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.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Christmas II 2019

December Grey Seal Pup at Donna Nook, Lincolnshire
(Photo: Simon Meeds)
Last week's session didn't have an official theme but predictably there were a lot of Christmas levef-overs from the previous week. Having said that, this weeks selection of recordings is a bit patchy because as with all left-overs there were the bits no one could really palate and some that seemed to repeat more than might be ideal.

This Friday, 27 December there will be a session and if you need a theme it will be Boxing Day, so expect to hear plenty about wrens and maybe some wassails as well. If that's all a bit specific for you then just come along with some songs to cheer us all up. The most important thing is that you come along and give us some support because we may need it.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Christmas 2019

One reality of Christmas (Photo: Simon Meeds)
Thanks to those who turned up for our traditional Christmas session last week. This Friday there will be no theme but I am sure there will be some (pre)Christmas hangovers as well as other seasonal offerings.

Last week we were started off in the Christmas direction by Colin with Sweet Christmas Bells, one of several versions of Nahum Tate's While Shepherds Watched adopted into the Yorkshire Carol repertoire... more of that later.

Talking of versions, and having had two variations of The Red Flag the previous week, Simon sang Mon Beau Sapin, a French version of O Tannenbaum, whose tune is often, though not originally, used for the politically connected anthem. O Tannenbaum was written by Ernst Anschütz in 1824 and translated into French by Laurent Delcasso. It was based on a 16th-century Silesian folk song by Melchior Franck.

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.

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.

Monday, 28 October 2019

The Yorkshire Irishman

This isn't the usual report of a session at the Dragon Folk Club. A report of last week's session will come in due course. Rather this goes back to the previous week when I wrote that 'this inspired Derek to sing a song which included the line "the land between England and Ireland, it's covered in water you know", although unfortunately I wasn't able to trace it.'

Derek gave me a little help and with that I was able to find that I had correctly identified it in a previous blog post when he sang it in April 2014.

Derek said that he found it in a book at Cecil Sharp House when he was a student. The book was The Ballads and Songs of Yorkshire: Transcribed from Private Manuscripts, Rare Broadsides and Scarce Publications; with Notes and a Glossary by C J Davison Ingledew, M.A, Ph.D, F.G.H.S. And no, I didn't remember all of that from what Derek told me, nor did I note it down but in fact excerpts of the book are available on Google Books, but unfortunately not page 255 where you would find, to give it the full title, The Yorkshire Irishman; or, the Adventures of a Potato Merchant.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Land and sea

Ravenscar from Boggle Hole (Photo: Simon Meeds)
With Geoff back from his chess-related activities and occasional visitor, Richard on board we had a perfectly adequate showing for last Friday's session. It was the last session for a while without a theme. We start this Friday (25 October) with Halloween, so ghosts and magic and things that go bump in the night are all fair game together with more traditional religious themes from All Saints.

Back to last week, MC Colin started us off with Dominic Behan's The Sea Around Us. This inspired Derek to sing a song which included the line "the land between England and Ireland, it's covered in water you know", although unfortunately I wasn't able to trace it. (See The Yorkshire Irishman for an update)

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Barely there but not down the plughole

(Photo: Simon Meeds)
Despite the return of Simon from his hols, last week's session was once again barely quorate but many songs were sung - 31 in fact - before a slightly early finish as Colin ran out of songs he had prepared.

It was indeed Colin who set the ball rolling with Rigs Of The Time (Roud 876) which Derek followed with Bonny At Morn (Roud 3064). Simon's first was Mary McCloud's parody, House Of The Rising Damp and Mike gave us What's The Life Of A Man (Roud 848).

Derek suggested that Colin may have picked Leonard Cohen's most cheerful song in Hallelujah. I don't know about that but I thought you might like an analysis of the song's meaning and history.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

A Grand Conversation in Shortwood

(Photo: Simon Meeds)
In 1904 Ralph Vaughan Williams met an ancient bellringer in Sussex, by the name of Henry Burstow, and collected from him A Grand Conversation On Napoleon (Roud 1189) a song so long, tedious and verbose that even your Substitute Scribe has never contemplated singing it. 
And so it was that (in spite of my appeals last week for more bodies) our total turnout of √9 abandoned hope of a singaround and instead set out on a Grand Conversation, occasionally supplemented with short illustrative musical  interventions, which I hereby list.
I am, in the words of J. Eric Bartholemew, giving you all the right information, but not necessarily in the right order. Musical pieces are given in italic.
Fly fishing on the Devil’s Coast

Saturday, 28 September 2019

School’s out! Oh no – it’s back in again!

Imitation, as my old granny and Charles Caleb Colton used to say, is the sincerest form of flattery, and the Regular Scribe had barely packed his little bag and set off on his hols, when the rest of the scavenging pack were picking through his repertoire. Derek began with the Belfast version of Johnny Todd (Roud 1102), and at various times of the evening came Kipling’s Smugglers’ Song (Geoff), Oh no sir no (Roud 146) and When All Men Sing (Keith Scowcroft/Derek Gifford) (both Colin).

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Anniversaries - don't extract the urine

Gresford Mining disaster memorial (Photo: Richard Hoare)
Friday's session once again saw Steve C joining us. We're not doing too badly recently for bums on seats but with me, the scribe absent for the next two weeks, the deputy scribe will be taking over and more singers and audience are definitely required.

Colin, back in his role as MC after a week's break, started the evening off with Pleasant And Delightful (Roud 660, Laws O30) accompanied as usual by strange sounds and gestures from others present.

Derek noted that his favoured cricket side, Glamorgan had won the Second Eleven 20 20 (SET20) competition and sang a strange song of celebration which went something like "Glamy, Glamy, Glamorgan".

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

All things wise and wonderful?

(Photo: Simon Meeds)
It was great to see more new faces at last Friday's session, the third week in a row that we have had newcomers or visitors who seem to have gone away happy. This time it was singer, Barry from North Wales with his non-performing entourage, Kath and Charlotte. Thank you very much for coming to The Bridge and we hope to see you again soon or at least the next time you are down this way on a Friday.

Given that Colin was a bit late as expected this time, Simon took over the mantel of MC and started the evening off with Dave Sudbury's King Of Rome. I am a bit fussy about the versions of this song that I link from these blog posts. I don't absolutely love Lucy Ward's version but I like it and coming from Derby she has as much right to sing it as most people.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Harvest 2019


(Photo: Herry Lawford)
Last Friday was our annual Harvest theme. Thanks go to Colin for organising some nibbles, and to Jim, who was our first-timer for the evening. At the start he hid his light under a bushel before being persuaded to sing and finally get his banjo from the car. If Jim reads this, your presence was really welcomed and we hope you return very soon. It was also great to see Mike back after his spell in hospital.

Due to some business I had to do earlier in the week I have not got round to adding detail to this report until now (Thursday). I't's way too late to be writing a full report of last week's session so I will just touch on two things.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

The working man

It was great last week to see a totally new face at Friday's session. Sam was apparently at a loose end and found us on Facebook, which is what we like to hear. He didn't have anything prepared to sing but it sounds as though there's potential for the future if we haven't scared him off.

Colin as MC started the session off with The Agitator, believed to have been written in 1873 by Henry Taylor. The subject of the song is Joseph Arch, known as the agitator, who founded the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union in 1872. Taylor was a carpenter, who was admitted to the Union because of his previous trade union experience. The song was included in Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of England.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Happy Birthday Colin

Our regular MC, Colin (Photo:Simon Meeds)
Well, MC Colin's birthday session last Friday was certainly something. He brought with him six non-performing family members who complemented the four singers. Not only was the audience good but it was one of those sessions where talk was kept to a minimum and therefore we got through 43 songs, which must be a recent, though no doubt not all-time record.

Colin started off with a Richard Digance song, Spider In The Sink. He returned to Digance later with I've Won The Lottery. Meanwhile Simon followed an awkward arachnid with an equally problematic mustelid, singing Derek Jolly's My Grandfather's Ferret.

Derek gave us two topical songs before permitting the visitors some light entertainment. The topics were The Donibristle Mine Disaster (Roud 3509) of 26 August 1901 and the Dublin Lock-out which started on 26 August 1913 - The Ballad Of James Larkin (Donagh McDonagh).

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Jackanory - I'll tell you a story

(Photo: Luca Barcellona)
We started last week's session with good news from Mike that he had had his operation and was "comfortable". We wish him a speedy recovery and an early return to the fold in good health and excellent voice.

We may have been a man down but the four of us who were left kept the singing going. Colin in particular, MC as usual, started the ball rolling with Eight Bells (Roud 13268). Still on the sea, Simon took us Sailing To Philadelphia with Mark Knopfler. From the sea we followed Geoff onto the rails with Roger Miller's King Of The Road.

Derek decided to pick up a theme from a couple of weeks before when he was not present, singing children's songs:

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Make way for Fred

Fred Jordan
That's more like it... we were definitely quorate last week with the return of Geoff from a chessing sojourn, and a visit from Tom. Unfortunately, Rose, the reason for Tom's visit, wasn't with us, concerned as she was about the promised extreme weather. It wasn't really that bad on Friday night in the end. Anyway, we hope to see her sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Colin, taking his usual seat as MC, started us off with The Son Of A Gambolier (Charles Ives). As predicted, Mike walked in with Indy the dog while he was singing.

Tom gave us Across The Great Divide from one of his favourite singer-songwriters, Kate Wolf. Kate died in 1986 at the age of 44, Tom says, towards the end of what had seemed a successful course of treatment for leukaemia.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Calm down children

Children of BALPA performing at Thornbury Carnival, 2019
(Photo: Simon Meeds)
We really were scraping the barrel last Friday, starting the evening with three singers, and dropping to two before the break. You will understand then why there were fewer songs sung than usual and we called it a night when the break would usually have been.

Colin started us off with a parody of Wild Rover (Roud 1173) - Song Of The F.U. (The Kipper Family). Here FU stands for Farmers' Union. As far as I can work out, the union was the NFU from its formation in 1908, so I guess the "N" just didn't scan or maybe there is a contrary message in there somewhere?

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Something fishy

Fishing smacks in Boston,
Lincolnshire - 1980s
(Photo: Simon Meeds)
We didn't get through quite so many songs last week but that was because there was more chat and that certainly wasn't a problem.

Colin, as MC, started off proceedings with Cam Ye Here Tae Dance (Bob Ferguson), which is unsurprisingly a parody of Cam Ye O'er Frae France (Roud 5814).

Simon followed that with Phil Ochs' There But For Fortune before Derek started a theme of fishing, inspired by a pre-session discussion of freshwater fishing. He began by singing Cod Banging (Roud 1747).

Mike continued the piscatorial theme with Mike Waterson's Three Day Millionaire. Only Derek continued the theme further with Jolly Herring (Roud 128)

An unusual contribution came from Colin in the form of The Court Of King Caractacus, made famous by Rolf Harris. Apparently Colin had obtained the words from The Mucat Café but it seemed to me that Rolf's "... the boys who put the powder on noses on the faces of the ladies..." scanned more easily than Mudcat's "...the boys who powdered the noses on the faces of the ladies...". Anyway, it turns out that the song is older and The King Of Karactacus was first recorded by a music hall duo called Rich and Rich.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Moon, martyrs, Australia and hangings

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20, 1969 (Photo: NASA)
What a contrast was last week's session to the previous one; we were down from 10 to three people but nevertheless we meandered in some interesting directions and despite a pragmatically early finish, before Derek dropped off from lack of sleep, we got through quite a lot of songs.

Colin, the MC, started us off on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission with Jonathan King's Everyone's Gone To The Moon. The others may have been caught off guard by the perfectly reasonable theme but improvised anyway, Simon singing It's Only A Paper Moon (Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg, Billy Rose) and Derek with Hey Diddle Diddle (Roud 19478) completed the very short first lap of a tight circuit.

Colin kept on storming with a lunar theme, singing Man In The Moon (Roud 21397). Up to the challenge, Simon offered Neil Young's After The Goldrush - "silver spaceships", etc. Maybe I misunderstood what seemed to be indications from Derek that his singing of The Kildare Rake (Roud 5681) was keeping to the theme but there seems to me no obvious link unless the girl in the fourth verse is a werewolf.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Up north comes down south

Durham Miners' Gala (Photo: Darrell J Rohl)
A great session this week, thanks in part to the presence of our occasional visitor, Rose, who no doubt influenced the presence of both Kath and Tom. Malcolm and Janet were also welcome visitors from Yorkshire on one of their periodic visits to the area.

Colin as MC started the evening with Needle Cases (Roud 1300).

Mike went back to our suggested theme throughout June of songs sung in the earlier days of the club, singing from the repertoire of Johnny Collins, Free And Easy (Roud 1084).

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Swansea and further west

Swansea Docks and railway bridge (c1850)
We were a little thin on the ground again last Friday but with Colin back from his travels and Geoff back at the song-face, we carried on regardless.

Colin returned to his MC's chair and started the evening off with Mary Ann (Roud 4438). Derek suggested that Colin's song was somehow related to Swansea Town (Roud 165). Hold that thought while I delve a little deeper.

Mary Ann seems to be descended from Fare Thee Well / Turtle Dove / Ten Thousand Miles (Roud 422) and MainlyNorfolk suggests that it is Canadian although Roud's references include USA, Canada and Gloucestershire, UK.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Dulce et decorum est pro sodalitate cantare

Appalachian Dulcimer as played by John S
Last Friday's session was the last of our series of 50th anniversary celebrations for the club. With three of the regulars unable to be there and Simon exceptionally running things, Simon and Derek were sitting pondering an evening of a couple of rounds of two songs followed by a very early finish when the singers started pouring in. Well, that may be an exaggeration but for a start it was John S who walked through the door for the first time in a very long while. Patience was rewarded when Steve G arrived, quickly followed by Jo, then came a promised second appearance by Steffan. And so, we were quorate with a respectable showing of six singers! Thanks are due to all who came, and stayed, to make the evening a very enjoyable one.

While our anniversary celebrations are now over (for another fifty years maybe), the club soldiers on and we will be here every Friday from about 8:15pm unless there's a very good reason not to be. All comers, whether performers or not, are very welcome to enjoy some music and chat. Performances don't even have to be musical: stories, monologues, poems and jokes are all within our remit; anything in fact as long as it's acoustic.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Transported from Bristol to Australia (and back)

Cootamundra Wattle (Photo: John Jennings)
Well, last week's Dragon Folk Club Session had a slightly more satisfactory turn-out than the previous one. Let's see if we can make a big effort to get a good crowd this Friday for the last in our series of 50th anniversary sessions. We will be two men down, so we really need to make an extra effort. If you can't make it this week then remember that you are welcome any Friday from 8:15pm at The Bridge Inn, Shortwood, Bristol, BS16 9NG. Barring Christmas Day, very deep snow, tempest or a rare double-booking of the room, we will be there. Watch this blog or our Facebook page for such information.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Three into 50 doesn't go

Upton station, Co.Cork (Photo: Ralph Rawlinson)
Oh dear! We're still celebrating the club's 50th anniversary (two more weeks to go) but last week's turn-out was very meagre, not strictly quorate, but we carried on regardless, at least up to a slightly early finish.

Colin, MCing as usual, sang the first of three Woody Guthrie songs of the evening, This Land Is Your Land (Roud 16378). His second Guthrie was Hard Travelin' (Roud 13926). Derek made up the hat-trick with a song that Woody apparently wrote when challenged to sing about the Ladies' Auxiliary. This linked recording appears to be an extended version since printed lyrics usually agree with Derek's rendition that it consists only of a sort of chorus of four lines. Guthrie had in fact earlier sung about the same subject in his song Union Maid (and Pete Seeger finishes this recording off with the original short version).

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

D-Day 75 - Dragon 50

Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge
(Photo by Simon Meeds)
We're continuing the Dragon Folk Club 50th anniversary celebrations through to the end of June, so please come along and celebrate with us. Everyone is welcome but if you've been at the club any time during its long life you may like to perform something you performed on previous visits. We'd certainly love to hear it.

Last week's session was the second in the series of 50th anniversary events and was time also to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day with a variety of war and anti-war songs, some of which had specific relevance as did MC Colin's first, Shores Of Normandy by folk singer Jim Radford, the youngest known D-Day veteran (aged 15 years and 8 months at the time). The song, sung by Jim not Colin, went onto top the Amazon and iTunes download charts.

Geoff took a random dip in his repertoire and came up with Marty Robbins' Big Iron.

Simon went for a song about the war rather than D-Day with Liz Padgett's Plover Catcher which left the goal open wide for Mike to score with Lance-Sergeant Harry Pynn's D-Day Dodgers (Roud 10499), remarking that his father was one of them.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Starting as we mean to go on

Arnold Skolnick's poster for Woodstock
Last Friday's session was the start of our "season" of five sessions marking the fiftieth birthday of the club. Throughout June we really want to push to get some more people coming along to perform and listen: certainly new people but also some who have been past regulars and visitors at the club, maybe even to sing songs and play tunes they played earlier in the clubs history.

We knew one week would be short notice, so we didn't have great hopes for a full house but were pleased to be joined by Tom, a member since about 1981. Let's hope for more people joining us in the remaining weeks. If you intend to come along, please consider leaving a message below so that your intention may inspire others who know you or even those that don't.

MC Colin kicked us off with The Folksinger's Lament, written by David Diamond. Colin wasn't sure which tune to use but it turned out to be the Limerick Rake.

Tom started off his contribution in his usual fine style with John Martyn's May You Never for which he claimed a tenuous connection to the last day of May (more of that later).

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Fifty come Friday

A well-dressed man is dragged away, head down,
by police officers after sitting down during the huge
Ban-the-bomb rally in London's rain-soaked
Trafalgar Square, United Kingdom on Sept. 17, 1961
So yes, The Dragon Folk Club is almost fifty years old. In fact that milestone comes round at the end of this month (May). This week's session is on 31st,m which is perfect. But let's not have a slight celebration, we're going to make a whole month of it. Whether you have been to the club before in its long history or not, you will be very welcome to join us this week or any Friday in June for the celebration. If you have been to the club before perhaps you would like to sing some of the songs you sang at the club in the past, maybe in the distant past! If you do intend to drop in during this celebratory season then let us know when you are coming by posting a comment below this report or on our Facebook page.

Back to last week, Colin was MC and started the theme-less proceedings off with Chris Sugden's The Water Is Wet, an O Waile Waile parody (Wally, Wally). Unfortunately for this scribe many Kipper Family songs are kept off the web for understandable reasons, so I can't say much more about that.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

The last buds of May?

Bessie Smith (Photo: Carl Van Vechten)
Last week's session again had no theme but again we managed to squeeze out some May themed songs between us. This week again will have no theme, so any sort of performance will be just fine as long as it's acoustic.

Colin, the MC, started us off by twisting May a little as a name, and singing a song of Sam May, which I have failed to trace. It however inspired Derek to think of using "May" as a name and did a version of Tom Paxton's brief The Ballad Of Spiro Agnew but re-titled The Ballad Of Theresa May.

Mike's first May contribution was Bonny Black Hare (Roud 1656) "On the fouteenth of May...".

Having failed at the first fence the previous week, Simon just about managed Claudy Banks (Roud 266, Laws N40) this week which served to deprive Mike of one of his candidates for the evening.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

May I have some more?

Hawthorn 1 (Photo: Chris Phillips)
Last week's session had no official theme but there were clearly a lot of songs left over from the previous week's May Day celebration. It was good to see Geoff after a short break and also to welcome Steve C and Jane, whose story telling lends a texture to the evening.

There will be no theme again this Friday (17 May) so anything goes. Perhaps there could even still be some unsung May songs lurking in the dusty corners of someone's repertoire?

Last week, Colin was MC as usual and started off the unofficial May left-overs theme with We'll Have A May Day (Matt McGinn). This was followed by Derek's traditional singing of The Constantine, a version of Hal An Tow (Roud 1520) sung in the village of Constantine, just down the road and one week later than its more famous neighbour, Helston.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

May Day 2019

May Pole (Photo: klndonnelly)
Last Friday's session had the theme of May and we were just two days late for May Day itself. This week (10 May) there will be no theme but if you have any May left-overs I am sure no one will mind the scraps.

In fact last week's session was amazing or at least unexpectedly well peopled. Tom made his first appearance of the year, John and Chris O, usually only very occasional visitors, made their second within a month, and Steffan, who I've been working on, he says, for four years, finally made a welcome appearance.

Colin, MCing as usual, started off the evening not particular in the May theme but marking the occasion of Derek's team, Glamorgan beating Gloucestershire in the cricket. He did this with the first of several Kipper Family songs of the evening: The Cricket Match.

Mike wasn't feeling to well so his contribution before an early exit was just one song, but a fine May song it was, Hal An Tow (Roud 1520) which is from the Helston May Day celebrations. There will no doubt be a follow-up from Derek and from just down the road at this week's session.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

St George's Day 2019

The later "England Winners" of
the UK 1966 4d World Cup Stamp
Last week we met to mark St George's Day, which is of course also believed to be William Shakespeare's birthday (as well as the day he died).

This Friday's session will mark the beginning of May, Beltane if you wish. In fact last Derek believed that our canine folky, Indy might have been practising his maypole dance as we wound his extendable lead around the chair and table at which Derek sat, so we are expecting some interesting performances this week. What can you add to the session? If you don't perform then please feel free to attend as an audience member.

Colin, our regular MC, started off last week's session with Richard Thompson's The New St George.

Derek joked that he was unsure of the origins of his first song and suggested that I might be able to research it. That "song" was the Engerland football chant. Mike suggested that it might be contemporary with Lonnie Donegan's World Cup Willie, released in 1965 for the 1966 world cup.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Easter 2019

Photo: Jarosław Pocztarski
Last weeks session was unfortunately back to basics with only three singers to celebrate or otherwise mark Easter with songs overtly religious, comedy, political, historical and everything else. While we put a slightly early stop to proceedings we got though an impressive thirty songs - yes, ten each!

This Friday's session at The Bridge Inn will have an optional theme of St George, or William Shakespeare's birthday (and death day, we are told) if you prefer.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

What a difference a week makes

Grand Union Canal, Park Royal (Photo: Derek Arridge)
What a difference a week makes! From a very (ahem) intimate session the previous week we had a perfectly adequate crew this week, not least thanks to three occasional visitors. John O and Chris O are not local but visit us when they are in the area with their caravan. John says this was their fourth visit, which seems about right. We were also joined by Lisa who has been before and was a very welcome sight and sound at the session.

This week's session will have an Easter theme, being on Good Friday (yes, we don't let something like that stop us), and next week will be our St George's session (26 April, just three days late).

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

A bunch of Colins

The absent Colin (Photo by Simon Meeds)
Despite special levels of advertising, nay pleading, we really were only three at last week's session. There was officially no theme but I had suggested that in his absence we might sing songs from Colin's vast (although like mine, paper-based) repertoire and indeed everyone came up with something along those lines.

There is no set theme for this Friday's (12 April) session, so please help us make it a bit more populous... at least Colin should be back from his wee trip to Scotland.

Simon took up the MC baton and started off with the first song previously sung by Colin, Bless 'Em All (Fred Godfrey, Robert Kewley - Roud 8402). Geoff reminded us of Colin singing The Gasman Cometh (Michael Flanders, Donald Swann).

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

April Fools, Mothering Sunday and Lady Day 2019

(Photo: Simon Meeds)
This Friday's session (3 April) will have no theme. Colin, our usual MC, will not be present and his place will be taken by Simon. In recognition of this we will declare open season on Colin's repertoire, so please feel free to look back through our blog reports and pick songs he has sung in the past for you to repeat this week. If you don't fancy that then you are at liberty to sing, play, recite or otherwise perform anything you like as long as its acoustic.

Back to last week, Colin was present and MCed. He started us off obliquely on the Mothering Sunday theme. You may know that as well as your own mother, Mothering Sunday is about the church where you were baptised, your mother church, well Colin went one stage further with The Mother Country, which was written down by Benjamin Franklin though it is not known whether he actually composed it.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Who's counting?

This is a special edition of the Dragon Folk Club blog. Unusually it isn't the report of one of our weekly Friday sessions but something for the geeks and nerds like me.

For some time I have been recording in a database nearly all of the songs and other items performed at the club. The main aim of this exercise is to make the task of bringing together our weekly reports slightly easier. However the side-effect is that I'm getting some quite interesting data on what we do.

By the nature of its real aim, this is not particularly scientific since some performances are missing, and some are sort of extrapolated. Nevertheless, it gives a reasonable indication of what has been going on at the club since August 2018.

We have five core members of the club.Quite a few other people turn up from time to time but these guys are present more than anyone else. So, it's worth reporting the total number of different performances each of them has done. This is not a competition, just an observation.
  • Colin 219
  • Derek 176
  • Simon 134
  • Mike 110
  • Geoff 86
This hides the fact that they are in two different leagues. While Colin, Simon and Geoff usually use printed words, Mike only rarely does and Derek never. The repertoires of these last two singers are really amazing and even these figures don't reflect the full size of their repertoires.

More generally we have recorded 791 different songs (although that includes some tunes, poems and monologues), represented by 804 different variants, indicating that multiple distinct variants of some songs have been performed.

If you regularly read posts on this blog you will know that I record the numbers given to songs by the Roud, Laws and Child catalogues. The Laws one is slightly more complicated but it is easy enough to list the Roud and Laws numbers we have sung up to #100 in each catalogue:
  • Roud: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 16, 20, 23, 31, 38, 49, 50, 51, 54, 68, 79, 87, 90, 91, 94, 98
  • Child: 2, 3, 7, 10, 12, 13, 16, 21, 24, 26, 49, 54, 73, 76, 77, 78, 84, 93
That's not bad coverage. I have a record of numbers beyond 100 but I wouldn't want to bore you with them. The child catalogue has a total of 305 ballads and roud lists thousands of songs in the English language.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Amphibian from the start

Frog in a lavoir (Photo: Simon Meeds)
A really short report this week because I'm going out to enjoy myself this evening! However you can still listen to versions of most of the songs we sung at last week's session via the "selection" link at the bottom of the page.

First of all I need to let you know that this week's session on Friday 29 March has a theme and it has been extended (blame me) to "April Fools, Mothering Sunday and Lady Day". Make of that what you will. Traditionally we have interpreted April fools as nonsense, good and bad luck but it's up to you to apply your own interpretation.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

St Patrick's Day 2019

The Giant's Causeway, County Antrim
(Photo: Simon Meeds)
Last week's St Patrick's Day session saw a wide variety of songs with more or less connection to Ireland. This Friday there will be no theme so we'll look forward to at least as wide a variety.

Last Friday Colin as MC started off well on theme with Tom Lewis' St Patrick's Song.

Mike told us that Simon's Paddy Lay Back (Roud 653) was associated with Liverpool. There is a long quote from Stan Hugill on the subject of the song here. Mike's own first song was Red Haired Mary (Sean McCarthy).

Derek tried, for the first few rounds anyway, to pick songs which actually mentioned St Patrick. His first contribution was How Caesar Was Driven From Ireland (Dominic Behan).

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

For the love of women

Last week's session had no official theme but Derek said that he had created one for himself and asked us to guess what it was. No one quite got it but he admitted in the end it was for International Women's Day, which it was. More specifically, all his songs for the evening were sung from the point of view of a woman. I'll mention all of Derek's songs but I'll try to extract the female themes from the songs of our other singers too.

First of all, a reminder that this week's session will have a St Patrick's Day theme. I'll leave it up to you to decide what that can mean for you since there is quite a lot of scope.

MC Colin started us off with George Papavgeris' Friends Like These.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

St David's Day 2019


Last week's session was on St David's Day so that was our theme. Unfortunately we were still at rock bottom for attendance. We manage to have good sessions but it would be a lot more pleasure if you were with us to add your contributions and to enjoy the banter.

Colin ably MCed as usual and introduced the theme with Welsh History 101 by Heather Rose Jones.

Derek's first contribution may seem a little negative about those from across the Wye but in fact he has plenty of historical justification for singing Taffy Was A Welshman (Roud 19237) because the first verse appeared in something like its current form in Nancy Cock's Pretty Song Book, printed in London in about 1780.