For one year I will release an arrangement of a folk song each week to form four seasonal collections of folk music. Most people react with a very kind response of, “wow, cool!” or “what a nice idea,” whilst other more cunning characters raise an eyebrow and after a pause say, “but why?” My gut response is because I love traditional folk music, I want to have a go at putting my own spin on folk music like so many before me and I want to share what I discover with anyone who’ll listen. However, I realise this may not be satisfactory for everyone, so here’s a more in depth explanation.
The Oxford Dictionary defines folk music as, “music that originates in traditional popular culture or that is written in such a style. Folk music is typically of unknown authorship and is transmitted orally from generation to generation.” What a fantastic concept. Songs which have been sung and re-sung over so many years that they have been crafted and constructed by numerous authors, separated by not only geographical space but quite often by great stretches of time. How many other art forms do we have that have been created by so many authors over such long periods? It is this ‘passing on’ that I want to become a small part of, and reimagine these timeless melodies and lyrics in my own way. Yet while I am itching to leave my own mark on these songs and tunes I also want to give a well-deserved nod back towards all the previous versions I can find, to celebrate the journey some of these songs have taken and share the versions which have so often inspired me.
Folk songs serve so many purposes, whether the author is known or not. They are there to tell stories, to teach lessons, to stir up political activism, to express love, to celebrate the cycle of nature, or just to have a good whinge about how peeved you are with the world at the moment. These are not just songs, they are records of a past world, of a past ‘us’, and the fact we can connect with that is fantastic. It’s like going into a museum but this time … you can touch all the cool old stuff and do what you want with it! But the most magical thing about all this is that no matter how different the world may have been in the time the songs were written, there is always something we can connect to. We can always find a common theme or empathise with something someone was going through. For me, these songs have always been and will always remain relevant, because no matter how much music, technology, musical instruments or language change, we’re always singing the same songs.
Whilst this project is going to be tremendously fun, it is going to be a challenge and I will need and have already had plenty of support. Friend and fellow musician Dan Webster has graciously accepted the challenge of mixing all the tracks (he’s going to be sick of the sound of my voice by the end of it!), a host of musicians have already provided their talents when they were needed for some of the entries, and I am privileged so say that singer and artist Annie Haslam is supporting the project by painting cover art for each of the four seasons. Annie is the singer of one of my favourite groups, Renaissance, and it is amazing to be able to work with her.
One of the most important things I need support with is something that you can do if you’re reading this. All I’m asking is that you listen and spread the word, and hopefully you’ll enjoy it whilst you’re at it! Thank you!