The Fringe
of
English-Music.co.uk

Direct location:
www.english-music.co.uk/fringe

This part of the site includes various things not specifically traditional English folk music, such as things which are:


English Music
- not traditional and not quite folk

There are thousands of notable British artists and this site cannot mention them all. However much British music is heavily influenced by American music, so this page will attempt to mention some of the notable musicians who have a more English style.

Early Days, the 1950's and 1960's

In the 1950's, while in America Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Elvis were strutting their stuff, Britain was a very different world. For a start, we were still suffering the aftermath of the terrible World War II. There was a lot of poverty. One thing which did survive the war was the great expertise in orchestral music. It had remained throughout the war because entertainment was good for morale and so still supported. British orchestras in the 50's (mainly centred in London) were as good as anywhere in the world. They were surprisingly commonplace and presumably a cost-effective way of making music. The BBC were a big contributor. Even radio comedy shows recorded in front of an audience would have an orchestra just for bursts of music to accompany the comedy.

It was into this environment there emerged:

Cliff Richard and the Shadows

Cliff and the Shadows

A large industry built up around Cliff Richard, making use of existing studio resources and orchestras. All of this was of very high quality considering the time. The quality of music and sound was excellent and is clearly evident on the recordings. Much of this infrastructure was already in place because British music was at a high standard of excellence from the world of light orchestral music.

Most of the early singles by Cliff Richard were written by British songwriters, many by Ian Samwell in fact. Members of the Shadows wrote some of them.

The 1960's

Record sales were dominated by singles, and most albums were a collection of short songs, most of which were rather inferior to the singles that band would release. Also in the early 60's live concerts often consisted of several of the big name bands appearing in succession at the same concert.

In the very early 60's most records were by solo performers, mainly singers, and accompanied by unnamed instrumentalists especially orchestras. Gradually the pop groups started to gain strength and popularity. These were self-contained and usually played the whole recording themselves. Many songs were covers of American hit records which where little-known in this country in their original form.

Some songs started to be written by British songwriters such as Mitch Murray, and some pop groups gradually started to write their own material, notably the Beatles.

Album Music - 1968 and all that

Around 1966-1968 the music scene began to change.

About 1968 there emerged a number of bands whose main output was on albums not singles, and many became hugely successful without releasing singles, or anyway without much success with singles. Alongside album success these bands also had successful and popular live acts. With little exposure on the radio and virtually none on TV their reputation spread by word of mouth especially through the student community.

There was a whole continuum of different genres which later became named Progressive Rock, or sometimes Contemporary Rock. With hindsight some are now considered to belong to other genres while others are still considered to be in the Prog Rock genre. The music encompassed folk, blues, jazz and sometimes bordered on classical. Of course individual music lovers had their preferences, but there were no great divisions and bands as diverse as Fairport Convention and Led Zeppelin were all considered part of this same musical movement.

The main features of this music:

Some existing bands embraced the new emergence of album music, notably the Rolling Stones. Other bands previously successful in the singles charts faded in popularity or in many cases broke up, with members joining or forming the more progressive bands. Notable examples are Graham Nash left the Hollies to form Crosby Stills and Nash, and Chris Curtis left the Searchers and formed Deep Purple.

The Beatles

The Beatles started doing a mix of covers of American songs and some of their own songs influenced by the American style, but soon developed their own style and much of their work was in the European tradition (i.e. unrelated to soul and blues). The two film albums, A Hard Day's Night and Help were good examples of their early original song styles which was now breaking free from American foundations.

The Rolling Stones

Previously a band whose main success was through singles. Initially their mission was to play rhythm and blues and this shared interest formed the basis of an early get-together between Jagger and Richards. In 1966 they released a distinctively different album, Aftermath, consisting entirely of their own songs and very little soul or blues content. Notably Aftermath included the song Lady Jane which was in the style of a courtly Elizabethan ballad. In 1968 they embraced the popularity of blues music with their album Beggars Banquet.

The Who

Another singles band but began to make concept albums before almost anyone else. Dabbled with the concept of a Rock Opera with A Quick One, and then Pete Townshend wrote his masterpiece Tommy.

John Mayall

He led a succession of blues bands which formed the basis of many others.

Fleetwood Mac

Started in the mid 60's as a roots blues band. The band was formed by guitarist/singer Peter Green, but strangely named after two other founder members, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie. Peter Green was the front-man and also became an excellent songwriter and soon the band's repertoire consisted mostly of his original songs. This was guitar based music, but now departed from blues.

At some point Peter Green renounced their huge commercial success and wanted to give much of their earnings to charity. He is also said to have been 'spiked' and subsequently flipped. He left the band.

After various changes of line-up, but always retaining the core of Fleetwood and McVie, they incorporated Americans Stevie Nicks (girl) and Lindsey Buckingham (man) and moved their base to America. They had a hugely successful album Rumours.

The Strawbs

Formed in the 60's by Dave Cousins. In the early days the group included Sandy Denny before she joined Fairport Convention. The Strawbs had some enthusiasts but never had great success until two successful singles, but the second of these Part of the Union was untypical of their work and its very success probably lost them a lot of credibility amongst lovers of folk and rock music.

Jethro Tull

Traditional instruments

There is no clear definition of what constitutes folk music, but some people are willing to consider any music which makes use of a traditional acoustic instrument. Almost any small group using a fiddle, for example, will be automatically accepted as a folk band!

Notable for their zany front-man vocalist and avant garde flute player Ian Anderson. (It is hardly surprising that he was thought by some to be called Jethro Tull, especially when Jimmy Savile introduced the band as Mister Jethro Tull). They had an enduring popularity and now regarded by some as being part of the folk scene.

Family

Led by singer Roger Chapman, and the band mainly performed his original songs. The band included Rick Grech who played violin amongst other things and later became a founder member of Blind Faith. Family were contemporaries of Jethro Tull with some similarities.

Mike Oldfield

Mike Oldfield, Ommadawn

Mike Oldfield has a genre entirely to himself. Structured instrumental music, rather like classical, but played on modern instruments. His masterpiece was Tubular Bells which was produced with multitrack techniques and Oldfield playing all the instruments, though it is mainly the electric guitar and its variants. He released more albums, notably Ommadawn. The next great landmark in his work was the excellent Tubular Bells II with a similar structure to the original but consisting of all new music. The work makes use of the more advanced sound technology now available, and is also superb sound quality.

Pink Floyd

Commercial music

In the late 60's serious bands aspired to avoid being classed as 'commercial'. It is almost as if popularity was something to be avoided.

There is a paradox, because they must have wanted some sort of popularity. Perhaps the answer is that they wanted to do their own music at all costs, and to hope that people liked it, but avoided compromising their music simply to gain popularity.

The great progressive rock band. Originally formed around Sid Barrett but who left relatively early in the band's career due to mental health problems, (or at least it was a problem to others if not himself). Pink Floyd are known for their long flowing instrumentals and impressive stage shows with light shows. Their album Dark Side of the Moon was hugely successful, but actually departed from their tradition of long instrumental-based tracks, being a collection of songs of normal length with much high-tech studio embellishment. Their next album Wish You Were Here returned to long songs with lengthy instrumental parts and featured a large contribution from guitarist Dave Gilmour.

Hawkwind

Etherial, atmospheric and mainly instrumental. Some similarities with Pink Floyd but Hawkwind pushed the music still further into the realm of long abstract instrumentals. One of their principal albums was Space Ritual which was a double LP and recorded live.

King Crimson

Formed by Robert Fripp and began in 1968 in very spectacular way with a stunning live performance and the album In the Court of the Crimson King. They were different from anything else heard before but included some modern jazz influence. Notably Greg Lake was the powerful vocalist at the time. He later joined ELP.

Soft Machine

Avant garde music, very much jazz based. They reached a peak with their double album entitled Third.

Colosseum

A virtuoso 5-piece band based on jazz styles with great instrumental content. Material consisted of some songs with extended instrumental solos, and some instrumentals. They were formed in 1968 by Jon Hiseman, (a contender alongside Ginger Baker to be considered the best rock drummer around). Other members were respected jazz sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith, Dave Greenslade - organ, James Litherland - vocals and guitar, and Tony Reeves - bass. Their first two albums were the best: Those Who Are About to Die Salute You, and Valentyne Suite.

Deep Purple

'Heavy rock' without being blues based.

Led Zeppelin

High powered blues/rock band who were probably the founders of the 'heavy metal' genre. Their first album had the same name as the band, and the next were named Led Zeppelin II, III, and IV respectively. Led Zeppelin III was the most folky. It made use of acoustic guitars and included at least one traditional song. IV included the classic song Stairway to Heaven. There was a cinema film The Song Remains the Same together with double album of the soundtrack. The film was a mix of documentary and lengthy concert scenes.

The Nice

Combining classical music with rock

Keith Emerson got this the right way round, i.e. by taking the compositions of classical music and playing them with rock instruments.

Around this time, others got the idea of playing modern rock compositions, e.g. the music of the Rolling Stones, in orchestral form. Oh no! It misses the whole point of rock music, that is its spontaneity and powerful, sharply defined rhythms.

Keith Emerson was clearly the main man in this band and the vast majority of their material consisted of his virtuoso performances on the Hammond organ. They were a great live act because of Emerson's great showmanship in his organ playing where he would tilt and rock the organ around on stage.

Their material contained very little original composition but was instead based on existing material from various sources which were reworked into a highly dramatic form far removed from their original versions. Much of this was classical music.

One of their first albums, Ars Longa Vita Brevis was probably their best. (The title is Latin for "Art is long, life is short"). This had a long playing time and included some great epic instrumentals including their instrumental version of the show song America and which was a hit single.

Emerson Lake and Palmer
(also called ELP)

Formed along similar lines to Keith Emerson's previous group The Nice, that is with Emerson as the main man, playing keyboards together with bass and drums, but ELP made greater use of synthesizers instead of relying entirely on the Hammond Organ. Also now included Greg Lake who introduced a significant element of Songs into the group, and sometimes played guitar rather than bass. The band seemed to switch between Emerson's keyboard based instrumentals, and occasional songs from Lake. rather than to merge the styles.

Blind Faith

Formed out of the break-up of Cream and retaining members Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, but replaced Jack Bruce with singer and keyboard player Steve Winwood, and Rick Grech from Family.

Renaissance

Formed in 1969, surprisingly by two former members of the Yardbirds, noably their lead vocalist Keith Relf, though Renaissance were very different. Very soon all the original members had drifted away and replaced by others. Their main work was from 1972 to 1983. Worth looking into through their own web site, Wikipedia or Amazon.

There is a document available in various places on the Internet: "The History of Renaissance" by Russell W. Elliot.

Renaissance web site: www.nightsweb.com

Lindisfarne

From the North East of England. They had a successful single Fog on the Tyne, and considerable album success for a brief period around 1970. Their style was towards the more folky end of the Contemporary Rock genre.

Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath were a long way from what you would regard as English music, but nevertheless had a home-grown brand of music, strongly instrumental based on the electric guitar of Tony Iommi, but not a blues band. As their name suggests they had a theme of black magic in their music, but contrary to beliefs, their early work did not advocate it, but was more about suffering from the adversity of dark forces, and some songs were just another angle on the well established song theme of unhappy love.

Their first album Black Sabbath is said to have been released on Friday 13th February 1970, and is one of their best.

Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens' great period was around late sixties to 1971 or so. Initially he was writing and performing pure pop music aimed at commercial success, which he got. Later became recognised as a more serious musician especially after his hugely successful album Tea For the Tillerman.

Elton John

Singer, pianist, and songwriter mostly writing the music to the lyrics of his old friend Bernie Taupin. Became a superstar.

Roxy Music

Formed by Brian Ferry in the early 70's. Brian Ferry is a cross between an old "ted" rocker and Noel Coward. Roxy were an arty rock band aimed to be commercially successful and with much emphasis on visual presentation. Their early music was innovative with a style based on the roots of 50's American pop rock but taking it into a new league. Songs had long avant garde instrumental interludes which hovered on the border of discordance - just enough to make it wildly exciting - but still musical.

Their first album Roxy Music released in 1972 was as good as any.

Roxy Music personnel in 1972:
Bryan Ferry: Singer and writer of all songs.
Phil Manzanera: Electric guitar.
Andrew Mackay: Saxophone.
Eno: Electronic signal generators.
Graham Simpson: Bass
Paul Thompson: Drums.

Ten years later, one of the last albums was Avalon and some reviewers regard it as one of their best. It is pleasant enough, but by now Roxy Music were very different and Avalon is a gentle easy-listening collection of Brian Ferry's songs, and with a soul music style. It is bland and unexciting and more suited to playing over a romantic candle-lit dinner. By now there had been changes of personnel, and the original instrumentalists are subdued into the task of providing backing for Ferry.

Roxy Music remaining original personnel in 1982:
Bryan Ferry: Keyboards and vocals.
Phil Manzanera: Electric guitar.
Andrew Mackay: Saxophone.

ELO - The Electric Light Orchestra

Formed in the early 70's by singer-songwriter Jeff Lynne who was the musical mastermind behind the concept. Their main work consisted of singles. Lynne composed the songs and put together elaborate musical productions using multitracking techniques and adding many additional voices and instruments including the use of real orchestras. Much use was made of session musicians. Where multiple voices are heard, many of these are Jeff Lynne himself singing the various parts.

They also had a live band, probably formed specially for the purpose of touring, and including members whose role was exclusively to play live, and not on the studio recordings.

Their best work was their various hit singles centred around the mid 70's, and ELO have released various Greatest Hits albums. Their main original album was A New World Record around 1978.

Yes

Yes were a strongly vocal band. Notably, for a time, included keyboard player Rick Wakeman who later performed (with a large band) under his own name.

Genesis

Formed while all members were at Charterhouse public school and Included Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins who later established reputations for themselves under their own names.

The End of Progressive Rock

It was around 1978 that progressive rock was getting extremely sophisticated and complex, but also some started to regard it as pompous and pretentious. Punk Rock became the new kid on the block in Britain, and Prog Rock died out almost overnight.

It is interesting to look also at what was happening in Folk music in 1978. Big changes were taking place there too. See pages on this site on Fairport Convention, and Dave Swarbrick. One of Fairport Convention's best albums, Tipplers Tales largely went unnoticed.


Contemporary Instrumental Music

I have already mentioned Mike Oldfield who created original music, but was mainly in the rock genre. Here are a few others.

Sophie Solomon

Her principal album was Poison Sweet Madeira (2006) and is an innovative original work, somewhat in the classical style. Excellent.

Burning Bush

Their music is based on Jewish traditions. Strongly instrumental, and includes some songs.

George Stevens

George Stevens is an instrument maker (luthier) and a multi-instrumentalist. Innovative original music using traditional folk instruments, and samples of his music are available at his web site:

George Stevens Follow the link to his music page.


Almost English Folk

Donovan

Full name Donovan Leitch and actually a Scot (but he always seemed to be Welsh to me). Donovan's heyday was the second half of the 60's. He was presented as the British Bob Dylan, and indeed in some of his live performances there was a resemblance, but not so on the records. He wrote some great original songs with poetic lyrics. If you want to compare two songs which mention the wind, his Catch the Wind knocks the spots of Dylan's Blowin' in the Wind. He took a break from professional music for many years but has resumed performing (at time of writing this, 2008).

www.donovan.ie

Gerry Rafferty

Gerry Rafferty came from a folk background in Scotland and had some success with the band Stealers Wheel which was based on a partnership with Joe Egan. The band had a few hit singles, notably Stuck in the Middle with You. Joe Egan was more inclined to rock and american influences, and the two fell out around 1975.

Gerry Rafferty started recording under his own name and in 1978 released the album City to City consisting entirely of Rafferty's own compositions, and with an abundance of great session musicians playing a wide variety of instruments, but also including several traditional folk instruments such as accordion, mandolin. The immensely popular Baker Street single grabbed everyone's attention and the album reached number 1 in the USA. (£££'s!).

The following year came the album Night Owl together with a single of the same name. This followed the same formula and was also hugely successful. Night Owl is a strange CD because it is no longer available on its own, and is a rare collector's item sometimes selling for about £50.

These two albums are packed with great songs performed excellently. There is something about these songs that they seem to glow with LOVE. The albums are almost perfect, being consistent in mood throughout, but with plenty of variety too, and they represent Gerry Rafferty's best work. At time of writing (2007) you can get a set of both CDs, City to City and Night Owl, for the price of one CD, but best obtained by import.

There is also a budget CD compilation from 1999 called Baker Street, which is great value and a genuine attempt to include some of the best music, but if you want all the songs of this period, the double CD is the best choice.

The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion

The Incredible String Band

It's a misleading name. It sounds a lot more instrumental than they are and most of the 'strings' involved are plucked not bowed. Their strength is in their songs. Formed in Scotland in 1966 from Robin Williamson, Clive Palmer, and Mike Heron and recorded their first album the same year. Williamson and Palmer had previously worked together as a duo. The band split up, but reformed soon after as a duo of Williamson and Heron. Their second album The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion consisted entirely of songs written alternately by Williamson and Heron, and each had an entirely different style. Heron's songs were happy and full of fantasy. Williamson's were more serious (you might say more dreary if you were unkind). Their greatest success was in 1968 with two albums, The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, and Wee Tam and the Big Huge. They split up in 1974, but reformed later with less success.

Pentangle

They were a fusion of jazz and folk with female vocalist Jacqui McShee and two already respected folk guitarists Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. Danny Thompson played upright string bass. Basket of Light was their first album and probably still their best.

The Springfields

A folk trio strongly vocal and somewhat in the style of contemporaries from USA, Peter Paul and Mary. In the early 60's this was about the only folk music you would encounter on TV and radio. Notable members were real-life brother and sister Dion and Mary O'Brien who became Tom Springfield and Dusty Springfield. Tom was an accomplished songwriter, but his songs had greater success through The Seekers.

The Seekers

A 60's folky pop group from Australia. One of the first folk groups to be dismissed by serious folk fans for being too commercial. They had some great original songs mostly written or co-written by Tom Springfield, and had considerable success in the singles charts.


A selection of Singer-Songwriters

Ewan McColl

One of the pioneers of folk music in the early 60's. Wrote several original songs which have acquired the status of traditional songs of the past, notably Dirty Old Town.

Ian Dury and the Blockheads

Ian Dury was a refreshingly innovative and lyrically anarchic songwriter.

Billy Bragg

Singer songwriter as much known for his socialism and political campagning as he is for his music. Perhaps something in the tradition of Ewan McColl or Woody Guthrie. His roots are from the punk or new-wave music in London. (London, with its deeply urban and multicultural society is almost a separate place from the rest of England).

Simone Sibbald

Simone Sibbald

Talented prolific songwriter whose songwriting deserves greater recognition. Simone has kindly allowed a sound clip from one of her songs to be included here.
Click for sound clip of Clifftop High by Simone Sibbald


Simone's web site: www.songs1.com/simone

Roddy Hart

A great new singer-songwriter from Glasgow. He has been compared to Bruce Springsteen and others, but I think he is much closer to Gerry Rafferty, also from Glasgow, and at times sounds very like him, but adds another modern style of singing in places too. Roddy Hart is making the most of the Internet to provide full length examples of his songs, and some highly entertaining and innovative videos.

Videos available Sound clips available

Videos and full length sound clips available. See below.

Roddy Hart's web site: www.roddyhart.com
Roddy Hart's Myspace page: www.myspace.com/roddyhart

See also: www.songs1.com - A site about songwriters and songwriting by the same author as English Music.

 


Folk Music on the Radio

"Radio is the theater of the mind; television is the theater of the mindless." - Steve Allen

Pudsey bear piper

Children in need logo from Radio Nan Gaidheal.

There are about 20 radio stations available on DAB, satellite, and cable. They are nearly all music stations, but almost universally those on FM and DAB play only chart pop and rock.

The only national station (covering all of Britain) which plays any folk music at all is Radio 2. There is only one 1 hour programme, Folk on 2 on Wednesday evening.

Even this, in the last few years, plays a significant amount of American folk, bluegrass, and C&W. There was once, under the previous presenter Jim Lloyd, a respectable acknowledgement of instrumental music, but now there is even less. In short, out of hundreds of hours of radio music per day on FM and DAB, you might be lucky to get 5 minutes of traditional english Instrumental dance music in a week.

It is bizarre that the best source of English folk music can be found on BBC Radio Scotland, Radio Wales, and Radio Ulster which are available nationally on satellite and cable radio, and worldwide at the BBC web site www.bbc.co.uk. The weekend is a good time to listen live, but also many programmes are available to listen to at any time over the following week. These stations give preference to the local artists of their respective regions, but also include other folk music from a wider area including England.

There is also some excellent folk music, much of it celtic, at the Scottish Gaelic language radio station Radio nan Gaidheal. All the dialogue is in Gaelic but the music is excellent with plenty of traditional instrumental content. Some songs are in Gaelic and some in English.

Radio Programmes

Note that all the following times are UK time.

In winter these times are GMT. In summer, subtract 1hr to convert to GMT.

Radio Scotland

Travelling Folk. Described by the BBC as "Radio Scotland's flagship folk programme". It first appears on Thursday 8pm to 10pm, and is repeated on Sunday evening at 5pm.

Archie Fisher retired from presenting this programme in March 2010 but now the programme has returned with a new presenter, Bruce MacGregor. Travelling Folk was one of the best folk programmes on all of radio. Contemporary and sophisticated, it was worthy of being a national programme. Far better than anything BBC national radio has to offer. The programme was not exclusively Scottish and in 2008 they did a one hour feature on the Old Swan Band!

This re-emergence of the programme is promising. It began cautiously playing mix of mainstream folk music, but now is beginning to get its own identity with more adventurous content, and not without plenty of instrumental music. Hardly surprising because Bruce MacGregor is a fiddle player and member of Blazin Fiddles! What a refreshing change from those who think that folk music begins and ends with singers who play acoustic guitars.

Scottish Ceili Bands

Take the Floor makes you realise that there must be hundreds of Scottish ceili bands. Far more than there are in England!

Take the Floor. Saturday 7pm to 9pm and also on Sunday 1pm to 3pm. Thoroughly Scottish traditional instrumental dance music. Presented by Robbie Shepherd who has clearly been involved with Scottish dance music for many years. Usually a large part of the programme has a live recording of a Scottish ceili. Mostly traditional instrumental music and the presenter names all the tunes in the dance sets.

Pipeline. A rather intellectual programme of Scottish bagpipe music.

Radio nan Gaidheal (Gaelic language channel from Scotland)

"Radio nan Gaidheal" is pronounced something like "radio na gale".

Daily on weekdays.

10am to 11:30am. A Mire ri Moir (folk music). This is mainly recently recorded songs in the Gaelic language, often recorded live as there are few other sources.

2pm to 4pm. Caithream Ciuil (celtic music). Some of the best music you are ever likely to hear on a weekday afternoon! Despite the unlikely time of day the music is surprisingly contemporary and sophisticated.

Thursday. 4pm and 10:30pm Crunlath (pipe music).

Mairead MacLennan

Friday 8 to 9pm and Saturday 11am. Tiompan (celtic music) This is a lovely programme with a gentle-voiced woman presenter, Mairead MacLennan (or Mairead NicIllinnein in Gaelic).
The programme takes a broad view of 'celtic' and consists largely of contemporary pop songs from Scottish performers. This programme will broaden your horizons to hear some excellent music which you might not normally encounter.

sound clip

Full length sound clip of the song "Boxes" by Roddy Hart from his album Road of Bones. This song was played on the Tiompan programme.

Radio Ulster

Radio Ulster's Folk Club is a very pleasant programme with a relaxed mood. A mixture of songs and instrumental music with a broadly celtic feel, but fairly diverse. It sometimes features a concert recorded live.

Sunday 6:05pm to 7pm Cúlán This is a great programme of traditional Irish music much of which is instrumental. The presentation is in Gaelic but who cares when the music is so good!

Radio Wales

Celtic Heartbeat. Presented by Frank Hennessy. This was previously on Saturday night, overlapping with other folk programmes on other channels. It has now moved to Sundays, at approx 6pm to 8pm, but now ironically it overlaps with a great programme on Radio Ulster. Some great folk music, with a fair share of instrumental dance music but this programme is rather like listening to hospital radio. It's the old old problem of music on the radio, the talk between the music tracks is too prominent. Maybe they could just simply reduce the volume of the speech.

Radio 2

The Folk Show. Wednesday 7pm to 8pm. This is the 'poppy' side of folk with a predominance of singer-guitarists and is rather low on instrumental content from fiddles and accordions. (I have heard entire programmes without hearing a single fiddle). Also, considering that it is the only national folk programme in England there is too much american style music of a sort which is catered for in other programmes on Radio 2. Despite the BBC's attempts to modernize Radio 2, it still hasn't lost its old fashioned image especially evident in jingles and trailers. Another problem is that this programme sits amid incongruous programmes before and after. You really have to go out of your way to turn it on and off again.

Web site: www.bbc.co.uk/folk

Radio 3

Sometimes features World Music and Early Music.

Radio 4

Radio 4 is the general speech channel but sometimes has documentaries on folk, pop and rock performers, musical instruments etc.

World Service

There was a regular weekly half-hour programme of World Music, World of Music, for many years named Charlie Gillett's World of Music but Charlie Gillett died in March 2010 after an illness and the programme finally ended in 2011 due to BBC cuts.

sound clip

Full length sound clip of a cajun song, Au Fond du Lac by Feufollet, played on the programme:

Find more Feufollet songs at Myspace Music

Links to BBC radio stations.

You can listen to most of the above programmes for the week following the programme by listening online through the BBC web site. The following locations are a good starting point.

Radio 2 www.bbc.co.uk/radio2
Radio Scotland www.bbc.co.uk/radioscotland
Celtic Zone www.bbc.co.uk/radioscotland/zones
Radio Wales www.bbc.co.uk/radiowales
Radio Ulster www.bbc.co.uk/radioulster
Radio nan Gaidheal www.bbc.co.uk/radionangaidheal

 

Irish Radio - RTE.

RTE can be listened to over the internet.

RTE www.rte.ie/radio/index.html

 

Thousands of other radio stations, international and in the British Isles

Web Site Link Comment
listenlive.eu www.listenlive.eu Clear and easy to search with browser. Ad-free.
live-radio.net www.live-radio.net Thousands of online stations worldwide. Site has ads, but sound does not.
Live365 www.live365.com Mainly or perhaps entirely America. Music classified by genre. Poor because extra ads added to the sound.

live-radio.net has a particularly good section on Ireland and says: "If any Irish radio station is broadcasting over the Internet (as well as on normal radio), you will find it here! If you don't, please tell us."

 

Folk Music on Television

Thank heavens for BBC 4 on freeview, cable and satellite TV. No regular folk music but sometimes there are some excellent documentaries and concerts. There have been concerts of Maddy Prior, Martin Carthy, Eliza Carthy, and Spiers and Boden.


Other English Music.

Hymns

Isaac Watts

Many hymns share the same tune as traditional folk songs. In some cases the hymn words were added later to traditional tunes. Notably the song John Barleycorn can be sung to exactly the same tune as We Plough the Fields and Scatter. (Fairport Convention's version is this tune). The Blacksmith performed by Steeleye Span is a very similar tune to Who Would True Valour See (To Be a Pilgrim), indeed the actual hymn was done in a stunning version by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band on their early album Sing Lustily and with Good Courage.

Many hymns throughout the world are of English origin. Isaac Watts was a great early English hymn writer. Another was Charles Wesley who wrote the words of many well-known hymns collaborating with others who wrote the music.

West Gallery Music

This is the name given to church music from the period when traditional acoustic instruments were used to support the hymn singing. The author Thomas Hardy played the fiddle and was brought up at a time when such traditional instruments were used in churches. Such a band was known as a Quire. Unfortunately they were replaced by the introduction of the organ.The story of this is told in Hardy's semi-autobiographical novel Under the Greenwood Tree.

The West Gallery Music Association:
www.wgma.org.uk

Hymn Tunes

The words and the tunes of hymns tend to be written separately, and many hymn words can be sung to a number of different tunes. The convention is that hymns (i.e. the words part) use the first line as the title. Tunes of hymns have their own name independent of the name of the hymn they are used for, and these are often place names.

Tunes are specified with a metre, which is a list of numbers representing the number of notes in each line. The principle is that tunes with the same metre are interchangeable.

The concept of metre can be a bit confusing at first sight to a musician. It is nothing to do with tempo or rhythm. It is very simple, and relative to modern music, naive. It assumes that you will use one syllable per note.

Some Hymn Tunes in MIDI format

These are all very small files, typically 2KB. Click on the logo to play or download.

Repton by Charles Parry, 1888.

Blaenwern by William P. Rowlands, 1905.

Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1906.

Little Cornard by Martin Shaw, 1915

Links to Hymn Web Sites

There are many web sites with details of hymns such as composer information and the words. They usually also have the music in Midi format and sometimes printable formats such a PDF.

The Cyber Hymnal

A large resource of information with tunes in MIDI format and words. This is a serious site with complete and accurate information and offers free downloads. Note new URL.
www.hymntime.com

Family Friendly Churches

This site has some wacky modern arrangements of hymn tunes available as Midi files.
www.familyfriendlychurches.org.uk/midihymns

Christian Classics Etherial Hymnary

A good site but has confusing navigation. Best go to:
www.ccel.org/cceh

The Choral Public Domain Library

A huge resource of free choral sheet music in various formats including Midi. Includes search facility.
www.cpdl.org

 

Gilbert and Sullivan

Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian era partnership of librettist W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900).

Great writers of light and comic opera in Victorian times with a fair amount of satire. The pop music of the day and an early example of a great songwriting partnership. Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900) wrote the music, and W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) wrote the words. Further detail is outside the scope of this site but good coverage at Wikipedia and no doubt plenty of other material could be found from a web search.

The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive This link has been recommended and does indeed look good. (Unfortunately there is no dedicated domain name evident on the site).

 

English Classical Music

A Musical Party by William Hogarth

Early English Musick 1385 to 1714 A huge resource on early composers and publications. Also has a good links page.

18th Century English Music by Roger Slade.

This is an elegant and tranquil site without a hint of commercialism. It gives in-depth information on the following composers:
Daniel Purcell (1664-1717), William Croft (1678-1727), Maurice Greene (1696-1755), Joseph Gibbs (1698-1788), Michael Festing (1705-1752), Charles Avison (1709-1770), Thomas Arne (1710-1778), William Boyce (1711-1779), John Hebden (1712-1765), John Stanley (1712-1786), Capel Bond (1730-1790), and Thomas Linley the younger (1756-1778).

Links through the Baroque WebRing.

Medieval Music & Arts Foundation


Scottish Music

It would be nice if there was a web site similar to this dealing with the equivalent material for Scottish music, i.e. traditional Scottish folk music, instrumental or with a good instrumental content. Perhaps it might be called scottish-music.co.uk, indeed a site of that name does exist, but is quite different.

Actually such a task might be larger than this site, because the scots are very fond of their traditional instrumental music, and some of this is evident from BBC Radio Scotland and Nan Gaidheal as described under Radio on this page.

The following is the best site I have found which describes the performers of Scottish music, and includes most of the top names including those performing traditional and instrumental music.

www.scottish-folk-music.com

The site includes descriptions of Aly Bain, Phil Cunningham, The Battlefield Band, Blazin Fiddles, Boys of the Lough, Capercaillie, The Poozies, Runrig, Shooglenifty, Wolfstone, and others. Find the bands/singers section from the menu.


Irish Music

The Irish are great upholders of their traditional music with strong instrumental content, but any site giving details of the principal performers of Irish traditional music in one place has eluded me.

The number of major performers from Ireland is large compared to the country's population, but still smaller than Britain. Here are the ones I can think of.

Altan, Planxty, The Bothy Band, Lunasa, The Chieftains, Sharon Shannon, The Dubliners

The following is the best site I have found which deals with Irish traditional music:

comhaltas.ie


Other English Culture.

The British Isles

England is part of Great Britain and the UK, and is geographically part of the British Isles which includes Ireland. England is often mistakenly equated with Britain, but has is own distinct characteristics. English music and dance form the main part of this site, but other distinctively English features are: our early history before the union with Scotland in 1707, the Romans, Normans and Anglo Saxons; the kings and queens of England; the English countryside, nature and wildlife; The Church of England; the English language; English ales and breweries.

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, the parents of Elizabeth I

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, the parents of Elizabeth I


London is in England, and is the capital of the UK, but not specifically of England, and England does not have a capital city, but perhaps (as I live in Hampshire) it should be Winchester as it once was. London is a place apart from the rest of England. In 2010 BBC Radio 4 had a season of programmes called "London, another country"!

Britannia

Incidentally, the name Great Britain does not relate to magnificence or greatness in terms of world power, but simply derives from the Roman name. The clue is in the French name for Britain, Grande Bretagne. Grande means large, Bretagne is Brittany. Great Britain was named after Brittany! Britannia is an anglicisation of Bretagne. (don't look at the spelling, but think of the sound!).

Rule Britannia.

Links (England)

Pictures of England

Pictures of England The countryside part of the above site.

Natural England

CPRE The campaign to protect rural England.

English Heritage

England and English History.

A History of English Ale (part of the above site).

English Dissenters Part of the same site as the Early English Musick link elsewhere on this page.

The Queen's English Society The English Language.

The Church of England Official Site.

Links (Britain)

The National Trust for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The National Trust for Scotland

Links (The British Isles, i.e. Britain and Ireland)

www.geograph.org.uk
"The Geograph Britain and Ireland project aims to collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland, and you can be part of it."


Web site owners, please put a link to this site if you wish:

http://www.english-music.co.uk


This page is written and maintained by S. J. Farthing, Portsmouth, England.