July 27, 2011

Gin Trap Folk

I usually keep this gig quiet as it feels more like an evening at home with friends than a public event but I feel bound to sing the praises of Norfolk folk before I head north to Auld Reekie for a month of Fringe. Last night's monthly session at the Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead, was particularly brilliant with no less than three rootsy folk versions of Lennon-McCartney songs - Let Me Roll It, Norwegian Wood (well she would wouldn't she?) and Get Back - that make you realise how folk-inspired the greatest pop band of all time actually were. And much else besides - a harp, sea shanties, blues, group sing-alongs, Sloop John B with every kind of vocal and instrumental accompaniment - they even let me bang my bodhran- unaccompanied ballads, Italian love songs a capello from the lurvely landlord, endless good humour and banter and a place for poetry too. We have the timeless folk tradition on our doorstep in these parts and even if most of us are Sixties and Seventies veterans and getting on a bit, it doesn't look like ending any time soon. Performing the 'rap' below with the whole pub joining me on the 'life is a bitch' refrain (very funny when you see and hear a pub growling this in unison) was one of the high spots of my performing life and the very best confidence-booster to send me off to represent Sedgeford at the Edinburgh Fringe. Let's hear it for Gin Trap Folk! Cock-a-doodle-do! (or whatever you call that sound that pheasants make)

In the gloom before work, let the radio play,
Life is a bitch but the songs are great.

The longer I live the more I must say,
Life is a bitch but the songs are great.

Ruin hath taught me to thus ruminate
Life is a bitch but the songs are great.

Twenty years of schooling merely dictate
Life is a bitch but the songs are great.

Flowers will wither and teeth will decay.
Life is a bitch but the songs are great.

Everything passes; your heart still aches.
Life is a bitch but the songs are great.

You mortgage three decades then death awaits.
Life is a bitch but the songs are great.

You dream siren-holidays: the alarm clock awakes.
Life is a bitch but the songs are great.

You want the Maracana: you get Ashton Gate.
Life is a bitch but the songs are great.

A shop-till jingle with words by Yeats,
Life is a bitch but the songs are great.

In the name of love, you self-procreate,
Life is a bitch but the songs are great.

You lose the plot, like Chandler, like Blake,
Life is a bitch but the songs are great.

The Kylie bird sings and no guitar breaks.
Life is a bitch but the songs are great.

Saturday ends in a month of Sundays.
Life is a bitch but the songs are great.

I came here for Eden and got Bill Gates.
Life is a bitch but the songs are great.

Life is a bitch but the songs are great.
Let the heartstrings soar, the brass (or in this case, the folk) resonate.

July 26, 2011

King Arthur Rides Out: Holt Festival

King Arthur (One Man and His Masks Part 2) Rides Out - and more sure footedly than a world premiƩre might though I have been preparing it since March 2010. Holt Festival is a very good place to be: securely organised, energetic and with lots of sell out houses and I believe I was the first act of its Ubergrandanonium. King Arthur to the fore as always. The long applause at the end and even a whistle (this is becoming a trend and I'm all for it) made brave music in my ears. Norfolk audiences, as I know from my years in the Sedgeford pantomime, often give no indication whatsoever of what they're feeling throughout a show but then thunder out their approval at the end. So my heart was in my mouth for much of this but it's beating as a steady as an Arthurian gallop now, ready for anything - even the Edinburgh fringe.

July 11, 2011

Will Ye No Come Back Again?

The Rest Is History

The rest is history, or Arthur Mee legend.
A lost summer country hollow Inn,
The Green Man, cheering on a Great British win,
An Avalon that isn’t there in the morning;
A dream awoken to this light’s cold day
Where in spite of my shin-struck, wounded need
For thundering hooves in defence of these islands,
He doesn’t come back. And he was never
Called Arturus Rex, whoever he was,
And in some accounts, not even ‘Arthur’.
And he was never mediaeval and never a king.
And who cares? Not Me. I stand on this tumulus
Of boyhood, layers of chalk written on clay,
Craters and knolls, his monk-buried legend
Scarred in my flesh, his doubt-defying
Desperate defence of wonder (which
Is what he was) an earth ditch like mine;
His weapons, toys of tin and
strapped wood and skin,
Like mine, on a May hill that may have been Badon
And may have not, blades
of peaceful grass troubled only -
And not just now - by rain, wind and ghosts
And a White Horse, God-large in memory,

God-large still.

This is from The Lost Land, the text (or libretto if we're being arty) of Arthur; Britain's Making. The show premiƩres at the Holt Festival on Monday 25 July. High noon. 45 minutes. Free but you gotta book. boxoffice@holtfestival.org 01263 711284 website www.holtfestival.org - look in the ubergrandanomium section. I put together various Celtic British voices for Arthur and his knights and goddesses and ladies for the show and this particular one - suggested by the romantic vision that vanishes with the morning mist 'he does not come back' comes out as Scottish and with a Skye boat song lilt. I grew up in Somerset and visited Westbury White Horse frequently. The prehistoric White Horse carved in the hillside was indeed as large as God and when I went back to Frome on the train a few years ago the horse, seen from the railway line, seemed just as epic. So a fair amount of the show comes out in a West country voice but there is much Scottish material in this great British legend and the hero fights as many battles from the north as he does from the West. Sir Gawain of Orkney, Arthur's Seat and all that Celtic jazz. This continuing defence of daring and wonder travels to Edinburgh and the Celtic fringe to join its sister show, Boudicca; Britain's Dreaming, at venue 53 theSpace@Surgeons' Hall on 6 August.