IN 1925, a musichall comedian who went by the stage-name of Robert Winthrop was touring the cinemas and variety theatres of the Durham coalfield.While entertaining the mining communities, his eye was on another act that was also hopping from booking to booking in the halls: Mrs Stacey’s Young Ladies, a dance troupe, in which Annie “Curly” Quinn starred.
She was the daughter of an Irish comedian, Jimmy Quinn, whereas Robert – born Chaim Reuben Weintrop – was from a Polish Jewish background and had fought in Flanders during the First World War. Continue reading
Scottish singer, songwriter and essayist Karine Polwart seldom comes stateside. She prefers to limit air travel in order to minimize her carbon footprint. She took exception, however, to fly from Edinburgh to New York City to participate in the Carnegie Hall Migrations festival, a celebration of the history of the movement of people all around the world. Polwart and her brother, guitarist Steven Polwart and multi-instrumentalist, Inge Thomson, then escaped New York for a day to play the Tiny Desk here in Washington, D.C.
Polwart writes songs about hope, music that harnesses spiritual power and lyrics that address important social justice themes. Stories of human emotion and the human experience are also commonplace as in the first tune, “Ophelia.”
Her second song at the desk, “I Burn But I Am Not Consumed,” includes a mesmerizing spoken word denunciation of President Donald Trump, while the closing tune, “King of Birds,” praises the power of small things. In it Polwart recounts the legend of a wren who piggybacks a lift on an eagle’s wing. Just as the large bird is unable to fly any higher in the sky, the tiny wren catches a breath of air, soars higher than the eagle and is crowned the king of all birds.
Lyricism and messages of hope and beauty heard throughout punctuate a stunning accompaniment of inventive instrumentation. The steady, resonant guitar riffs played by Steven Polwart ground the delicate vocal harmonies. Inge Thomson’s accordion lines, combined with an array of percussion instruments and synth-generated effects, add a complimentary layer of sound without overpowering the music. Karine Polwart’s bellowing and drone-like Shruti box provides a sweet serenity.
- “I Burn But I Am Not Consumed”
- “King of Birds”
Karine Polwart: vocals, guitar, shruti box; Steven Polwart: guitar, vocals; Inge Thomson: accordion, percussion, noises, vocals
Shaun Keaveny guides us through some choice bits of the podcast from the past couple of years. These include appearances from Miriam Margoyles, Ed Miliband, Susannah Reid and London Hughes. Along with many other interesting encounters there’s also tales of Royal Weddings, blow by blow accounts of shoe shop tantrums, reports of unusual cervical inspections and eulogies for Dwarf Hamsters…all courtesy of Fi and Jane.
Fi and Jane throw the blankets off their knees and hit the dancefloor with DJ Annie Mac.