Ten Thousand Times Adieu review – beautiful old songs sung with love

‘Bobstock’, in honour of the folk singer Bob Copper, assembled a fine and exciting lineup featuring Shirley Collins, Linda Thompson, Robin Dransfield and Martin Carthy, writes Colin Irwin

It’s nearly 11 years since Bob Copper died, four days after receiving the MBE at Buckingham Palace, but with a new generation revelling in his legacy, his role as English folk song’s genial and unwitting patriarch has never been more cherished. Much of the revered treasure chest of traditional song lovingly preserved by his Sussex family for more than 200 years was refreshingly reinvented during an ambitious event – dubbed Bobstock – marking the centenary of his birth.

“Keeping a toehold on the past adds another dimension to the present and the future,” Copper said in one of the documentary films preceding the big evening concert, and the strands connecting “the authentic voice of ordinary people”, as Billy Bragg called the Copper family, with modern times were joyously underlined every time the nine-strong present incumbents of that family tradition stepped on stage. The link even extended to their trademark tuning forks, trusty songbooks and self-mocking humour, emphasising the irrelevance of vocal perfection when beautiful old songs with an historic role in rural local communities are sung with love and conviction.

At the evening concert, nostalgia blended with youth and modernity. Rabbits out of the hat were Shirley Collins and Linda Thompson, overcoming the dysphonia that has effectively kept them both off stage for decades, to remind us of Bob’s adoration of blues with an enjoyably ramshackle The Soul of a Man. Other blasts from the past included an Oak reunion (Peta Webb still singing with spine-tingling beauty); Robin Dransfield ably performing Spencer the Rover with his sons; Heather Wood reviving the spirit of Young Tradition with Jon Boden, Fay Hield and

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The incredible story of Cecil Sharp House

Shirley Collins

This place feels very important, but I don’t know why yet,” said Billy Bragg, wandering into Cecil Sharp House in 1986. Many of us have felt something similar, slipping from busy north London, though

his place feels very important, but I don’t know why yet,” said Billy Bragg, wandering into Cecil Sharp House in 1986. Many of us have felt something similar, slipping from busy north London, though the English country garden, into the UK’s first dedicated folk arts centre.

First opened in 1930, the building holds all the tension of the 20th century’s battles over the definition of “folk music” and who it belongs to. Visitors will feel it in the architectural push-pull between blunt, right-angled utilitarianism (formal rectangular halls for dancing, rectangular windows for light) and mystical curves of wooden carvings of green men, dragons and bawdy Morris men. For at Cecil Sharp House (CHS), town meets country, academia jostles with vernacular tradition and all three classes collide.

On its 90th birthday, CSH’s chief executive, Katy Spicer, reminds me that we can trace those tensions right back to 1898, when the middle-class Folk-Song Society was founded to collect and preserve folk songs and tunes primarily from Britain and Ireland. They found and filed songs for the nation’s cabinet of curiosities just as other Victorians collected shells, ferns and fossils. Prominent members included Lucy Broadwood, Frank Kidson and Anglican priest Sabine Baring-Gould. Letters stored at CSH reveal the fierce rivalry between many of the collectors as they competed to discover the best, oldest or most obscure “peasant” tunesIn 1903, Cecil Sharp joined the fray, recording material from “the old singing men and women of the country villages”. Now widely acknowledged as the founding father of the folk revival, Sharp, the son of a slate merchant, became interested in folk tradition after observing a rare group of Morris dancers performing at the village of Headington Quarry near Oxford at Christmas 1899.

The composer Ralph Vaughan Williams began collecting songs the same year. “There is a feeling of recognition, as of meeting an old friend,” said Williams, “which comes to us all in the face of great artistic experiences. I had the same experience when I first heard an English folk song, when I first saw Michelangelo’s Day and Night, when I suddenly came upon Stonehenge or had my first sight of New York City – the intuition that I had been there already.”

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Billy Bragg shares his memories of the late singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl

Kirsty MacColl

This year, singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl would have turned 60. Her good friend, political singer and activist Billy Bragg, joined us to share his memories of her.

If you’ve heard the 1987 single Fairytale of New York by the Pogues, then you know Kirsty MacColl’s voice. This year the late singer-songwriter would have turned 60. Political singer and activist Billy Bragg was MacColl’s good friend. He joined us to share his memories of MacColl and why he thinks she never truly received the recognition she deserved during her life

Listen to the Billy Bragg – Kirsty MacColl interview at: Billy Bragg shares his memories of the late singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl | CBC Radio

It’s a Billy Bragg Takeover! – BBC Sounds

Billy Bragg is live in the studio, guitar in hand, taking your requests.

A special edition of Now Playing as Billy Bragg helps Tom and the team curate a listener-led…. Billy Bragg playlist. He’ll be playing requests live on the show as well. Expect classics from the Bragg back catalogue as well as songs from artists that have influenced and been influenced by the man himself.

Listen at: Now Playing @6Music – It’s a Billy Bragg Takeover! – BBC Sounds