Bartholomew Fair 1808

The Clerkenwell Ballad Walk for Baroque At The Edge Festival

This is a short film trailer of The Clerkenwell Ballad Walk for Baroque At The Edge Festival, January 2021:

This trailer was used to advertise a podcast of The Clerkenwell Ballad Walk (which I did for) Baroque at the Edge Festival, which was online in January 2021.

In this short film, I am walking up Cowcross Street in London, which runs east-west, from St John Street in the east, to Farringdon Road in the west. Farringdon Tube Station is behind me, as I walk towards old Smithfield Market. I am singing a street ballad about Bartholomew Fair, dating from the early 1800’s. This important fair took place every year from 1133 until 1855, when it was suppressed by the authorities for encouraging debauchery and public disorder. I end my walk at the priory church of St Bartholomew The Great. the oldest parish church in the City of London.

Bartholomew Fair 1808: Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827) and Augustus Charles Pugin (1762–1832) (after) John Bluck (fl. 1791–1819), Joseph Constantine Stadler (fl. 1780–1812), Thomas Sutherland (1785–1838), J. Hill, and Harraden (aquatint engravers)

I made a podcast for Baroque At The Edge Festival 2021. You can listen here

It’s a musical guided walk around the streets and open spaces of LSO St Luke’s, the festival venue. I am joined by Fiona Talkington, and London Blue Badge tourist guide Dafydd Wyn Philips. I found ballads from the C17th to the C19th revealing the history of Clerkenwell, telling stories about remarkable events, and exploring themes of poverty, drink, crime & punishment, and the work of Charles Dickens and William Morris.

I thoroughly enjoyed researching and arranging these songs. I found some of them in them in Ballads Online, and some in the English Broadside Ballad Archive. I did a bit of detective work to provide tunes for some of them.

You can read an interview I did with Festival director Lindsay Kemp here

Dafydd and are planning another ballad walk, a virtual guided tour through the City of London, on Wednesday 26th January 2022, for Dragon Cafe In the City which runs as a fortnightly programme of events for those who wish to release the pressure, break the stress cycle, and build resilience, free and open to all. Check their website for joining details.

Little Mousgrove and The Lady Barnet

The Carnival Band

Between 2014 and 2018 I was privileged to take part in a project with The Carnival Band, to record 100 of the most popular ballads of the C17th for a project led by Dr Chris Marsh of Queen’s University Belfast.

The Carnival Band are releasing some of these recordings in ‘A New Bag of Old Ballads’, and I sing the third in the series, ‘Little Mousegrove & The Lady Barnet’ (AKA ‘Little Musgrave’ or ‘Matty Groves’). The song tells of an adulterous & passionate tryst between a young man and a noblewoman, ending in betrayal and murder. Andy Watts from the Carnival Band introduces the project here.

‘A lamentable ballad of the little Musgrove’ . A seventeenth century broadside held in the Bodleian Library

Check the bag to hear ‘The Delights of the Bottle’, sung by Giles Lewin, and ‘I’ll Never Love Thee More’, sung by Jub Davis, and keep visiting for more treasures.

If you’re interested in finding out more about these ballads, watch ‘The Woman to the Plow and the Man to the Hen-Roost’: Wives, Husbands, & Best-Selling Ballads in Seventeenth-Century England, a lecture given by Dr Chris Marsh to the Royal Historical Society in 2018, with illustrations sung by me.

Angels in the Architecture – a concert for St Mary’s, Beverley

Part of Beverley Early Music Festival 2020, postponed until 2021 – shared online, one song at a time!

With my friend and colleague Giles Lewin of Alva, & joined by wonderful medieval harpist & blogger Leah Stuttard, we have created Angels in the Architecture, a concert for St Mary’s in Beverley, thought to be one of the finest parish churches in England, and currently undergoing restoration. We were looking forward to performing at the Beverley Early Music Festival on Saturday 30 May 2020, but this is now postponed until 2021, like all live music events in the current crisis. In the meantime, we’ve decided to share some of the songs online, in a series of blog posts and recordings. Our songs feature angels and devils, dragons and other mythical beasts, famous people with local connections such as St John of Beverley and King Athelstan, and dramatic retellings of bible stories  – all inspired by the heritage of St Mary’s, and its unique collection of misericords, carvings, and over 600 carved roof bosses. This short video trailer for Angels in the Architecture showcases the musicians of Alva, and some of our site-specific performance and education work in other venues such as the V&A, The Geffrye Museum and The Globe, as well as evoking the special atmosphere of St Mary’s, with its exquisite bosses and sculptures

We have enjoyed collaborating with Dr Jennie England, Heritage Learning Officer of St Mary’s, who has helped us to understand more about this unique building, and we’re so thankful for her contributions to enrich these posts. In the first of a series of video podcasts, with some stunning aerial footage of the church and Beverley, she tells the story of the dramatic fall of St Mary’s tower in 1520, the tragic consequences, and subsequent remarkable rebuilding.

Jennie introduces her work as a heritage officer, and provides an insight into the cultural heritage of St Mary’s and its unique roof bosses.

Our first song is Sir Eglamore & The Dragon, a broadside balled printed in 1672.  You can see a copy here at the wonderful online resource of the English Broadside Ballad Archive, University of Santa Barbara:

Here is our version, sung and played on fiddle by Giles, and featuring Leah’s sonorous bray-harp:

Sir Eglamore & The Dragon

Courage Crowned with Conquest; OR, A brief relation, how that Valiant Knight, and Heroick Champion Sir Eglamore, bravely fought with, and manfully slew, a terrible, huge great Monstrous Dragon

To a Pleasant new Tune
Sir Eglamore that valiant knight,
Fa la lanky down dilly,
He fetched his sword and he went to fight,
Fa la lanky down dilly,
As he went over hill and dale,
All clothed in his coat of mail
Fa la la la, la la la, lanky down dilly.

A huge great dragon leapt out of his den,
Fa la lanky down dilly,
Which had killed the Lord knows how many men,
Fa la lanky down dilly,
But when he saw Sir Eglamore,
Good lack had you seen see how this dragon did roar,
Fa la la la, la la la, lanky down dilly.

This dragon, he had a plaguy hide,
Fa la lanky down dilly,
That could both sword and steel abide,
Fa la lanky down dilly,
He could not enter with hacks and cuts
Which vexed the knight to the very hearts blood and guts,
Fa la la la, la la la, lanky down dilly.

All the trees in the wood did shake,
Fa la lanky down dilly,
Stars did tremble and men did quake,
Fa la lanky down dilly,
But had you seen how the birds lay peeping,
‘Twould have made a man’s heart to fall  a-weeping,
Fa la la la, la la la, lanky down dilly.

But it was too late to fear,
Fa la lanky down dilly,
For now it was come to fight dog, fight bare,
Fa la lanky down dilly,
And as a yawning he did fall,
he thrust his sword in hilt and all
Fa la la la, la la la, lanky down dilly.

But now as the knight in choler did burn
Fa la lanky down dilly,
He owed the dragon a shrewd good turn,
Fa la lanky down dilly,
In at his mouth his sword he bent,
The hilt appeared at his fundament,
Fa la la la, la la la, lanky down dilly.

The sword that was a right good blade,
Fa la lanky down dilly,
As ever Turk or Spaniard made
Fa la lanky down dilly,
I for my part do forsake it
And he that will fetch it, let him take it,
Fa la la la, la la la, lanky down dilly.

When all this was done, to the ale-house he went
Fa la lanky down dilly,
And by and by his two pence he spent,
Fa la lanky down dilly,
For he was so hot with tugging with the dragon,
That nothing would quench him but a whole flaggon.
Fa la la la, la la la, lanky down dilly.

Now God preserve our King and Queen,
Fa la lanky down dilly,
And eke in London may be seen.
Fa la lanky down dilly,
As many knights, and as many more
And all so good as Sir Eglamore.
Fa la la la, la la la, lanky down dilly.

Millions of such ballads were printed cheaply on one side of paper, with a picture or two, tune-name and lyrics, and hawked on the streets for a penny by ballad sellers. The catchy chorus of our ballad in the middle and end of verses, makes this ideal for communal singing, perhaps over a flagon or two. We are intrigued by the reference to swords, and wonder about the significance of this. According to wiki, they became something of a fashion accessory for the well-dressed gentleman during the C17th and C18th centuries, after which canes, and then eventually umbrellas, became a Victorian gentleman’s wardrobe essential.

Watch this space for more songs, recorded remotely by the members of Alva, in France, Oxford and Chorleywood, all inspired by the architecture of the beautiful church of St Mary’s in Beverley, featuring angels, devils, wily foxes, pilgrim rabbits and the blessed St John of Beverley!