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

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

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!

It’s taken a while but it’s here at last. A journey from London’s West End to Canadian recruiting halls, to the roses of Picardy and the Chimes of Normandy, taking in French Inns with saucy barmaids called Madelon, a New York peace rally, a German destroyer (complete with shanty), a nursing station in No-Man’s-Land, a German trench in Verdun, and the poppy fields of Ypres. We have rarities that haven’t been recorded in a century, and we have the most well-known WW1 songs of them all, dusted up and polished to shine in their original, fresh and energetic glory.

You can purchase a copy HERE.

Okay that’s enough sales pitch. But I really do believe in this CD. It contains violin, clarinet, piano duo, cello, saxophone, xylophone, glockenspiel, trombone, harp, flute, accordion, banjo, Irish bouzouki, mandolin, drums, guest soprano Emily Atkinson (who also plays the xylophone), piccolo, bass saxophone and even some Hawaiian slide guitar in the interlude to “Long Long Trail”. All has been arranged carefully by Mr. Matt Redman (www.matt-redman.co.uk where you can hear the Hawaiian slide guitars for yourself!) so you never hear all of this at once, but selectively according to the mood and background of the piece.

There are two songs in German and one in French, and translations are given in the booklet. You get a lot for your £10!

RoseI am at the moment selling it through BigCartel, which is a more personalised service than Amazon. For now. I may move to a distributor later. It depends on how things go. At the moment I haven’t got any sound samples up, but as I have more time I will do something about this. In the coming weeks I have a lot to do, telling radio, TV and print media about this recording while it’s fresh, and also a mini tour of Ipswich for Music in Hospitals, and then a week in Swaledale for the WW1 show, followed by some community outreach work: the Festival’s “Wandering Minstrels” scheme. Then it’s some horsey ragtime songs for Derby Day with the Saint Cecilia Choir in Epsom. I may have some time after that!

Original image!Anyway! Step right up! The CD is available and can be bought! And all credit to Harrison Phair photography, who captured the image that is the cover. For your interest, I’ve attached the original version! A lot of people think that the CD cover is a composite and the crowd is from 1914, but we only made it look that way. The parade was rounding the vintage streetcar singing “Pack up your Troubles”, and I joined them with “Tipperary” at the moment the photo was taken. It was in Fleetwood, on the 11th of November, 2014.

The CD’s track list:

1 If You were the Only Girl in the World
2 Somewhere in France
3 Over There
4 Roses of Picardy
5 Gegen England
6 Stay Down Here where you belong
7 The Rose of No Man’s Land
8 Bald, Allzubalde
9 Kristiania
10 Red is the English Rose
11 I’m Always Chasing Rainbows
12 Chimes of Normandy
13 Quand Madelon
14 You’d Better Be Nice to them Now
15 Pack up your Troubles in your Old Kit Bag
16 Till We Meet Again
17 Long Long Trail

I’ll be on BBC Four TV this Friday, making a wax cylinder! It was a real test for me; I’d grown up listening to cylinders and 78s in my parents’ collection, and always thought that if a modern singer did one, modern stylistic tics would give the game away despite the lo-fi sound. In the end, it was quite spooky, the nearest thing to time-travel I’m likely to experience.

Here’s a CLIP.

In any case, watch the series! 9pm, and naturally on iPlayer. Neil Brand is a tremendously engaging host. And a truly funny, very nice man, too. FINALFINAL_SOS TX card

In the meantime, I’m sure my mum will want me to remind people that I also do a mean Petite Messe Solennelle, and a very good Mozart Requiem, but I’d like to say that I don’t just do 1910s music. Heck, I can do 1940s. Here is evidence. Matt is wearing a genuine Demob suit, too.

Also something I wish to prove in my next album (after the WW1 album which has finally been mixed, and will be released early March!), which is that there was a different style to microphone crooning, a halfway-house of smooth, yet unamplified, singing. Very prevalent in hotel lobbies, even nightclubs. I’ve now spoken to enough 90-year-olds who used to sing in such places to know that microphones were by no means taken for granted!

Aaaaand, if anyone is in the Vancouver area, I’ll be doing a concert of 1940s and 1950s songs, unamplified, and in some nice frocks! Very appropriately, as it will be in the frock-tastic Museum of Vancouver!

The CD preparations continue apace, but meanwhile here are some videos of Centenary activity! And a photo of myself and Matt performing in the driver’s seat of a WW1 Battle Bus!
Battle Bus
Now! On the hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War, Matt and I were up in Cromer, performing for veterans in Nursing Homes, going from bedside to bedside. Many requested “Cowboy Songs” which, believe it or not, I can do, and Matt can certainly play, but one said “I would like some songs of the Great War.” We did “Home Fires” of course, but we also did “Somewhere in France” and how he loved it. Was amazed anyone knew any of the songs, let alone one off the beaten track. That evening, the hundredth was celebrated in Norwich with a candle-lit vigil. Here we are performing for 3,000 people in front of the City Hall.

The following day, more bedsides, then London’s Green Lanes, to replicate a peace protest that happened on the day after War was declared. And someone filmed that, too. Note we’ve not had a chance to change our clothes.

Then the week after, we went back in time to the Edwardians, for the Horniman Museum’s Edwardian Late. Great fun, though incredibly hot.

So, two days ago, we were at the London Transport Museum on Ole Bill, the bus that went to the trenches. The day after that, we were at a “Fundraiser for the Troops” tea-party in Hampstead. We are the specialists in re-enactment! I’m going to be doing something extremely fun for BBC Four in early October, more on that later, then Matt and I will be increasingly busy in the run-up to a particularly special Remembrance Day, given the year we are in. As well as mixing all those WW1 tracks, and making the CD cover, which has gone through several different styles. Nobody seems to agree! I am so sorry not to give you a taster track as I’d promised. I shall do that next post. You shall have a song from Canada, published in 1916.

PS Apologies for the “Tester” email earlier! I had a problem with video embeds and a very capable fellow in Pakistan (highly recommended, Joshuwash on fiverr.com) was in the process of fixing it when that went out!

This is just a few photos. In the next post I’ll give a sneak-preview of the forthcoming CD; I promise!
Here is one configuration of the group, performing for the operagoers at Grange Park. The crowd seemed happy! In fact, one fellow came and did a dance with me and a bit of barber-shop harmonizing to Moonlight Bay, and someone whispered to me that he’d conducted that evening’s opera!
Hilariously, one of the principals, a baritone, recognised me from a Messiah we’d done together last Christmas in Derby Cathedral. I love it when worlds collide.
Here is the same dress, but instead of Matt, Zac (accordion, piano), and Nick (percussion), we have Matt, Kit (violin, piano), and Simon (baritone saxophone, flute, clarinet). And Matt doing arranging, directing, piano, banjo, guitar.
The music-stands are all side-by-side for this particular number that Matt arranged, because the arrangement needed to be spread out over three of them. The banners looked very funny like this!
Kit and Matt did some wonderful 4-handed numbers. The venue was the Pavilion Gardens in Buxton, for the festival. We had a very full house, and people were enormously enthusiastic. It made me happy that the 1871 Conservatory was given something befitting (or at least closer to) its era. We were entirely unplugged, but everyone said that we were very easily heard. It can seem wrong for these Victorian tea-houses to vibrate to amplifiers thudding away.
Now, lest it appear that I wear the same dress to everything, here is another one, at the Branscombe Festival, only a week later. I sang with Albert Ball’s Flying Aces, and we were very honoured to be one of the select acts to appear at this very exclusive delight of a festival. We were in good company: I Fagiolini, Philip Higham, Ailish Tynan (every bit as nice as everyone says she is), the Band of the Royal Marines. Above you can see the C.O. of Albert Ball’s Flying Aces, with his spoon-guard. Without it, the clanging cutlery can cause serious bruising. We were entirely acoustic for this, too, in the Village Hall. Everyone had cream teas, and there was dancing, and some very illustrious guests, including famous Wagnerians and members of Her Majesty’s Government. 6S4A9806smaller
Standing, left to right: Mr. Dickie Evans, sousaphone; Mr. Jon Butterfield, piano; Mr. Nicholas David Ball, C.O. and percussion; Mr. Ian Rosenblatt, fabulous patron of the arts, whose festival it is and whose guest we were; crazy singing gal in frock; Mr. Petroc Trelawny of the BBC. Front row, kneeling: Mr. Matt Redman, mandolin-banjo; Mr. Simon Marsh, saxophone and clarinet; Miss Ellie Smith, trombone.
And we were on In Tune! I believe you can still hear it HERE.
On Monday and Tuesday Mr Matt Redman and I will be playing WW1 songs at the bedsides of veterans in Care Homes in Cromer, performing at the Norwich “Lights Out” Commemoration in front of an estimated 2000+ people, and then haring back to London to take part in a re-enactment of a Pacifist meeting at the Salisbury Hotel! Then it’s all 1910s for the Horniman’s “Edwardian Late”.

A Remarkably Good™ website.