Day #359/365: Right Wantonly A-Mumming
This is an album that has stayed with me and intrigued me for a fair while now…
I shall start with Sharron Kraus words on the album as she has a particular way of capturing the spirit of both her own work and that which has inspired it (see also in particular her writing which accompanied Pilgrim Chants & Pastoral Trails).
“This album was written over the course of a year, starting at midsummer 2005. My aim was to create songs that could be sung to celebrate the seasons and mark the turning points of the year; songs with choruses that were easy to pick up and that would sit comfortably alongside traditional wassailing songs, carols and May songs.
Each song was written in its season: at midsummer I awoke at dawn, climbed a hill and looked out over Oxfordshire and imagined the battle between summer and winter; at midwinter I made holly wreaths, wrapped up warm and went for brisk wintery walks and then huddled in a warm pub with my favourite traditional singers, sang ‘To Shorten Winter’s Sadness’ for the first time and was rewarded with a rousing chorus.
As well as using the changing seasons as direct inspiration, I researched folklore associated with the different seasons. Useful sources were Christina Hole’s books on British folk customs, George Long’s The Folklore Calendar, and J.G. Frazer’s The Golden Bough. Musically The Watersons’ Frost and Fire and For Pence and Spicy Ale were touchstones and William Chappell’s Popular Music of the Olden Time was a fount of information.
Following and marking the seasons was important to rural communities whose lives depended on a good harvest. I believe that it’s just as important for us to do the same: to rejoice when spring comes each year; to be thankful for ‘good harvests’, whatever form they take; to confront death and the return of winter, and to take comfort in each other’s company through the cold months. I hope that these songs will be sung by folk singers in sessions and folk clubs, around bonfires at midsummer gatherings, by choirs, by ramblers and anyone who takes joy in nature.
It’s a lovely, heartwarming album; a collection of songs which could indeed sit amongst longstanding traditional folk songs – her own compositions are inseparable from such work.
The first time I heard it, I thought that I had heard nearly every song on it many times before – it was almost as though they were etched in some deep-rooted cultural/historical memory of which I was unaware.
Also, in some subtle way that I can’t quite put my finger on, though these may be quite traditional sounding folk songs, there is a sense that underlying them are the otherly Albion concerns and stories that can be found in much of Sharron Kraus’ work – an explorative spirit/layering coupled with a rigour of research.
Good cheer to you all.