Hal-An-Tow

Hal-An-Tow is a processional song traditionally sung to usher in the summer.  And so we encounter, in the lead solo… two of the most distinctive voices in English music; the unarguably great husky-grey voice of Norma and the undeniably arguably great voice of Mike! I won’t say that ‘you either love it or hate it’ because, trust me, if you’re listening to the voice of Mike Waterson for the first time and finding it mannered, even ridiculous, there’s a very good chance that, in the fullness of time, you too will come to acknowledge Mike as every bit as great a singer as his sisters. An acquired taste, if ever there was one.

Source: Toppermost

From Glasgow Madrigirls summer concert ‘In the Greenwood’. Performed at St John’s Church in Keswick on Saturday 22 June 2013. Filmed by Harry Campbell. Conducted by Katy Lavinia Cooper

Traditional Lyrics

CHORUS

Hal-an-Tow, jolly rumble-o,
We were up long before the day-o,
To welcome in the summer,
To welcome in the May-o –
For summer is a-coming,
And the winter’s gone away-o!

Since man was first created
His works have been debated
And we have celebrated
The coming of the spring

Take no scorn to wear the horns,
It was the crest when you were born;
Your father’s father wore it,
And your father wore it too.

CHORUS

Robin Hood and Little John
Have both gone to the fair-o,
And we shall to the merry green wood,
To hunt the buck and hare-o!

CHORUS

What happened to the Spaniards
That made so great a boast, oh?
They shall eat the feathered goose,
And we shall eat the roast, oh!

CHORUS

And as for that good knight, St. George
St. George he was a knight o
Of all the knights of Christendom
St. George is the right o

CHORUS

God bless Aunt Mary Moses
With all her power and might-o;
Send us peace in England,
Send us peace by day and night-o!

Eliza Carthy “My Music”

This documentary focuses on Eliza Carthy, a singer-songwriter who is bringing traditional music to a new audience. She is the daughter of legendary folk musicians Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson. Her father was awarded an MBE for services to folk music in 1998, which actually seems quite a niggardly gesture when one considers how important a figure he actually is. He was inspirational to such musicians as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, and to later musicians such as Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and the Albion Country Band (the last two bands that included him as a member for a time).

by Gonzo Music TV
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Rediscovering the mystic beauty of UK psych-folk outfit Trees

Contemporaries of Pentangle and Fairport Convention, the group is now the subject of a lovingly curated box set reissue.

David Costa’s home sits almost equidistant between Stonehenge and Glastonbury in England’s Somerset county. For the 73-year-old graphic designer, who helped create the cover art for Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Queen’s A Night at the Opera, it’s the perfect location to wait out the pandemic, and to contemplate retirement. His home’s locale is also, as he says with a knowing laugh, “pretty apt” when it comes time to field a Skype call about his days as guitarist in Trees, the acid-folk quintet that bloomed for a brief four years in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

The group was one of many British artists in that era who were fusing the traditional folk music of their home country with the psychedelic rock that was being baked to perfection on the West Coast of the United States. Like Costa’s home, the music of Trees stood at the musical midway point between England’s mystical, pagan past and the electric sounds celebrated at Glastonbury.

Though Trees were part of a scene that included luminaries like Fairport Convention, Pentangle, and the Incredible String Band, their two lush, incandescent albums—1970’s The Garden of Jane Delawney and 1971’s On The Shore—never achieved widespread acclaim. In the five decades since their inception, the group’s legacy has been kept alive through the efforts of dedicated fans like Danger Mouse, who built the title track for Gnarls Barkley’s St. Elsewhere on a sample of Trees’ version of the traditional ballad “Geordie.” Other artists, like modern folk musician Sally Anne Morgan stumbled upon the band after a night spent going down a YouTube wormhole. Continue reading

In Conversation: Shirley Collins and Linda Thompson

Shirley Collins and Linda Thompson

The legendary folk singer is celebrated by her fan and fellow songwriter.

By: Linda Thompson

Do you know anyone who is putting out great work at 85? Me neither. Shirley Collins isn’t just anyone though. She is an important part of folk music’s history. A scholar, singer, and writer — she is also a riot. We once did the can-can for a select audience at The South Bank in London, culminating in the splits. I still walk funny.

I had seen many of Shirley’s gigs, mostly with her sister Dolly, but really got to know her when she was in Lark Rise to Candleford at The National Theatre. She was the best thing in the show. We struck up an easy friendship.

Ashley Hutchings and Richard Thompson were our paramours. Earnest, clever and just like converted Catholics where traditional British music was concerned. Shirley and I listened patiently to their pronouncements, having forgotten more about that music than they knew. We didn’t say so though. It was the old days after all. We smoothed our crinolines down and kept shtum (ancient Northumbrian word). Their cottage was charmingly called Red Rose Cottage, long ago that used to be the rent. One red rose.

I got close to Shirley after our respective divorces. We were hard hit, and knew almost exactly how the other was feeling. Faithless love. Funnily enough we didn’t sit around and commiserate with each other, we just got on with it. I’m not sure that’s a good idea though. It takes longer to recover.

I had suffered from dysphonia since my first pregnancy. Shirley suffered from it, too. We both shut up shop in a manner of speaking. We sang very little, we kept in touch albeit sporadically, and life continued apace.

And now. This wonderful resurgence. Shirley’s last record Lodestar was brilliant. Recorded at home, and a startling return to form.

Heart’s Ease, the new record, is even better. Recorded in a studio, with supremely talented musicians. She is confident, and she shines. Folk singers, like blues singers, get better with age.

I know Shirley is a legend, but to me she’s still the beautiful and fun woman with whom I danced at the theatre many years ago. Those days were good. The days after, even better. I am very lucky to know her.

Here are a few questions I asked Shirley about this new work.

Linda Thompson: Some of the songs I love best on the album are new. Was there a reason that you included these particular songs?

Shirley Collins: “Sweet Greens And Blues” — words written by Austin John Marshall, my first husband. He also wrote “The Whitsun Dance,” which I set to The Copper Family’s “The Week Before Easter.” He designed several album covers too. He died in New York in 2013. I decided to record these songs as an acknowledgement to A.J. — partly for the sake of our children, Polly and Robert, a sort of legacy, and to acknowledge his part in my career. In any case, they are lovely songs. The third non-traditional song, “Locked In Ice,” was written by my late sister Dolly Collins’ son Buz Collins, who took his own life in 2002. He was a prolific songwriter and singer, lived on a narrow boat, The Maid In England, on The Grand Union Canal in Loughborough. He was a bit of a loner, yet at the same time was a lively, loyal man. Continue reading