Courting is a Pleasure

I’ve started a new series I’m calling ‘Folk Singles’. I’m going to record three or four tracks a year and release them as singles through CD Baby, Bandcamp, iTunes etc.

The first one is the old folk song ‘Courting is a Pleasure’ (information about this song is at Mainly Norfolk and Mudcat Café). My version is based on Nic Jones’ recording on ‘Penguin Eggs’, but I’ve done quite a lot of editing to the lyrics.

So far it’s available on Bandcamp here. I’ll update this page when not becomes available on CD Baby and iTunes.

Here’s my version of the lyrics:

Courting is a pleasure between my love and I,
And it’s down in yon green valley I will meet her by and by
Way down in yon green valley, she is my heart’s delight
Molly, lovely Molly I would stay ‘til broad daylight.

Going to church last Sunday my love she passed me by,
I knew her mind was altered by the roving of her eye,
I knew her mind was altered toward a lad of high degree
Molly, lovely Molly your looks have wounded me.

I went to her on Monday with a bottle in my hand
Saying, “Here’s to you, lovely Molly, for our courting is at an end.
So raise your glass, lovely Molly, raise your glass and then go free
Ten guineas I will wager that married we ne’er shall be”.

Farewell, Ballymorrie, likewise the sweet Bann shore
Farewell to your rolling hills I will never see no more
Americay lies far away across the ocean blue
But it’s there I’d go lovely Molly and never more see you.

Sons of Bethlehem

First draft of a song lyric for the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Sort of a 2015 version of the Coventry Carol, I guess. I don’t have a tune for it yet, but this tune (Jim Moray’s take on a traditional folk tune) was in my mind while I was writing it.

The Sons of Bethlehem

Twas in the light of dawn they came a-killing
They never made a sound
But like a bloodstain silently were spreading
Throughout our sleeping town

And from their mothers’ arms they took our children
Or snatched them from their beds
And long before the sun arose that morning
A hundred sons were dead

It was no child of ours that they were seeking
These death squads of the night
Just incidental killings with no meaning
Victims of Herod’s might

They say the boy they wanted did escape them
Before the midnight hour
I wish some angel voice had given warning
To save these boys of ours

If there’s a god above us up in heaven
Vengeance is his, they say,
But how can God in heaven understand it
The evil done this day?

He’d have to live as one of us and suffer
By brutal powers condemned
And die in pain, just like our innocent children
The sons of Bethlehem

By Tim Chesterton, December 2015



Funny how you remember dates

Ten years ago today, for the first time, I walked into an Edmonton open stage, got up behind a microphone, and performed a few songs. The open stage was held at what was then the Druid South, an Edmonton pub that in longer exists, and the host was Chris Wynters, who is now the Executive Director of Alberta Music. Thank you, Chris, for giving me such a good start!

Before that night I’d played in church from time to time, and the odd one-off gig here and there, but never with any consistency. I’d always loved music, though, and I was curious about what it would be like to participate in an open stage. Little did I know, on that evening of October 2nd 2005, how much richer my life would be ten years later.

Since that night I’ve learned dozens of traditional folk songs, and written some songs of my own. I’ve become the owner of two beautiful guitars and a cittern, and I love playing them. I’ve performed at open stages, at gigs in coffee shops and folk clubs and churches, and at some truly amazing fundraisers with other musicians. I’ve recorded and released a professionallyproduced CD. And, best of all, I’ve made some wonderful friends.

Thank you, Edmonton music community. Today, I can’t imagine my life without you!

Down in Yon Forest

Here is a new 2014 recording of the old Appalachian carol ‘Down in Yon Forest’; this is my Christmas song for 2014 and comes to you with my love and best wishes and prayers for a wonderful Christmas for you and yours. If you have not already received it in your email inbox, please feel free to visit the Reverberation site below and take advantage of the free download.

This song is a descendant of the old English ‘Corpus Christi Carol’ or ‘Falcon Carol’ (the original dates back to at least 1506, when it was discovered by a clerk named Richard Hall). This particular version of it was collected in North Carolina in the early 1900s by the folk song collector John Jacob Niles.

Hope you enjoy it, and have a wonderful Christmas.

‘Patrick Spens’ – a rewrite

You have to have a particular kind of hubris to attempt a rewrite of an iconic traditional folk song like ‘Sir Patrick Spens’, I guess – especially with the ghosts of all who have done it before peering over your shoulder!

There are several older versions of the song in the Child Ballad collection here. Mainly Norfolk has a recording history of the song and a number of later adaptations of the lyrics, including what I think is one of the two best modern versions, by Martin Carthy. The other really excellent modern version is by Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer, with a tune which I think is their own creation; you can watch them perform it here.

My rewrite owes a lot to Carthy’s wordings, although I have drastically shortened it and changed the story at a couple of points. I’m still working on a tune for it, but it will work well with Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer’s tune. Here’s my first draft.

Patrick Spens

The king sat in Dunfermline town,
Drinking the blood-red wine
He said, “I need a mariner
To sail this ship of mine.
So send word for Sir Patrick Spens
To come at my command
For he’s the finest mariner
who ever sailed from land”.

When Patrick heard the King’s good word
His face turned grey with fear
“To Norway far we cannot sail,
It’s too late in the year”.
“To Norway you must go for me”
The King gave this decree,
“For you must go to meet my bride
and bring her home to me”.

“Prepare the ship”, Sir Patrick cried,
“We sail all in the morn,
through sun or sleet, through hail or wind,
through fair or deadly storm”.
But up and spoke an old ship’s hand,
“I fear we’ll come to harm
For/I saw the new moon late last night,
The old moon in her arm.”

They had not sailed a day or two,
I’m sure it was not three,
When all around the sky grew dark
And roared the raging sea.
Then Patrick stood on the quarterdeck
And took the helm in hand,
While/the lookout climbed the masthead tall
And tried to find the land.

“Oh make me a web of good sailcloth,
Another web of twine,
And lay them round our good ship’s side
Let not the sea come in”.
So they got a web of good sailcloth,
Another web of twine,
And laid them round the good ship’s side,
But still the sea came in.

Oh the rigging snapped, the topmast cracked,
the spars came crashing down,
And the raging seas swept o’er the ship
and whirled it all around
And the gale blew hard from north north east
So loudly did it sweep,
As Patrick Spens and all his men
Were drowning in the deep.

And long, long the King will sit
His sceptre in his hand
Before he sees Sir Patrick Spens
Come sailing back to land.
It’s east by north from Aberdeen
The good ship they must seek,
For/there lies Sir Patrick Spens,
Fifty fathoms deep.