Category Archives: white

Week 17: In Dessexshire as it befell, Gaudete

Two more Christmas songs – I’m taking the view that it’s still Christmas until we get to Twelfth Night. These are both religious (in rather different ways) and both feature multi-part harmonies. These particular songs also have a personal connection.

38 years ago, I heard an extraordinary song on Top of the Pops. As a direct result I became a huge fan of Steeleye Span (and a vague admirer of Shirley Collins, June Tabor and the Albions), and learned several traditional songs that I still know. A few years later punk came along, but that’s another story.

8 years ago, I heard an extraordinary song on Mixing It. As a direct result I discovered Anne Briggs and Nic Jones, which led in turn to Tony Rose, Shirley Collins (again), June Tabor (again), Peter Bellamy… and the journey continues.

These are two landmarks in my personal discovery of folk, in other words. Hope I’ve done them justice!

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Week 16: Shepherds arise, A virgin most pure

A merry Christmas from 52fs!

Here are two more seasonal songs to mark the last week in Advent. (The white album is all seasonal – they’re not all Christmas songs, but they’re all songs for the long nights and the turning of the year.)

Shepherds arise: a three-part arrangement of this Christmas Copper song (four if you count octaves). I was originally thinking of adding an instrumental part as well, but I decided the audio spectrum was quite full enough as it was!

A virgin most pure is a two-part arrangement, plus whistle and melodica. My source for this one is the posthumous Young Tradition album the Holly Bears the Crown, on which it was sung by Shirley Collins and Heather Wood.

On these two tracks I not only wrote harmony lines but sang them from the dots. I’m not boasting, particularly, just boggling slightly – I’ve never done either of those things before, & never thought I could. Amazing what you can do when you try.

As you may have noticed, week 16 was longer than average; I’m abandoning the Thursday-to-Wednesday week I started with and going for a more conventional Sunday-to-Saturday. So tomorrow, the 25th of December, will be day 1 of week 17 in the 52fs project. (I knew there was something I meant to celebrate…)

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Week 15: The Holly and the Ivy, the Boar’s Head Carol

Getting properly into the Christmas spirit with a couple of old choral belters.

What else have these songs got in common? They’re both shortish (they’ve both come out at exactly one minute 49); and they’re both proper old – early-modern or even medieval old. Oh, and they both supposedly contain pagan and pre-Christian imagery, and if you want to believe that it’s up to you. There’s a lot more I could say about this line of thinking, and at some stage I probably will – not here, though.

The Holly and the Ivy is sung unaccompanied, in parts, in unison and at one stage in an echo chamber (unintentional, but I liked the effect so I left it in).

The Boar’s Head Carol is also unaccompanied, in four parts, most of which I worked out myself. I’m really, really pleased with the result – check it out. You may conclude that I’m really, really easily pleased, but no matter.

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Week 14: A maiden that is matchless, Come love carolling

Week 14 brings the first two selections for Advent, Christmas and the turn of the year – beginning with Advent.

A maiden that is matchless is a brief but densely-written medieval poem in praise of the Virgin Mary, beautifully set to music by Dolly Collins (some of which I play here on the flute).

Come, love, carolling is a composition by Sydney Carter on a similar theme: Mary’s pregnancy, seen from her perspective, focusing on the experience of having God as her own flesh and blood. The arrangement here is after Bob and Carole Pegg’s version on the album And now it is so early, although I’m using melodica instead of guitar.

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