My third living room gig of Christmas songs old, new, and in between!
…in which I sing some more Christmas songs – some traditional, some whose authors are known, and one original.
This was a little Facebook Live gig I did from my home Wednesday evening.
Cara Dillon and her husband and musical partner Sam Lakeman have produced a number of beautiful CDs over the years, including some with a little more instrumentation. But this stripped-down concert demonstrates what brilliant musicians they are. Cara’s voice is wonderfully expressive and she’s definitely at the top of her game. Sam’s piano and guitar arrangements are always just enough and never too much, and occasionally Cara throws in a little tin whistle for good measure.
And what better to give us during a time of pandemic than a concert with a healthy dose of traditional Irish folk songs, which probably express love and loss better than any other body of music on the planet?
Some of the media reactions:
“It is an inspiring and intimate delight from start to finish, the purity of Cara’s voice elegantly complemented by Sam on the venue’s Steinway grand piano and guitar”
“In the familiarity of her melody and emotive vocals, Dillon gave comfort to her online audience, creating togetherness across time and distance.”
“And what a glorious 75 minutes it was, beautifully set and staged, the music an exquisite patchwork of different hues”
Oh – and if you enjoy this concert, read this note from Cara and Sam and send them a donation. Like all folk musicians, their income has taken a huge hit during the pandemic.
I took a little longer to make the second video in this series of folk arrangements of 18th and 19th century hymns. My apologies, but I hope you find it worth the wait!
I love this nineteenth century hymn by the Scottish minister Horatius Bonar (1808-1889); it was written, I believe, in 1846. The tune is ‘Kingsfold’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams; he based it on an old folk tune known in England as ‘Dives and Lazarus’, and in Ireland as ‘Star of the County Down’. Was it originally English or Irish? We’ll probably never know! The guitar arrangement is my own.
‘Amazing Grace’ was written by John Newton in 1772 and was first published in 1779 in a collection called ‘Olney Hymns’ in which all the lyrics were by either Newton or the poet William Cowper. We have no idea what tune was originally sung to this hymn.
‘Amazing Grace’ became very popular in 19th century America and it was there that it was first sung to the American folk tune we now associate with it.
Interestingly, Newton’s original final verse was different from the ‘When we’ve been there ten thousand years’ verse that we now sing. The substitution was made by an American editor, who replaced the original (which he apparently felt was too Calvinistic?) with the words now familiar to us. The difference is easily noticeable in that Newton’s original verses are all in the first person singular, while the new verse is in the plural.
I have written my own tune to ‘Amazing Grace’, and have chosen to sing Newton’s original words, not the later American edition.
Here’s an old American folk hymn; it seems appropriate for Good Friday.
You can learn more about the history of this hymn here.
Here’s my version of the old traditional English folk song ‘The Week Before Easter’. My guitar arrangement is inspired by an instrumental version recorded by Martin Simpson. The tuning is CGCGCE.
You can find out more about the song and its recording history on Mainly Norfolk. A lit of people seem to have done it!