Welcome to the Dragon Folk Club

Welcome to the official blog of the Dragon Folk Club, which meets for a singers night every Friday at The Bridge Inn, Shortwood, Bristol. Everyone is welcome whether you sing, play or just listen.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Sweeter than wine?

Last Friday was our last session before Christmas... no I don't really mean that, it was our last session before our Christmas themed session on 13 December, which will be the usual mix of celebration, bah humbug and a few seasonal culinary treats.

It was good to have Steve C join us for the evening, making a happy quorum of five singers.

Colin was first to sing with Jez Lowe's The Lazarus Dance. Jez describes it as in a dream, the sort where all the dear-departed heroes, friends and legends come together for a knees-up and a sing-song, Geordie-Irish style. It began its life under the Radio Ballads umbrella.

Steve C had us singing along to Dido, Bendigo (Roud 584). Then, after a slightly faltering start, Simon got going with Alan Bell's Windmills.

Mike wasn't sure what to sing first and after rejecting several ideas from Colin went with Simon's suggestion of The Yellow On The Broom (Adam McNaughton).

Derek gave a nod to the upcoming general election with a Leon Rosselson song. He challenged Colin to say what he had called it in the official record. Unfortunately Colin had incorrectly chosen to name it "The Red Flag" although of course he knew it wasn't really that song. It is in fact called The Battle Hymn Of The New Socialist Party. Derek later added a rendition of The Red Flag (Jim Connell - Roud 45381) to the original tune, The White Cockade, to tidy up the loose end.

Derek's other attempt at a reference to the election was a rendition on bones (or maybe spoons, I didn't take note) and lilt of  The Waves Of Tory. The Tory (or Torey, or in Gaelic, Toraigh) of the title is actually an island off the coast of Donegal.

I can never resist repeating the story of one of Colin's songs just because I really like one of its ancestor songs. It was Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, the words of which come from Pete Seeger and Lee Hays (Hays wrote the verses, Seeger wrote the chorus) who put them to a tune based on Lead Belly's If It Wasn't for Dicky, which in turn came from his hearing of Irish performer Sam Kennedy in Greenwich Village singing Drimindown. Actually the last time I posted this story I suggested the original song was An Droimfhionn Donn DilĂ­s but I now think it may have been a confusion of different songs with similar titles and Drimindown seems more likely.

Simon referred to the recent closure of the closure of the Apostrophe Protection Society by its founder, 96 year-old, retired journalist, John Richards when he sang The Apostrophe Song by Australian Shaun McNichols. Note however that the two are not the same thing, while McNichols' Cool Rules (for writers) is interested apostrophes in the context of proper grammar, Richards was more concerned about the removal of apostrophes in trademarks such as Waterstones and Lloyds: "The biggest issue I have is not that people get it wrong and put the apostrophe in the wrong place – they just don’t use it altogether".

Colin trailed next week's Christmas session with the Trinidadian traditional The Virgin Mary Had A Baby Boy. Don't forget your Christmas songs, tunes, poems, stories, monologues and jokes for next week - "bah humbug" is just as acceptable as Away In A Manger.

That left Steve C to finish off the evening with The Bonnie Ship The Diamond (Roud 2172).

Now listen to a selection of songs sung during this session.

(Number of people present - 5, of whom 5 performed)

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

St Andrew's Day 2019

(Photo: Elke Wetzig)
Last week's St Andrew's Day session (one day early) saw a good selection of Scottish and non-Scottish songs. There will be no theme this Friday, and I can now give advance warning of our Christmas session, which will be on 13 December - some Christmassy treats may be available.

Colin kicked off the session with the appropriately Caledonian St Andrew's Day - A Toast by Jean Blewett. Although herself born in Ontario, Blewett's parents were Scottish. Colin performed her poem as a song.

Tom declared that his first Scottish song would also be his last, being The Echo Mocks The Corncrake (Roud 2736), which he acquired from Jim and Sylvia Barnes. It's always nice to be able to link here to a video of the person singing who we heard on the night, and so it is here with Tom. Simon went on to sing two songs which he acquired from the Barnes family, via the album Scotch Measure from their band of the same name. These songs were The Twa Magicians (Roud 1350, Child 44) and The Handweaver And The Factory Maid (Roud 17771).

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Avoidance behaviour - fine

The Anchor Inn, home of The Middle Bar Singers
at Sidmouth Folk Festival (Photo: Barry W*******)
Don't forget our St Andrew's Day session this Friday - OK, more St Andrew's eve but you get the idea, Scottish songs and tunes are the main dish with possible sides of his other patronages.

Back now to last weeks theme-free session, Colin started it off with Wally Whyton's Leave Them A Flower.

We proceeded through Derek's Locke Hospital (Roud 2, Laws Q26), and Mike's Rolling Home (Roud 4766) with no discernible theme apart from Derek declaring the efforts he was making to save his Scottish ballads for St Andrew.

That's not to say we didn't have links, both intentional and unintentional of course. Simon's singing of Down Our Street including its suggestion that in desperate times "tom cat tastes like air" inspired Derek to give us Silver Threads Among The Butter, which Martin Carthy took as the first verse of his song Girls: "When the dog died we had sausages, When the cat died, catnip tea".

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Not quite the end of war

Bristol Remembrance Sunday parade 2019
(Photo: Simon Meeds)
Last week's session had no theme and in fact it was a bit short, not just because we were thin on the ground but because everyone present seemed to have a reason for wanting to leave early, so our normal interval time of 10pm was unusually our end time. Nevertheless, we got through 16 songs, which wasn't bad going.

Colin kicked us off with Hard Times Of Old England (Roud 1206). There was a debate between Colin and Mike as to whether it was made famous by Steeleye Span (1975) or by The Young Tradition, who would certainly have been earlier since they split up in 1969, but I haven't been able to find confirmation that they recorded the song. I've stayed above that discussion by going with the Copper Family (who originally recorded it in 1955). Here's another recording that just predates 1975: The Etchingham Steam Band with the unmistakable voice of Shirley Collins.

Derek's version of The Blantyre Explosion (Roud 1014) puts it at a timely 11 November but he indicated it had always puzzled him because the actual disaster was on 22 October 1877. He assumed that November helped the rhyme.

When Simon sang Graham Moore's Tom Paine's Bones. Derek, a recently retired maths teacher, wondered whether he should have asked for it to be rewritten as John Napier's Bones.

Mike, for reasons known only to himself decided to continue the previous week's war (remembrance) theme through most of the evening, starting with a medley of I Don't Want To Join The Army (Roud 10263) and When This Lousy War Is Over (tune by Charles Crozat Converse).

Derek harked back even further to our Bonfire Night theme of two weeks ago singing what I discovered back in 2016 was the Nottinghamshire / Derbyshire version of a Guy Fawkes night rhyme: "All the little angels are dressed in white".

Simon finally gave in to the war theme with The Gentleman Soldier (Roud 178).

Unusually these days, Mike got to finish off the evening and in doing so set me a challenge to find a recording the exact version of All The Good Times (word by Bob Pegg) that he sang. I wonder whether I managed it? The clues he gave were that it was someone who sang regularly at The Lamb in Iron Acton (the second venue in this club's long history and the first which Mike attended) but he was not a member, which presumably made him a well-known performer. He also said it was the same person from whom he learned the song he sang on the previous rotation: Peter's Private Army (Martin Graebe). So, my guess is Johnny Collins (linked above).Am I right?

Now listen to a selection of songs sung during this session.

(Number of people present - 4, of whom 4 performed)

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Remembrance 2019

Shrouds of the Somme by Rob Heard, Bristol 2016
(Photo: Simon Meeds)
We were once again thin on the ground last week for our Remembrance session. This Friday's will have no theme, so there is no excuse for not joining us. The next theme will be on 29th and will be for Saint Andrew's day the next day. Saint Andrew is of course patron saint of Scotland, which should give some scope for inspiration but you may also be interested in his other patronages. If you are really stuck you may be interested to know that his is the patron saint of singers!

Back to last Friday, Colin started us off in his customary manner with Fighting For Strangers, a version of Roud 3137 (Johnny I Hardly New Ye) having undergone adaptation by Steeleye Span.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Bonfire Night 2019

(Photo: Simon Meeds)
Despite Halloween being well out of the way for another year, we were down to a skeleton staff for our Bonfire Night, or more accurately campfire themed session last Friday. Perhaps more will turn out for our Remembrance session this Friday, 8 November when songs, tunes, stories and other performances relating to remembrance, war and anti-war will be particularly welcome though as usual anything goes as long as it's acoustic.

Our MC, Colin started us off with the one Bonfire Night song of the evening, Guy Fawkes (Roud V18439).

In place of a campfire, Simon had us in a dark engine room, huddled round a Wee Pot Stove (Harry Robertson). Mike eschewed fires altogether in his first song, instead opting for a reference to "the fifth of November" in Spencer The Rover (Roud 1115).

Geoff also claimed to miss the theme but we thought he could probably use the campfire to cook the sausages and potatoes from his song Lidl And Aldi (Mickey MacConnell). Mike also wanted it to be known that garden equipment bought from Lidl is too resilient to be made fun of.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Halloween 2019

Is it a bat? (Photo: Simon Meeds)
Our Halloween session was slightly curtailed by the rugby las Friday. Specifically The Bridge Inn closed early in preparation for an early opening on Saturday for the World Cup semi-final. Given that England is through to the final this Saturday we are expecting a similar approach so please make an effort to be there for a prompt start at 8:15pm on 1 November. Don't worry if you do turn up later, we will continue without a break until we are asked to leave... last week it was a little before 10pm. The session will be Campfire themed, to mark Bonfire Night on the following Tuesday.

Your campfire songs will be very welcome together with anything relating to bonfire night, attacking parliament, fireworks or anything else you can think of. Themes are never compulsory though so if you don't have anything relevant just turn up and show us what you can do, which may even just be listening and joining in the banter and a chorus or two.