'It's a peek into a world... that's often a lot like The Wicker Man, only far creepier,' writes Phelim O'Neill in The Guardian, reviewing a new 2-disc DVD set from the British Film Institute, 'Here's a Health to the Barley Mow'. Time Out's reviewer awarded the collection five stars. Among hours of fascinating documentary footage of British 'folk customs and ancient rural games' are some rare early 20th century silent films, for which, along with fiddle player Laurel Swift and melodeon player Dan Quinn, I recorded new soundtracks. Dramatic black-and-white films in a section called 'Extreme Sports' were particularly exciting to play along to, including a New Year Fireball Festival in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire (1965) and hard-core Shrove Tuesday Football match, apparently played by the entire male population of Ashbourne, Derbyshire (1924), much of it in the local river. There's lots of weird, brilliant other stuff too.
Guardian Reviews: Phelim O'Neill and Jude Rogers
Rattle on the Stovepipe are heading to Yorkshire for Whitby Folk Week (20-26 August) with songs, tunes and general Anglo-Americana from our No Use in Cryin' album, as well as fresh material that Dave, Dan and I have been working on since.
Rattle on the Stovepipe,
appearing at Whitby in August
(photo: Sue Lee)
Whitby's always a great catch-up time, and I do believe singer Peta Webb and I are also scheduled to perform together. We recorded our LP The Heart Is True about a hundred years ago in 1986, but we have sung quite a few times since, notably in June at a Dublin-themed, James Joyce-inspired Bloomsday celebration of at the Musical Traditions Club, London, along with poet Racker Donnelly, a host of great Irish singers, accordion genius Colette O'Leary and whistle player Sue Lee.
Peta Webb and Pete Cooper, 1980s
The music, dance and song of British gypsies and travellers was the theme of Traveller's Joy, a concert at Cecil Sharp House at the start of July. London Fiddle School members played, among other things, a fine pair of tunes from Gypsy fiddler James Higgins, both collected by Cecil Sharp in the east Somerset coalfield in 1909 - the Shepton Mallet Hornpipe and the strange and wonderful Radstock Jig. And then, as part of an ingenious Community Choir arrangement of Levi Smith's song The Broomdasher, we tore into Billy Boy, an equally extraordinary tune from Sussex fiddler Fred Williams, recorded on a wax cylinder by Ralph Vaughan Williams. As someone remarked, Fred may have been English, but sounded like he'd been to Eastern Europe for his holidays that year. There was some lively step dancing and singing in the show, too, and banjo and accordion playing and one thing and another and of course it all ended up in the bar...
London Fiddle School's Helen Tate,
Elaine Martel, Maeve McKeown and Alex Davison
enjoying an informal music session after
the Traveller's Joy show,
…Helen Fuller, Alex Thomas and Pete,
here playing Catharsis or one of those
other contemporary fiddle tunes
they've been working on over
the early summer.
Look at that synchronised bowing!
(photos: Sue Lee)
I'm off to Northern Ireland to lead fiddle workshops on 17-18 September in Broughshane, Co. Antrim, and of course hoping to learn some more local tunes while I'm there:
Later in the year I'll be up in Scotland, for the annual Edinburgh Fiddle Festival,'Fiddle 2011', 17-19 November - officially to play and talk about English fiddle music, but there's every chance I'll pick up some of this year's hot Scottish tunes as well, to feed back to my London students.
London Fiddle School kicks off this Autumn on 14 September with a 12-week course, "Fiddle Music of Ireland and Scotland" at Cecil Sharp House - see Workshops. Oh, and by the way, check out the London Fiddle School's new Facebook page.
Happy fiddling and see you later,
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