Day #106/365: The whisperings of Willow O Waly
Willow O Waly is the song which is the recurring motif for the 1961 film The Innocents…
Haunting. Lilting. Lovely. Indeed.
Finders Keepers Records fairly recently released a version of it on 7″ vinyl as part of their Finders Kreepers series:
“Starting the series off on a good foot Finders Kreepers bring you a mysterious and beguiling piece of music that has enchanted and eluded fans of vintage horror for decades. A game changer for the new wave of British horror when it was originally released the most unnerving attribute of The Innocents was the recurring childlike song that haunted the corridors and gardens of a haunted house in between bursts of concrète effects and drones (made by an uncreditted Daphne Oram). A forerunner to a generation of lullaby lead horror scenes (such as Rosemary’s Baby and Profondo Rosso) whilst drawing comparison with other macabre music featuring minor maestros such as The Night Of The Hunter and The Wickerman, this song is an oft requested gem of a micro-genre which seldom passes through second hand record stores and bookshops undetected in its original vinyl form. Produced as an ambitious commercial tie-in for the release of the film in 1961 this elongated studio version sung by the lead Scottish born actress Isla Cameron (who many will also recognise as a prolific traditional folk singer on the early 60s) was casually marketed to a small audience of movie fans who perhaps liked the idea of bringing the ghost into their own house. This rare original studio version is one of the only ways to capture the short leading motif that has echoed, in limbo, through the consciousness of film enthusiasts for over five decades.”
Ah, re-reading that piece helps makes sense of something that I thought when I recently watched the film: that the music/sounds which accompanied Willow O Waly were curiously experimental sounding, so it’s not a suprise to see that they were created by a pioneer of electronic music (see Daphne Oram here).
As an aside, I’m still mildly annoyed with myself for missing a talk that Martin Stephen, the main male child actor from The Innocents gave which I had the change to go to. ‘Twould have been interesting I expect and something of a rarity to hear him talking about such things as after appearing in The Innocents, The Hellfire Club, Village Of The Damned, the Nigel Kneale penned The Witches etc he gave up acting at 18.
John Wyndham’s book The Midwich Cuckoos on which Village Of The Damned was based was one of the earliest pieces of adult science fiction I read and has been mentioned in these pages before, see Day #46) borrowed from the shelves of books that ran round most of the side of one of the two classrooms in the small country school I attended at the time… the final page or so was missing and so the end was a mystery for a fair while.
The unsettling visions of Mr Wyndham’s fiction seems to have stayed with me somewhat over the years and keeps cropping up around these parts… I think I may have to be a-returning to such things in a more indepth manner during the journey of this year in the country…