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!

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog! This is my first entry – thanks for visiting!

I’m a community choir leader and singer specialising in early music. I research the history of songs, and the role of the arts in health and wellbeing.  I make performances which engage & include audiences and link to closely to communities, places & history. In this blog I have loads I’d love to share: thoughts and discoveries about songs, singing and the arts, and aspects of my work. I’m planning to share something every week.

This first post is about a choir I lead called The Dragon Café Singers, and our most recent performance on December 5th 2019 in Concert for Winter, at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. CFW is the Globe’s free annual showcase and celebration of the past, present and future of Southwark. This is us on stage in December, with amazing tuba player Oren Marshall, & instrumentalists from The Globe.

The theme of the concert was Roots. We wrote a new song, and we’re recording it soon.

We’ve performed annually in CFW since 2014, and this has inspired us to write original songs, which form most of our repertoire. Last year we recorded a CD of our music.

This is the first track ‘Drive the Cold Winter Away’, written for Concert for Winter in 2017. We’ve used the melody of a sixteenth century English ballad, with new words about love, food and community, and a samba rhythm. https://soundcloud.com/vivien-keiles/drive-the-cold-winter-away

The Dragon Café is a place of wellbeing which pops up every Monday from 12 midday in the Crypt of St George the Martyr Church, opposite Borough Tube Station. Activities are free and open to all. Fresh low-cost vegetarian food is cooked on site, with produce from nearby Borough Market. I lead a drop-in singing group at 1pm every week, which I’ve done every Monday since January 2013. The Dragon Café Singers songwriting and performing group meets on Mondays at 3pm. Everyone is welcome to both groups!

In this video, Jacqui, a member of our singing group, shares her story. Jacqui has several long-term conditions, including Parkinson’s. Jacqui became a patron of The Dragon Café in 2016, on the advice of her GP, and comes nearly every week. She enjoys singing, dancing, visual art and many other activities. In the video, Jacqui explains how singing has brought her speech back. https://vimeo.com/283913323/2f718c6952

My work at the cafe is at the heart of the new Arts for Health training I have designed for General Practitioners. The experience and co-production of people who use services is central to this training.

The cafe was founded by Sarah Wheeler, a visionary arts activist, who lived locally, and was a long-time user of mental health services. She envisioned a creative cafe in the crypt of St George’s, a place to ‘create, relate. integrate’. Sarah passed away in 2016, but her legacy lives on in Mental Fight Club, the charity she founded, the aim of which is:

“The promotion of social inclusion amongst people who are socially excluded from society or parts thereof as a result of mental ill-health, through the provision of creative events which foster social connection and allow for the exploration of mental illness, recovery and well-being for all”.

This is an image of our first performance at The Globe in December 2014, with Sarah Wheeler standing on the right, in a black beanie. This first post is dedicated to Sarah, Mental Fight Club, and all who help to make The Dragon Café a creative place to be, for everyone. With gratitude.