosen her favourite carol to continue our Christmas theme for December: Coventry Carol.

I find the history of this piece of music fascinating.  It is not a true “carol” in the traditional sense of the word, in that it has no true religious beginnings such as O Come O Come Emmanuel that I performed last week.  Instead this song is rooted in historic English theatre (which explains why Becca loves it so much!)

The song is a remnant of a 16th century Coventry Corpus Christi play called “The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors”, which was one of a series of Medieval mystery plays in which local players would enact passages from the bible, and this song is the only surviving from this production.  This particular play deals with the murder of firstborn sons enacted by King Herod in his attempt to kill the baby Jesus before he could usurp him.  This song is a final lullaby sung by the mourning mothers to their dead children, and is hauntingly beautiful.

The modern lyrics are mostly attributed to a Mr Robert Croo in 1534, although the source of the modern musical arrangement is unknown.

Becca’s voice lends itself perfectly to this haunting, lyrical lullaby and we really hope you enjoy her a cappella version of this classic musical theatre number!

A Step Into Christmas

So we’ve had a slight issue this week, Becca has gone! Yep, she’s gone off to Kent to take part in a touring pantomime, as you do! So while she’s away I’ve had to fill in for the music this week, although I’m not continuing my singing career into this week!

As it’s now December we had always wanted to do a new Christmas song each week, and as it was just me I decided to do an instrumental version of my favourite ever carol: O Come O Come Emmanuel.

This song probably has the longest history of any song we’ve done so far, and can trace it’s lineage back to 9th century monastic life! Seven days before Christmas Eve monasteries would sing the “O antiphons” in anticipation of Christmas Eve, when the eighth antiphon, “O Virgo virginum” (“O Virgin of virgins”) would be sung before and after Mary’s canticle, the Magnificat (Luke 1: 46b-55).

The version that we know, however, is a little more modern and can be traced back to an English translator called John Mason Neal who included it in his 1851 work “Medieval Hymns and Sequences”.

danielthesaurus2336

The image above is a scan from the Latin version of the carol, included in the 1844 work: Thesaurus Hymnologicus.

This is my own arrangement of the tune, although the chord sequences are already commonly used I tried to add a little of my own style to it.  I hope you enjoy it.