“Before I heard Earthly Joys, I wasn’t sure how well Rapsquillion’s irresistible charm in a live session or workshop would transfer to CD. But it works very well, regaining their vocal depth and dynamic subtlety. The group’s many fans will certainly not be disappointed, and I suspect that the CD will make them more than a few more fans.” David Harley, Folking.com
“‘Broadside Man’ and ‘Time Ashore’ – I like them both very much – interesting, original and well-performed arrangements” John Connolly
Onwards and upwards (in years at least), Rapsquillion continue to hang around on street corners with attitude, wearing red and hurling four-part harmonies at unsuspecting passers-by. They stalk the Welsh Marches with their eclectic mix of songs that range from medieval love ballads, through Breton folk tunes to contemporary songs of social comment.
This latest collection sees the band mixing seemingly disparate elements into original and creative performances. Add to that the group’s easygoing comfort in their own skin, the rich harmonies for which Rapsquillion are renowned, throw in some truly awful puns and what you get is a unique evening of musical entertainment.
Trevor Hedges -vocals, guitar
Kay Hedges -vocals, flute
Jenny Wright -vocals, recorder
Dave Wright -vocals, harmonica
Andy Ketchen -vocals, guitar, concertina
Sue Lawrence -vocals, flute, violin
Nancy Ketchen -vocals, bodhran
Thanks also to Susie Stockton-Link (lead vocals, track 6) and Jon Bell (concertina, track 10)
‘Earthly Joys’ was recorded, mixed and mastered by Paul Cobbold in Hereford, October-December 2016.
The classic anti-apartheid anthem from South Africa is so much a part of our repertoire that, even when we leave it out of a set, we still find that we have sung it by the end of the evening. Spooky!
- The Broadside Man (Connolly/Meek)
The bustle of the eighteenth century city streets and the cries of the broadside sellers hustling for business with their lurid tales of scandal and disaster are brilliantly brought to life in this colourful recreation.
- Street Calls (Ravenscroft) / Sea Coal (Miles)Graeme Miles’ memorable song is based around the cries of the coal seller who painstakingly collects bits of coal washed up on the beach in order to scratch a living. We have added it to a medley of other street calls, taken from the round composed by Thomas Ravenscroft in 1609 – an Elizabethan sales jingle!
- Raffa (Ketchen)
Based on an old anecdote from Hyssington in the Welsh borders this story describes the special relationship that can develop between corvids and humans. Featuring the gorgeous Rapsquillettes!
- King Cotton (Harding)
The hardship of life in the nineteenth century mill towns of Lancashire is vividly brought to life here in Mike Harding’s heartfelt description.
- Ar Gyfer Heddiw’r Bore
This plygain carol from Denbighshire is still a firm Xmas favourite in the area. Please forgive our accents. Trevor is still putting his teeth back in.
- John Barleycorn
The story of John Barleycorn is one of the staples of the British folk tradition. This version has one of our favourite choruses.
- An Dro St Patrick / An Dro Pharaoh
Who doesn’t have their favourite memories of holidays in France? We all do. These two classic Breton dance tunes bring summers of sun and Sauvignon Blanc flooding back.
- The Lyke Wake Dirge
Dating from medieval times this unsettling atmospheric song is saying “be generous to the poor or you’ll regret it when your time comes”. In those days acts of common humanity were often the only buffer between hard times and death, a situation libertarian politicians are working hard to recreate.
- Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmates
This traditional shanty, made famous in Master and Commander, has just the sort of jaunty chorus that Rapsquillion like to get their teeth into. A real belter.
- Quand Je Bois
They are all drinking. They are all talking over each other. They are all French. So what did you expect? This beguiling arrangement is followed by Gilles Chabenat’s classic bourrée La Poule Huppée.
- Singing Out The Days (Chumbawumba)
A reminder, if we needed it, that war isn’t the great adventure it’s cracked up to be – just frightened young men who want their mums. This song bridges the personal and the political.
- Time Ashore Is Over (Meek, arr. Rapsquillion)
The effects that long periods at sea are having on a trawlerman’s marriage have been dealt with in both male and female versions of this song. We have merged the two into a dialogue. Get your hankies out.
- Unison In Harmony (Boyes)
Fill your lungs, gyrate your tonsils, open your mouth and let rip. You’ll feel a lot better for it.
Thanks to all the friends who’ve encouraged, supported and helped us over the years. It’s a cliché, but we couldn’t have made ‘Earthly Joys’ without you – nor would we have wanted to. Love from us…
Oh, and if you fancy buying one and helping keep the wolves and ravens from our door, please hit the button below – the CD is £8.00 and the post and packing £1.50.
‘Geriatrica’ is Rapsquillion’s third CD and it brings together some of the songs we enjoy singing at sessions, gigs and festivals. With Paul Cobbold’s renowned production skills at work, we think it will give you a good idea of how we feel about our music.
There are countless versions of this song, going back as far as 1558 – Pepys remarks on it in a description of an evening at the tavern in 1670. John Barleycorn is the personification of the cereal. The various indignities suffered by him correspond to the stages of malt cultivation and production.
2.THE SHOALS OF HERRING
‘The Shoals Of Herring’ comes from the 1960 radio ballad, ‘Singing The Fishing’. The programme was based on the life of Sam Larner, a herring fisherman from Norfolk, whose career touched on the eras of sail, steam and diesel. The radio ballads were written by Ewan MacColl, and if you ever hear an Irish song entitled ‘The Shores Of Erin’, usually claimed to be ‘anonymous’ or ‘traditional’, you may well think you are hearing something very similar!
3.TANT QUE VIVRAI
Claude de Sermisy started his musical career in 1508 as a singer and cleric in the court of Louis XII. He wrote both sacred and secular music all for voices but he is most well known for his 175 chansons of which this song is one. His style is light and dance-like and this song is typical. It is a cheerful song in which a lover is rejoicing that he has the love of a beautiful girl and he says “our love will endure as long as the wind blows” and “all my life shall I love her and I shall sing”.
4.A PILGRIM’S WAY
An interesting poem, which may sound ‘godly’ on first hearing, but turns out to be somewhat humanist. It also does a nice line in being self-critical whilst optimistic about the human condition. Peter Bellamy tried to use old tunes for his Kipling settings, where possible, although he did say that on occasions he’d had to write an ‘authentic traditional tune’! This one is simple and sounds suitably ‘church’.
‘I Love Coffee, I Love Tea’ is best known today as the first line of the song ‘Java Jive’, as performed by The Inkspots and The Manhattan Transfer. The line was originally part of a counting-out rhyme, often sung by girls as they skipped. The most popular version, recorded since at least 1888, is ‘I love coffee, I love tea, I love the boys and the boys love me’. The song’s ‘folkie’ roots notwithstanding, we really enjoy singing this arrangement.
6.CROSSING THE BAR
We first heard this beautiful arrangement of the Tennyson poem at a workshop given by the folk trio Craig Morgan Robson and we thank them for allowing us to sing it. It is said that Tennyson wrote the poem as his own elegy whilst crossing the Solent after a long illness. He said that the words “came in a moment” and Rani Arbo said that her tune “just came out of the air”. This combined inspiration has given us the most wonderfully moving song and we hope that you enjoy listening as much as we love singing it.
We think it’s great to be able to sing a song which is five hundred years old! Josquin was the dominant composer of his period (1440 – 1521) . El Grillo is a cricket, who ‘sings wonderfully’, but stays put in his homeland while the birds around him nip off for a quick migrate. Some experts claim that the lyrics were a swipe at Josquin’s patron, who appreciated the musician’s outstanding prowess to such an extent that he was reluctant to give him any time off; others prefer the more prosaic interpretation that Josquin was just boasting about his – or El Grillo’s – erotic powers.
Parting Friends, or ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ falls into the category of religious ballad and was originally used in group shape-note singing. The song began to reach widespread popularity with secular, urban audiences when folk song collector, singer, and actor Burl Ives recorded it in the early 1940s. For a time, the piece was synonymous with Ives’ grandfatherly image and he sang it throughout his life as one of his signature pieces (Blue-Tailed Fly was another). The song has remained popular with rural people throughout the southern states and it is certainly one of the most recognizable songs in the Anglo hymn tradition.
9.QUAND JE BOIS
‘Quand je Bois’ is a tourdion (lively dance) tune called La Magdalena which was arranged into a song for four voices. It is a drinking song that conjures up the image of a group of friends who, over the course of the evening, have reached the mellow stage where everyone starts singing their own version of the same song – “when I’m drinking red wine, my friends, everything spins, just like now, when I’m drinking rose”.
10.THE SPRINGHILL MINING DISASTER
Composed by Peggy Seeger, this song is about the 1958 ‘bump’ at the mine in Nova Scotia. The mine had already suffered two previous disasters in 1891 and 1956 but this one devastated the town and its people, because of the casualties suffered and the fact that the mine had provided the economic life blood of the area. Of the 174 miners in the mine at the time of the accident, 74 lost their lives and 100 were rescued. Our first rendition of this song, purely by coincidence, was during the week of the rescue of 33 miners who had been trapped for 69 days at San Jose, Chile.
The 16th century Catalan composer Mateo Flecha is best known for composing ensalada, literally, a salad of works for 4 or 5 voices that frequently mixed languages within the song – French, Spanish, Basque and Catalan. Dindirin is about a young maiden torn between her love for a commoner and her duty to enter into a marriage with a wealthy baron, and the way she uses a nightingale to send messages to her lover, the final one being “my marriage bells have sounded”.
12.THE SHORES OF OLD BLIGHTY
This song is about post-war National Service which was reintroduced in 1947, firstly for an 18 month term, and then for 2 years. The compulsory call-up ended in 1960. These young men were often shipped overseas to serve their queen and country and many were engaged in keeping the peace between opposing violent groups – a dangerous and unpleasant task
A South African hymn that became popular in North American churches in the 1990s. The title means “We Are Marching” or “We Are Walking” in the Zulu language. It is said to have been composed in 1950 by Andries Van Tonder, an elder of the Judith church. The original composition was in Afrikaans (with the title “Ons Marseer Nou In Die Tig Van God”) and was subsequently translated into Zulu by Thabo Mkize.
14.WALKING INTO BATTLE WITH THE LORD
As with ‘A Pilgrim’s Way’, the title may suggest a religious song but this is a protest that takes aim at war in the name of religion. No matter what faith, culture or nation each soldier represents, the result of war is always the same. This song, with beautiful harmonies arranged by the writers, spits out the futility of war
‘Geriatrica’ was recorded and mixed at The Chapel Studio, Royal National College, Hereford, in April 2011. Engineered, mixed and produced by Paul Cobbold.
Thanks also to:
Dave Wood, Graham Wilde and students of RNC for their work on this CD and the production of the DVD.
Dave Wright for his contributions to tracks 4 and 12.
Neil Cotton, for food, water and continued support.