Well I have to say I’m pretty happy that all these subscriptions are going to be disappearing. Who ever reads them? Every time I’ve had an email from some clothing company or whatever saying “WE DON’T WANT TO LOSE YOU!” I’ve muttered “You have no idea who I am, so go away”.

I’ve always been uncomfortable that in my website, the “unsubscribe” box is really hard to find (I don’t know where it is, so how could you?!) so maybe this is for the best! I was once a very keen blogger, when I was paid to do one while under management and contract (http://thecanadiannightingale.blogspot.co.uk/) and I would keep this one going too but for the possibility of fines under the General Data Protection Regulations! I downloaded two “plugins” to comply with regulations but then what? I’m not a tech wizard and they clearly expect that I am. So there they sit, unused.

I do have some exciting future projects; next month I will be recording a 32-track CD to go with my forthcoming book “She Wrote the Songs” which is about the particular and important contribution women made to domestic, or parlour song, focusing on the 1830s to the 1950s. Some AMAZING, INSPIRING stories and gorgeous tunes. Really surprising stuff. This will come out in late summer, all being well. The book will be published by Valley Press, and the CD was meant to go inside the book but taxes being different for books and CDs, unfortunately they will have to be sold separately. I’ll sell them together at gigs though! Trust me, these songs are fascinating, and really really excellent. Andrea Kmecova and I have performed them far and wide in preparation.

Also Matt and I will be making a recording of what we call the “Ditties Project” or “Songs of the Olden Time”. You can see a playlist on Youtube HERE! Many many songs that are part of the fabric of this country but seldom performed.

There is also a REALLY EXCITING appearance in a major film which I cannot talk about yet, that is set to be out later this year or early next (all I’ll say is I’m wearing green feathers); and for this last commemorative year of the First World War, there are a raft of appearances. Hopefully you’ll hear us sometime soon on In Tune, talking about these! In the meantime I’ve listed them on the “Gigs” link as best I can. I’ll put more details and links as I go along. There are several pop-up appearances not confirmed yet. Do not hesitate to CONTACT ME if you’d like to know anything!

I’ve also been doing a fair amount of atmospheric session work lately, with tracks like this one:

And final credit sequences for documentaries like this one:

Well, in short, there is a lot happening, and a lot going to happen! Because of GDPR, I won’t be sending out messages like this one, however DO subscribe to my YouTube channel, and be sure to hit the little red bell icon on the subscribe button, and you’ll be able to see things there, and if you’d like to, do keep in touch in other ways, do send me a message when you’re wondering what’s going on. Send me a message now if you’d like me to personally email you (individually!) to tell you when the book is out, and thank you for subscribing!! It’s been lovely to have had the privilege of communicating with you!

I know this is rather last-minute but if you have a desire to be near the Thames at Hampton Court, this Friday, day after tomorrow that is, the 11th of August, Matt and I will be performing Old English Ditties at Garrick’s utterly charming Temple to Shakespeare, at 19:30pm.
It is truly the most magical venue. Built by the legendary Shakespearian actor David Garrick to entertain his guests with intimate readings, its acoustics and its architecture are inimate, and GORGEOUS. There will be food and wine available in the interval, and the ducks and geese can be heard throughout! We will do such lovely things as “The Miller of Dee”, “Oh Dear What Can the Matter Be” and also some sea shanties, and MAYBE some French ditties too while we’re at it. Tuneful and charming, and altogether lovely.

Here is one of the songs, performed at St. Thomas’s Hospital earlier this year:

On 26th of July, Matt and I were thrilled to perform at the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the German Military Cemetery in Cannock Chase. Over 5,000 war dead are buried here, in Stafford. It is one of the most stunning cemeteries I’ve seen. Well worth a visit. It has a dip in the middle of the long rolling plot of land, and on one slope are the First World War dead, and the other are the Second. Prisoners of War, sailors who drowned, and many shot down from the sky are laid to rest here, and every year teenagers from Germany and from Staffordshire stay at a nearby camp and tend the graves. The cooks at their camp are German Army chefs who come over and give of their services for free. The teens invited us to eat with them and we had some sausages in a white sauce with potatoes, which were VERY tasty, then we went and gave an impromptu concert for them in a nearby tent. NO acoustic in tents! None! But they were so attentive it worked. I said that Matt could play any style and to our astonishment, three of the young people asked him to play AC/DC! Like, retro! They also enjoyed our 1910s songs, I hasten to add. They particularly liked “Stay Down Here Where You Belong” of Irving Berlin.
The next day it rained but we performed the German prisoner-of-war song “Möwe du fliegst in die Heimat”, which means “Seagull, you fly to my homeland”. We needed to do an English version so that we could sing for both nations, but there’s no way to make the word “Seagull” sound poetic in English…they steal chips, they get into bins, they terrorize children. So I made it “bluebird” and the translation must have worked, because a few people assumed it was an English song, even though we did the German version as well! We then performed “Auf Wiedersehn” in the original German and then “Auf Wiedersehn Sweetheart” as was made famous by Dame Vera Lynn. At the high cross in the centre of the cemetery we were requested to do “Something modern and hopeful” so it was the Scorpions’ “Wind of Change”. Unamplified, the wind made our whistling bits inaudible, though I could see that most of the audience was whistling with us! I have video footage of this event and will post it in time…DO subscribe to the YouTube channel if interested! Which is HERE
On the 10th of September we will be closing an evening of quirky acts at the Spice of Life nightclub…I believe Matt and I will be on at 9:30pm, that is 2130hrs. It’s £4 to get in. We’ll be doing our best Edwardian pop music! When I have a link I’ll edit this post and add it! But if you’d like to get it in the diary it’s at 6 Moor Street, W1D 5NA, which is in Soho, just off Shaftesbury Avenue. Nice and central!

I’ll be playing the autoharp and Matt will be playing whatever he can physically manage to bring. Probably a bit like at this gig we did in Ealing a couple of weeks ago…but I’ll wear less of an “Ealing” Edwardian dress, more of a “Soho” one.

Maybe see you there!

Oh, nearly forgot! We will be performing medical songs and exotic songs at Mosquito Day at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine from 4 to 6pm on the 18th of August! Details: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-tale-of-control-campaigns-and-cunning-tickets-36059665430

Sometimes people say that I don’t mention gigs until I’ve done them and it’s too late to get to them! So here’s an update that includes a concert I’m doing tomorrow! Plus, a little bit about our trip to the Channel Islands…
Matt and I just did a tour of Guernsey, where we appeared twice on the BBC, and had a wonderful time performing Songs of the Great War at the National Trust Victorian Shop, where they now play our CD on repeat all day every day! There was footage of the event so do keep an eye on the YouTube channel for when we have it. Lovely William Morris wallpaper:


Photo: Sara Lampitt for National Trust, Guernsey

Wonderful Jenny Kendall-Tobias, who knows a lot about music, had us back a few days later to perform the anthem of Guernsey, “Sarnia Cherie”, which was written in 1911, so completely central to the stylistic world of our Songs of the Great War project and CD, which she played on air as well. We sold a few copies! Here is the first radio appearance…will upload the 2nd in due course. Please do SUBSCRIBE to the YouTube channel; and please give a thumbs-up to anything you like on it. It helps the videos to be seen!

I do highly, emphatically, recommend the Victorian Shop in Guernsey, if you’re ever there. It is run by wonderful people, really passionate about the area, and also absolute genius knitters. In the downstairs room are GORGEOUS, criminally-affordable creations. If you don’t believe me, believe Timothy Spall, who came there and bought loads of hand-knit treasures while we were there.
Now! There are a few things coming up, very soon. Tomorrow evening I will be singing Dowland with Emma Kirkby’s Dowland Works, at 6:30pm at Holy Trinity Stroud Green. It’s “pay what you can”. Bring a sandwich and a cushion. I sing at 6:30, and then at 9:10pm in a different dress, I’ll be doing Songs of the Great War with Matt Redman! Early Music, but a little later! (In more ways than one) LINK HERE.
On Sunday evening, at the Rosemary Branch Pub Theatre, something really special. Of course everybody knows about silent films with live musical accompaniment. How about live story-readings with live musical accompaniment! We’re hoping to start a trend, but we need lots of people to know we’re doing it, so please spread the word. Matt and I are teaming up with Nunkie Theatre in two Sherlock Holmes stories, the Dying Detective and the Veiled Lodger. Robert Lloyd Parry, famous for his dramatic and immersive readings of MR James’ ghost stories complete with candles and bucketloads of atmosphere, will read these stories as Matt underscores with appropriate music and sound effects. I sing, too! There will be songs and singalongs as well. Here is a little sneak preview from a rehearsal. Just on a phone, the sound etc. is much better in person and in the venue. Tickets and info HERE

And! Yet another event in the London area. With Andrea Kmecova (You can hear her piano in “Always” as well as the title track on Our Lovely Day…just hit THIS LINK and click on the tiny little play button next to that title below the description) I have been exploring the unique contribution to the popular Parlour Song made by women. Derided as a domestic, and therefore trivial art form, we’re going to tell the stories behind the songs, the achievements of these composers, and crucially, demonstrate that they are jolly good music too!
This will be in Deptford, for Goldsmiths, University of London, and the concert is called Women Who Wrote Songs.
Information HERE!
Thank you for your patience in reading all of this! Also I realise this is all a little last-minute. You know how it is, you work to do things, and to take the time out to promote them seems counterintuitive!

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to release a Renaissance CD, but here’s the first! It contains a lot of Campion, not only a composer but also poet – and physician! The CD contains a catchy Broadside Ballad, and a very folky number as well as Dowland’s sexy morbid hit, In Darkness Let Me Dwell.
And some interesting instrumentals performed by William Summers and Stephen Carpenter, the former playing a flute made out of pear-tree wood and a boxwood descant recorder, and the latter a 7 course lute by Paul Thomson and a 5-course Renaissance guitar by Peter Forrester, which weighs about as much as a ukulele.
Anyway, you can buy it on Big Cartel! HERE.

And here is a sampling so you know what it all sounds like:

The new year is filling up…there will be a project with the Museum of Vancouver for Canada’s 150th birthday, many projects to do with the hundredth anniversary of America’s joining the First World War, a Wilton’s Music Hall date, a tour of Guernsey, and even better, I’ll be in Southport on the 18th of January for Midweek Music! I love that series, and especially the lady who runs it, marvellous Angela, my partner-in-crime for the legendary 2006 tour of North Wales, never forgotten. The people who attend Midweek Music are wonderful. True music-lovers. Last time, I sold out of CDs and about six people gave me money and trusted me to send them the CDs later, which is almost unheard-of. Hoping to visit the Lawnmower Museum while there.

At Valence House for From Sebastopol to Dagenham

At Valence House for From Sebastopol to Dagenham

Here is a photo from the concert at Valence House where we performed songs from the Crimean War. I tried to get the dress as right as I could without bankrupting myself, but the length is a bit short, made to appear shorter by the LATE Victorian high heels: I did have some black velvety flat slippers as they would have worn in the 1850s, I carefully chose them in Brussels a year ago, but I left them outside for a few minutes and the foxes stole them! When I found them, one in a neighbour’s yard and one a block away, they’d been chewed beyond usefulness. Matt as always looks perfect.

There will be Bach, WW1 Cabaret, Victorian Christmas cheer and some rare songs from the Crimean war in November!

And Songs of the Great War is now carried at Foyles on Charing Cross Road, so all those who distrust Paypal have another alternative, and a jolly lovely one at that. It is a GORGEOUS bookshop with one of the last proper Classical CD departments in London. wfa_website_logoVERY nice review (CLICK HERE to read it) from the Western Front Association!

Back to the gigs. First of all the Bach Collective celebrates forty years of Bach in the City of London, started by Peter Lea-Cox in 1976. I actually sang under Lea-Cox just before he retired, when I first came to London (NOT in 1976!), and he wrote his own settings under the name “Lecosaldi” which I always thought very clever! On Remembrance Day and Sunday evening we will be doing Cantatas 61 and 62, rather upbeat works, and very different from my Remembrance Day musical activities of the last five years!

princelet-streetAnd at 4 Princelet Street, a staggeringly atmospheric venue in Spitalfields, there will be a really marvellous event, on the 19th. The fabulously reasonably-priced ticket will get you a drink, egg and chips, a film, a talk, and a 1910s WW1 Cabaret with me plus Matt plus as many instruments as he can pack into the space. It will be lit entirely by beeswax candles, so I’m told, so it will smell gorgeous as well. Very limited number of tickets available due to the intimacy of the space, so if you’re at all interested, do not delay! Tickets HERE.

On the 17th, two days before, we will be at Gloucester Quays for their Christmas Market, performing the completely authentic Victorian stuff we’re famed for…here’s a video of last year’s:

This year I have the same dress in red! Speaking of red, we did a very special event at the Whitgift “Remembering 1916” exhibition…the descendants of the Red Baron, Freiherr and Freifrau von Richthoven, came along to meet descendants of the first Britons the Baron shot down, that very day a hundred years earlier. Together they drank Schnapps and ate a three-course meal in the exhibition itself, as Matt and I performed Roses of Picardy in German and English, and many other 1910s songs. Toward the end of the evening, Freifrau Elisabeth von Richthoven asked us for “something modern”, Ebony and Ivory to be specific! Red Baron WhitgiftLuckily Matt knows every song ever written and played it on the 1910s Pleyel. Frieherr Donat von Richthoven had red-rimmed glasses, and I wore a red dress.

This exhibition has been extended until April, thank goodness. It is brilliant.

And we seem to be the go-to people for wars, as we have dug out some Broadside Ballads for the conclusion of Valence House’s Sebastopol Project. So come on out to Dagenham to hear “Come all you gallant Britons bold, Huzzah my boys, Huzzah!” Real Flashman stuff.

The Renaissance CD will be out before Christmas, by maybe a couple of weeks! Anyone buying CDs from me knows, however, that I do not delay getting things out to you. I am very diligent in that regard! No time is wasted. Please do take a look at the YouTube page as I upload new things as often as I can. The latest is the footage from the opening of the Remembering 1916 exhibition at Whitgift, featuring the wonderful and enormously talented Simon Lane at the Fazioli. This version of Roses of Picardy is in English only. Next time I upload the song I hope it will be in the German-English version, or the French one I found at the Somme!

And so to the Somme. We went in Matt’s car, with lots of water, and lots of CDs.

It was a full trip…this will be a long blog!

Before I start, look in your diary and try to wedge in a visit to the EXTRAORDINARY exhibition at Whitgift. A better exhibition of the First World War would be very very hard to find. It is a one-of-a-kind event, and the (VERY rare, fascinating) objects will return to private hands in a couple of months. Very reasonable prices indeed, a token price really, Shortbreads and Gift Shopand a lovely cafe with antique furniture and zeppelin shortbreads at the end. It is never crowded and…just go. In South Croydon, you can use your Oyster card to get there, open seven days a week. Even the piano in the Edwardian Drawing-room has history. The Turn of the Screw was written on it! http://www.remembering1916.co.uk/

Right! The Somme! On the first day we went to the amazing museum in Peronne, Historial de la Grande Guerre. It is in a castle and on a lake, light and modern inside, with THE collection of Otto Dix’s disturbing, incredible, jaw-dropping etchings. They pull no punches. The Historial not only have our CD in their gift shop, it is on a listening post. Parking was a challenge; there were ribbons, traffic cones and stickers everywhere and we asked a guard at the museum why all the restrictions and he said “La visite de la Reine d’Angleterre.” So there we are. Despite our passports’ saying that Her Britannic Majesty requests and requires us to pass freely, the (imminent) presence of Her Britannic Majesty was doing a bit of hindering in that picturesque town. Historial

It was a taste of things to come. The security in the region was staggering. One of the reasons I cannot provide decent footage of our big appearance at the German commemoration of the battle of the Somme on the 1st of July is because the Gendarmes wouldn’t let the BBC in because their cameras were too big for their ‘security’. As if they’d be hiding firearms in them? Kriegsgräberstätte Fricourt

The day of our sound-check, we started early and went to the equally lovely town of Albert…This place was event more crowded. With re-enactors, tour-buses, cheese sellers, and a Hundred Pipers. A hundred. From many nations. I spoke with a French biker who loved bagpipes so much his arms and legs were covered in tattoos of them. The tourist office, which is in a converted 1920s swimming-bath, very gladly took delivery of 10 of our CDs and had us do an impromptu performance in said converted swimming bath. There I discovered that “La Madelon” is basically the region’s “Tipperary”. EVERYONE knows it. They sing along, they add interpolations, they dance…Tourism AlbertI have a photo of Matt playing in this place but none of the two of us, though plenty and plenty were taken. Footage too. I often wonder where this ends up. We must be on hundreds of mobile phones, all told. The museum at Albert, the “Musee Somme 1916” is an atmospheric affair and you descend into these underground passages that were the Basilica’s crypt but used in the war, Museumsommeand emerge into a sort of sunken park, where enormous hogs were roasting, and WW1 planes and stalls were all set out for the anniversary. They also have our CD for sale, and although they don’t have listening posts, during their celebrations and fireworks and hog-roast they put the CD on the PA system in the garden. The marvellous woman who organised the festivities wrote to me “The CD was amazing! We thought we were at the beginning of the last century!”

The sound-check for the event at the Fricourt Cemetery for the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge went well…and afterwards the VDK Reservists and the incredible Arne Schrader, Bundeswehr and all-round complete and utter dynamo, went to the English cemetery nearby in Fricourt to lay a wreath, and Matt and I spontaneously performed “Roses of Picardy”. There were roses in that little cemetery as well. Amazing. We had an offer to perform at a restaurant in Albert but after 8pm there was to be a security lockdown and we didn’t want to be caught in it! (click on the image if you’d like it larger) Roses of Picardy

On the 1st, security was so tight in the region because of the royalty and the politicians, we had to have special passes. Once through, it was terribly eerie. No traffic, and the occasional helicopter and the occasional coachload. And ALL the crosses. It is like a patchwork, that region. A large patch of white crosses here, another of stone ones. And the German ones stark black crosses, except for the Jewish graves in them, which are stone and semicircular. And then another patch of white crosses. And again, and again. No end to it.

The ceremony was long, varied, and had representatives from the Gurkhas, the British, New Zealand, Australia, America, France…and young players from the FC Liverpool and Hertha BSC Berlin taking it in turns to read letters from the battlefields in both English and German; a children’s choir from Southport, Australia; a local French choir; German Army Band from Siegburg; and Matt and me. We performed “Bald Allzubalde” and then, after the Southport School Band of Brothers sang the first two verses of Eric Bogle’s “Green Fields of France” Matt modulated down and we sang a French verse, then went up again for one in German. Perhaps footage from someone’s phone will surface. Who knows. It was a large crowd. And an extraordinary occasion. July 1st, FricourtI do wish there had been better UK coverage of it because several people I’ve spoken to since wondered if there WAS any commemorating on the Germans’ part. Well, there absolutely was. They also hired eight portable toilets to put on the main road by the cemetery for the week, and tour-buses kept stopping there for their passengers (mostly from the UK) to unload, which they did with no sign of recognition that these necessary facilities were provided by the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge. I think they reckoned that they’d been placed there by the tour-companies. German Reservists ensured that there was always, always a plentiful supply of toilet roll, as well.

The weather was all over the place. Sudden downpours followed by scorching heat, followed by gales and flurries. We performed under a little tent. Allzeit Bereit, as the Pfadfinder say. At one point, a branch came down. The Reservists, Police Officers from Northern Germany, and Siegburg band stood unflinching.

Afterwards there was a knees-up for the local population which we sang at, and sold out of CDs. The person who went away empty-handed said he’d buy his off my BIG CARTEL page, and…he did! Three copies! I met a fascinating couple from the Netherlands, Hendrik and Hanne. He is a composer and historian, and his WW1 project is well worth looking at. He doesn’t reconstruct what the songs would have sounded like a century ago, as we do, but interprets the poetry and letters from the war in our modern idiom, seeks his own expression of the horrors of the time. It involves spoken word and electric guitars and much else besides. His website is HERE.

The next day, Matt and I performed at the Canadian ceremony at Courcelette. It was to commemorate the 22e Regiment, from Quebec. I found their Regimental song, which so enchanted a local choir director (it is lovely to see how many people living in the region turn up at these events) that he asked for the music, which I very happily gave him. He says that he’ll have his choir perform it. How marvellous that, a hundred years after these young men were singing this song on that very soil, the song should return to it!

There were no tents at this event, except the huge marquee for the celebration and food afterwards (lavish) which made the whole thing airy and light, though terribly exposed. Torrential downpours meant that volunteers and representatives of the Canadian Government scurried about with paper towels twice before the thing started. There was a Bagpiper whose sister lives in the same small town I come from (so Canadian, these connections) and an excellent band. The wind during our number blew the microphone aside at one point, and the camera on the live-stream at another! You can see it on the extract from said live-stream, above…We performed in the Marquee afterward, and it was amazing: again, Madelon proved the big number. Fellows with Canadian flags in their lapels sang it with us. The Hon. Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs, came up specially to watch us and tell us that he liked our performance. What an extraordinarily gracious man.

Soon after our return to the UK we performed a Versatility Serenaders gig in the Buxton Festival which we have some footage of, hurrah! If you have not subscribed to my YouTube Page, please do, and then you can see these bits as soon as they’re uploaded. Be prepared to hear “Oh Oh Antonio” as you’ve never heard it before.

Pack up your troublesFor those up North, or those fancying a trip there, I will be performing “Pack Up Your Troubles” (tickets HERE) with the Two Toms (not their official name, but really they are) Tom Carradine and Tom Cutler, in an evening of song and story from the 1st and 2nd world wars. It will be at The Swan in Dobcross, a really really lovely pub theatre. And at 2pm on that same day, I’ll be assisting at Tom Carradine’s Cockney Singalong, perhaps in the garden, weather-permitting!

Our visit to France was incredible. I have here a couple of fragments of footage, and a few photographs, but really only a book would do this trip justice.
DSC_0376 (2)
We discovered the amazing work that the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, the German War Graves Commission, does. The reason for the “Volksbund” is because when Germany was defeated, it was bankrupt, and it was people – Farmers, Priests, Rabbis, old ladies – who helped to bury and record the vast numbers of dead. The Volksbund have been operating through donations from relatives and descendants, and volunteers for the vast majority of their existence and it was only very recently they started to have some government help. IMG-20160617-00149They are still kept going by amazing volunteers, one of whom gave me his baseball cap with their “Peace” logo on it.

We also met the young people who are involved so closely with the Volksbund. In fact, within a short time after our arrival at Luxembourg Airport we were whisked along motorways and then into remote French forests which had the unmistakable whiff of the First World War – something about the nature of the terrain, the eerie feel of the place – and in the depths of one of the forests, a campfire where these Scouts were playing guitars and singing old old songs. They were girls and boys and they were called Pfadfinder. Matt immediately blended his guitar with theirs, and I did my best to sing along to their songs. Then we performed “Tipperary”, and then it was nearly 2am but Arne, the incredible man who organises the events that the Volksbund puts on, was telling the children, who looked to be from about 8 to 15 years of age, the many stories of the ongoing discoveries of the Volksbund. Very near the place we were sitting, in the forest of Caures, the remains of Hans Winkelmann were found and identified, and the day after that, we would be burying him beside his beloved brother Karl. That was the big event we were to perform at.

Here is a fragment of footage from it. I apologise that there is no more than this:

But before that, the NEXT day, was something very close to our hearts. We had found an old piece of music, a heart-rending song, scribbled down in a trench in Verdun by the composer Ernst Brockmann. I won’t tell the story again, because at least two past blog posts on this website tell it already. But it was the next day that we were to honour him.
Ernst Brockmann

It was damp and the clay round his grave, of course, fresh from the recent exhumation. The Pfadfinder youths, some Reservists from around Brockmann’s area of North Rhine-Westphalia (incidentally, where I finally found the book with his song in it) who had seen active service, Reservistsand of course Arne, and Maurice, the Media-man for the Volksbund, all stood in a circle round his cross, which still says “Unbekkanter Deutscher Soldat” and one of the Pfadfinder girls read out his dates and the biography they’d managed to find, and looped a copy of the song around the cross, along with a small German flag. We then performed his song for him, after 100 years of his lying there, unnamed. It was so deeply happy an outcome, at last, that I didn’t feel tears. Not until the Pfadfinder brought out their guitars and sang a regimental song of the 39th Fusiliers, which was so full of hope and youth, and in the setting of all those crosses, truly devastating. No words for it. Pfadfinder
This is why youth are so closely involved with the Volksbund. This is about past and present and future.

We hope we can get some donations for a stone cross with Ernst Brockmann’s name on it.

After the big ceremony the next day, we had a look at the cemetery where Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande were to meet the next day, overlooking the view of where so much blood poured out a hundred years ago, and had a final, quiet and rather melancholy visit to Brockmann, warm rain falling, so very alone in that hillside cemetery. Mr MillerWe flew back to Heathrow, drove through the night to North Yorkshire, arrived at 2am, and did the cylinder-making demonstration for the Swaledale Festival the following day. We sold one CD and one cylinder. A devastating commentary on the relevance of the CD!
It’s too small to tell in this photo, but we each wore our VDK forget-me-not pin. VDK

After recording the CD “Songs of the Great War” I sent a copy to the German War Graves Commission; I was interested in finding out more about the composer of “Bald Allzubalde”. The old sheet music in which I found the song (dated 1917), said that he’d composed it on the 20th April, 1916 and died there on the 7th of June, 1916. They told me they would start a search, and incidentally, they liked my CD and performance and would I and Matt be interested in coming over and singing the song, and a couple more, at the hundredth anniversary commemoration of Verdun? Would we!

Here I think I should remind everyone what this extraordinary song sounds like:

And it uses accordion, guitar and clarinet on the CD! Well, two months ago, Arne Schrader of the Volksbund Kriegsgräberfürsorge contacted me to tell me that they have found him! He was buried nameless, as “E.B.” of the 39th Fusiliers. And they sent me the exhumation photos. I have never, ever had an experience like this! They positively identified him, and found that he had been buried with a clock. On the 27th of this month, I and Matt will go over there and with some Wandervogel, or Boy Scouts, lay a wreath on his grave, restore his name to him, and sing this song over him. As I say, amazing. Then the next day we will perform at the Romagne sous Montfaucon cemetery, where a Commonwealth, a German and a French section lie side by side, and a lone trumpeter will stand at each, and perform “Aux Morts,” “Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden” and “The Last Post” in turn, and we will sing later in the ceremony. This story of Ernst Brockmann, young composer buried without a name, is one that I was certain that the radio would be all over. I have told as many producers as I can find, but no bites. Astonishing, really. If anyone knows anyone, please spread the word. I think this is a great story, and important.

Never mind!

We’ll be rushing from the Verdun battlefields to the Yorkshire Dales to demonstrate wax cylinder making…driving through the night!

I was also hugely honoured to be a living exhibit in the Edwardian Parlour that is in the TRULY BRILLIANT and UNMISSABLE exhibition “Remembering 1916” that is in South Croydon at the Whitgift School…seriously, GO. It is a fiver for seniors, seven quid for adults, next to nothing for students. Whitgift

Whitgift2 Open to the public from 10-5 daily. It has more rarities than I would have thought possible, and is put together with passion and no expense spared. Take a train from Victoria, and just go! Then I sang in the concert that opened the exhibition. That is one extraordinary school.

My CD “Songs of the Great War” has been reviewed by a major critical music journal, at long last (Well, you see, it’s not classical, and it’s not jazz, is it! Even Norman Lebrecht sympathised) But bless the American Record Guide, they DID review it. Read it HERE.

Oh! On the 26th of June I’ll be performing songs about the cinema with the Mighty Wurlitzer, at the Musical Museum in Kew! With, moreover, Donald MacKenzie at the console! Following me will be Laurel and Hardy’s “Angora Love”, Mack Sennett’s “Teddy at the Throttle” and Charlie Chaplin in “The Rink”, all with Wurlitzer accompaniment! Starting at 3pm. Do come along and say hello!

The Renaissance CD is all recorded, and all I’m waiting for is booklet text approval from my colleagues! I’ll announce when this beauty will be available! It’s tremendous fun, and will contain the bawdy Broadside Ballad “Watkins Ale”. And this song:

It has been a while since I’ve made a new post; like everyone else with an email account or two, I am always drowning in “posts” and “updates” and am loath to add to anyone else’s load!

But never mind!

I’ve been to Canada, bought a new corset, done some concerts, am getting married, and also decided that it was time that Youtube had some samples of my Juvenilia (ie Le Charme) so that I could sell some copies of what is, after all, a pretty good effort, and very very idiomatic of the French Salon Belle Epoque era. I’ve made slideshows of myself and pianist Zoë Mather, taken at the time of the recordings.

Also, I have taken part in a gala or two, this one for the Festival of Remembrance in York. Listen to how Matt’s vintage banjo carries over the Royal Signals Band, without mics!

This will be useful for when we are performing at the hundredth anniversary of Verdun, near Romagne-Sous-Montfaucon at the end of May, for the German War Graves Commission. We are tremendously excited about this. It is an enormous honour. We may even be able to perform “Bald, allzubalde” over the grave of Ernst Brockmann, which the excellent Volksbund Deutsche Kiegsgräberfürsorge are trying to find. It would be difficult to find anything more amazing for me to do than that.

Also coming up will be a fascinating demonstration of wax cylinder-making, at the Swaledale Festival…information HERE.

Our First World War CD has been reviewed in “Ragtime Music Reviews”, and it’s now quoted in the “Press” link on this site. I continue to write for Chap magazine, and the one on the newsstands now is on the subject of three stylish tenors of the past who went back and forth between “serious” classical music and “light” music with ease. As usual, I try to add tidbits not found on Wikipedia! Being a bookish girl does have its uses.

In any case, please do subscribe to the YouTube channel if you haven’t already! And thank you for reading this! I do realise how many notifications you must get, and they are a bore.

Introducing the Versatility Serenaders!

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. The 1910s were a fascinating and rich time of cultural flux, chock-full of many different musical trends, and finally, here’s a band that tries to incorporate them all! Well, I can go on about it, but I’ll give a digest of our gig in July, right here:

Normally we wouldn’t be using microphones, but this engagement was in a place with zero acoustic, and a lot of liquored-up young hooligans, though bless em, I haven’t a word to say against someone who chooses to drink cocktails at a place that presents 1910s pop songs.

For more on this marvellous band, I refer you to its founder’s website. Click HERE.

In other news, I’m doing a CD of Early Music! With these fine fellows here:
Lovekyn II smaller
There are many tremendously worthy CDs of Renaissance music that seek to illustrate a historical point, or fill out a previously-unheard corner of music, but we’re just making something that is fun, has contrasting songs, and sounds good. To sell at gigs! Quite a few Campion pieces, because I love Campion. Almost everything will be Elizabethan. Lute, various wooden flutes and a very interesting-looking guitar (a replica of one that sits in a museum) will feature.

I’ll supply details of this as it comes, but we shall (touch wood) be recording on the 27th of this month.

I have to note here for anyone wanting to come to the gig at Stoke Newington on the 20th (two days’ time). That gig is cancelled. It appears that the venue wanted some (a fairly large amount of) money in case not enough people came! We didn’t know that! So it is cancelled.

But you can see us on YouTube!

A Remarkably Good™ website.