Tunes for a Monday Morning

Nightingale  photographed by John Bridges

Today's music comes from the brilliant British folk singer and folk song collector Sam Lee. I'm completely in love with this young man's music -- as well as with the wide variety of collaborative projects he instigates or contributes to. If you ever have the chance to see him live, please don't miss it.  His recordings of old ballads and Gypsy Traveller songs are wonderful, but hearing them live -- as they are meant to be heard -- is just extraordinary.

The Nightingale by Henry Justice Ford (1860-1940)Above: A BBC profile of Lee's "Singing With the Nightingales," an annual series of events in which folk, classical, and jazz musicians collaborate with nightingales in their natural habitats. As the website explains, guests at the nightingale gatherings are invited "not just to listen to these birds in ear-tinglingly close proximity, but to share an evening around the fire, delving into your hosts’ and guest musicians' own funds of rare songs and stories." After supper by the fire, the small audience for each event is lead "in silence and darkness into the nightingale’s habitat, not only to listen to these majestic birds, but to share in an improvised collaboration; to experience what happens when bird and human virtuosi converge in musical collaboration."

Below: "One Morning in May," a traditional British song performed by Lee and Kathryn Tickell (on Northumbrian smallpipes) for BBC Radio 3.

Above: "Blackbird," a traditional British Traveller song peformed by Lee in Amsterdam -- with Jonah Brody on piano, Joshua Green on percussion, amd Flora Curzon on violin.

Above: "Lovely Molly," a gorgeous rendition of a Scottish Traveller song by Lee, Brody, and Green for The Lullaby Project at the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds.

Above: "The Blind Beggar," performed by Lee with Lisa Knapp and Nathaniel Mann at the Foundling Museum in London as part of their Broadside Ballads project. A broadside, the three musicians explain, "is a single sheet of inexpensive paper printed on one side, often with a ballad, rhyme, news and sometimes with woodcut illustrations. Broadside ballads, from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries, contain words and images once displayed and sung daily in Britain’s streets and inns. Although part of living traditions of folksong, popular art and literature, these illustrated printed sheets are now rare and preserved in only a few libraries." In developing the project, they spent time researching the ballads at the Bodleian, and then created new contemporary arrangements for these historic songs.

Below: "Lord Gregory" (Child Ballad #76) performed by Sam Lee with the Choir of World Cultures (directed by Barbara Morgenstern) from Berlin.

Blackbird

For more on Sam Lee's work with Gyspy ballads, see this previous post from 2015,  and a video talk about his work here.


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Irish fiddle

Today, traditional music from Dublin, Ireland:

Above, "Willie O Winsbury" (Child Ballad #100) performed by Ye Vagabonds, a folk duo consisting of brothers Diarmuid and Brían Mac Gloinn.

Below: Ye Vagabonds again with "Barbara Ellen" (Child Ballad #84).

Above: "The Holland Hankerchief" (Child Ballad #272) performed by The Morning Tree, an Irish-Italian-American folk trio based in Dublin. The group consists of Eoghan O’Shaughnessy (guitar), Consuelo Nerea Breschi (fiddle and bouzouki), and Lindsay Straw (guitar and bouzouki).

Below: The magical video for "Hiljainen Suru," a Finnish folk song, by Slow Moving Clouds, a Dublin trio that draws inspiration from both the Irish and Nordic traditions: Danny Diamond (fiddle) and Kevin Murphy (cello), and Aki (nyckleharpa).

Meldon Hill,Chagford

And an instrumental piece to end with: "Devil's Polska" by Slow Moving Clouds.


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Presently by Jeanie Tomanek

My apologies for the paucity of posts recently -- a combination of life, health, and family matters has kept me out of the studio. But it's a new week and I'm starting again, returning to work and hoping for a good stretch of quiet, interruption-free time.

Let's start the week gently, with lyrical poetry and women's voices in beautiful harmony....

Above: "The Blood I Bled" by The Staves, a trio of sisters from Watford, Hertfordshire. The performance was filmed for the American program A Prairie Home Companion last autumn.

Below: "Damn It All" by The Staves, performed at KUTX radio station in Austin, Texas in March.

Above: "The Lost Sky" by Jesca Hoop, performed on A Prairie Home Companion in February,  backed up by Chris Thile, Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O'Donovan, Stuart Duncan, Alan Hampton, and Julian Lage. Hoop is an American singer-songwriter based in Manchester, England.

Below: "Pegasi" by Jesca Hoop.

And one more:

"Home" by The Henry Girls, a trio of sisters from Donegal, Ireland, backed up by The Inishowen Gospel Choir.

Upright Blessing by Jeanie Tomanek

The gorgeous art today is, of course, by Jeanie Tomanek, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

"I paint," she says, "to explore the significance of ideas, memories, events, feelings, dreams and images that seem to demand my closer attention....Literature, folktales, and myths often inspire my exploration of the feminine archetype."

To learn more about the artist and her work, please go here.


Tunes for a Monday Morning

MayDay in Chagford

Happy Beltane and May Day!

The music this morning is from Lisa Knapp, a British folk musician who has long been interested in the traditional songs of the season. Her extraordinary new album, Till April is Dead: A Garland of May, is highly recommended -- as is her previous five-track release, Hunt the Hare: A Branch of May.

Above:  Knapp's video for "Till April is Dead," the title song of her new album. As music reviewer Thomas Blake describes it: "Sayings from French, German, Spanish, Gaelic and English folklore become entwined (in both sound and meaning) over simple plucked strings before Knapp sings a lighter than air rendition of Hal-An-Tow, a song made famous by the Watersons and the Albion Band. The song’s inherent strangeness -- the coupling of nonsense words with quasi-religious and mythological imagery -- is only thrown into sharper focus by its new setting."

Below: A beautiful version of the English folk song "The Blacksmith" (audio only), from a previous Knapp album, Wild and Undaunted.

Above: The spooky, folkloric video for Knapp's song "Black Horse." This one comes from Hidden Seam, and features vocals by James Yorkston.

Below: "Enter Ariel" by Clara Sanabras -- with Lisa Knapp, Chorus of Dissent Britten Sinfonia, London Voices, and the Ceyda Tanc Youth Dance. The song comes from Hum About the Ears, a thoroughly gorgeous folk opera by Sanabras based on Shakespeare's The Tempest. To learn more about it, please go here.

And to end with:

Lisa Knapp's rendition of "Don't You Go Rushing," a traditional May song collected by Cecil Sharp in Somerset in 1907. 

The photographs above come from previous May Day celebrations here in Chagford. That's Howard dancing the Obby Oss, and Jason of England dancing the Jack-in-the-Green. The piper is Andy Letcher. For more May Day photos, go here.

And to learn more about the folklore of May Day, go here. Up the May!

The Obby Oss & the Jack-in-Green dance down the High Street  in Chagford


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Telling Stories to the Trees by Rima Staines

This morning we start by going out into "The Woods" with Polly Paulusma and Rima Staines. The song is from Polly's album Finger & Thumbs. The video features stop-motion/paper-cut animation by Rima. It was the first piece of animation she'd ever done.

Below: "Lake Tahoe" by Kate Bush, from her album 50 Words for Snow. This touching video, directed by Bush herself, tells the tale of a dog longing for his owner. "It has all been created in camera with shadow puppets, one of my favourite art forms because of its simplicity," she says.

Above: "When I Grow Up," performed by the Swedish folk duo First Aid Kid. The song was written by by Karin Dreijer Andersson (aka Fever Ray), and the stop motion/paper-cut animation is by Rachael Greenfield.

Below: "Furr," by the American alt folk band Blitzen Trapper, about a wolf-boy in the woods of Oregon, with animation directed by Jade Harris. The video quality isn't as sharp as it could be, alas, but the song is charming.

And one more:

"Within the Rose," by British alt folk band Matthew and the Atlas (from their album True North), with shadow puppet animation by Neil Coxhill. Simply gorgeous, song and video alike.

I'm on a Writing Retreat at the moment -- but I set up this post for you in advance, and very much hope you enjoy these tunes. If you'd like a little more animation this morning, go here.

Have a good start to the week, everyone.

Dark Mountain (detail) by Rima Staines

The art today is by Rima Staines. To see more of her magical work, please visit her website, blog, and the Hedgespoken page.


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Rune Guneriussen.jpg

Above: "Harder to Hear" from Romantica, a country, roots, and gospel band from Minneapolis, fronted by Irish singer-songwriter Ben Kyle.

Below: "Something to Believe In" by King Creosote (Kenny Anderson), a singer-songwriter from Fife, Scotland.

Above: "Seven Notes" by Nancy Kerr, a London-born singer-songwriter and fiddle player now based in Sheffield. 

Below: "Trespassers" by State Broadcasters, an alt folk band from Glasgow, Scotland.

Today's music is dedicated to the the struggling, the despairing, the frightened, the endangered, the different, the immigrants and refugees and Others everywhere. With love.

Rune Guneriussen

The imagery above is from Norwegian installation artist and photographer Rune Guneriussen.


Tunes for a Monday Morning

A dog from a medieval bestiary

Above: A classic British folk song, " Whilst the Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping," performed by the great Chris Wood and Andy Cutting at the Southwell Festival. (I woke up with the first line of the song running through my head: Oh, I have a dog and a good dog too.... Tilly loves that part.)

Below, so the poachers don't get the last word:  "I Am the Fox," performed by Nancy Kerr (whose work I just love) and James Fagan (of the The James Brothers) at the Bath Folk Festival.

Above: Nancy Kerr and James Fagan again, performing their gorgeous song "Queen of Waters."

Below: "Seven Years," a beautiful tune by Andy Cutting, performed by Cutting with Martin Simpson and Nancy Kerr.

And one more: "Atheist Spiritual: Come Down Jehovah," written and performed by Chris Wood. I'm not an atheist myself (I'm an earthy old pagan), but this song speaks to me deeply nonetheless.

Dog in paradise


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Caravan by Remedios Varo

Today, the music of Rebekka Karijord, which seems to echo the introspective mood I'm in as the week begins....

Karijord is a Norwegian singer/songwriter, sound technician, and composer for film & dance, based in Sweden. She has a new album out this year, Mother Tongue -- partially inspired by the traumatic arrival, three months early, of her first baby. It's darker than her early work, and very beautiful.

Above: "Home," a stunning song from the new album.

Below: "Wear it Like a Crown," an old favorite from her first album, The Art of Letting Go.

Above: "Paperboy," performed live in Paris -- a simple accoustic rendition, just harp and voice.

Below: "This Anarchistic Heart," performed live in Stockholm. The video ends a bit abruptly, but is well-filmed otherwise. I'd love to see Karijord in performance one day; I hear that her concerts are magical.

The art today is by Spanish painter Remedios Varo. I love her work, which partially inspired one of the characters in my desert novel, The Wood Wife. I recommend "The surrealist muses who roared" by Joanna Moorhead, a Guardian article about Varo and her best friend, English painter Leonora Carrington -- published back in 2010, before Carrington's death the following year. There's also a very good biography of Varo: Unexpected Journeys by Janet A. Kaplan.

The Flautist by Remedios Varo


Tunes for a Monday Morning

The Butterfly Fox by Jackie Morris

There's so much turmoil in the world right now that I'm going to go against the grain of worry and fear to start the week with music that reminds us of the resilience of the human spirit, and the joy of being alive....

Fox Heart drawing by Jackie Morris

Above: "Head Rush" by Jiggy, an Alt Folk collective from Dublin, Ireland. The song begins with "mouth music" from Irish vocalist Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin and Indian vocalist Debojyoti Sanyal, with Mark Murphy on keyboard, Guy Rickarby and Robbie Harris on drums and percussion, and Éamonn Galldubh on Uilleann Pipes. In regards to video above they say: "All people smile in the same language." And indeed they do.

Below: "Happiness" from We Banjo Three, an Irish band consisting of two sets of brothers: Enda & Fergil Schahill, and Martin & David Howley. I love these guys.  Their exuberant video was filmed on the streets of Galway and Galway Market.

Above: "Sultanas de Merkaíllo," an old favorite from the Barcelona band Ojos de BrujoPass, sadness, pass, the lyrics tell us. Though our pockets are empty, our hearts are full - so pass, sadness, pass, in the heat and fire the rumba. Alas, Ojos de Brujo disbanded in 2012 after more than a decade of making great flamenco/gypsy-jazz/punk/hiphop music -- but lead singer Marina Abad is still going strong and doing interesting things.

Below: Let's end with a quieter piece from American singer/songwriter John Legend, reminding us to make the most of every moment in "Love Me Now."

Hare, Fox, and the space between by Jackie Morris.jpg

The art above is by Jackie Morris, an artist/author based on the coast of Wales. Please visit her website to see more of her beautiful and always-uplifting work.


Tunes for a Monday Morning

The Dance by Paula Rego

Today, three singers of Portuguese fado: a genre of songs expressing feelings of love and saudade (or longing)...often sad, and thus called "the Portuguese blues."

Above: "Gente Da Minha Terra (People of My Land)" by Mariza  (Marisa dos Reis Nunes), performed in 2013. Born in Portuguese Mozambique and raised in Lisbon, this exquisite singer is widely regarded as the leading fadista of the New Fado movement.

Below: A beautifully simple version of  "Melhor de Mim." It comes from Mariza's most recent album, Mundo (2015) -- which is terrific.

Agonia no Horto by Paula Rego

Above: "O Pastor," performed in 2010 by Teresa Salgueiro, from Lisbon.  Salgueiro first recorded this song with the Portuguese music ensemble Madredeus. (She was their lead singer until 2007.) If you're unfamiliar with the group, I highly recommend their compilation album Antologia, which is utterly gorgeous.

Below: "Meu Amor de Longe" by Raquel Tavares, another fine fadista from Lisbon. Fado songs tend to emphasize personal stories of love, longing, and other emotional themes -- but they're not all sad, as this song shows. On a dark winter day, it's good to be reminded of warmth, light, and the quiet strength of community.

The art today is by Paula Rego, who was born and raised in Portugal and now lives in London. Rego's work often incorporates imagery from Portuguese folklore, fairy tales, nursery rhymes, children's literature and women's history.  "We interpret the world through stories," she says. "Everybody makes, in their own way, sense of things; but if you have stories it helps."

(Rego is also a close friend of fairy tale scholar Marina Warner, whose project on refugee stories seems more vital than ever right now.)

The Encampment by Paula Rego

If you'd like a little more fado this morning, try this previous post from 2014. Or this one, from 2011.