Maddy Prior


Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band

** New video added for Christmas 2010 **
Now two video clips of them performing Christmas songs. See below.

Maddy Prior

Maddy Prior

Maddy Prior first became known in the folk world in a duo with Tim Hart. They released two albums, Folk Songs of Olde England Volumes One & Two in 1968 and 1969 respectively.

These two albums are now available on the budget priced double CD Heydays which also includes Summer Solstice originally released in 1971 after the formation of Steeleye Span.

Folk Songs of Olde England consist of simple traditional folk songs beautifully performed by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior. There seems to be approximately equal contribution from each singer. Some solos by each, and some sung as duets. Nothing more than a single accompanying instrument, much of which is a banjo, with other tracks having guitar or fiddle accompaniment played by Tim, and some songs are vocal only either in duet form or with excellent vocal harmony.

For such a simple combination of voices and instruments there is surprising variety and interest.

This is the typical material of many folk clubs still today, and performed in a similar way as you might see in a folk club. However the performances are truly of a professional standard and clearly done with ease. You get the impression that they could perform faultlessly every time and might have got the performance right first time in each case.

Summer Solstice builds on the above albums. There is a sprinkling of various guest musicians and more variety of instruments but strangely I prefer the simplicity of the earlier two albums.

It is surprising to hear Maddy Prior in particular sounding so similar as she does now. Any lover of Maddy Prior's singing will not be disappointed with Heydays, despite the age of the recording.

Track list of Heydays CD. Disc 1 (Folk Songs of Olde England): Lish Young Buy-A-Broom, Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy, Maid That's Deep in Love, Rambling Sailor, Bruton Town Farewell Nancy, Dalesman's Litany, Brisk Butcher, Stately Southerner, Who's the Fool Now, Wager, a Wager, Babes in the Wood, Adam and Eve, My Son John, Earl Richard, Paddy Stole the Rope, The Gardener, Bay of Biscay, Queen Eleanor's Confession, Horn of the Hunter, Copshawholme Fair, Oats and Beans, Fiddler's Green, Capt. Wedderburn's Courtship, Turkey Rhubarb, Bold Fisherman. Disc 2 (Summer Solstice): False Knight on the Road, Bring Us in Good Ale, Of All the Birds, I Live Not Where I Love, Ploughboy and the Cockney, Westron Wynde, Sorry the Day I Was Married, Dancing at Whitsun, Fly Up My Cock, Cannily Cannily, Adam Catched Eve, Three Drunken Maidens, Serving Girls Holiday.

When Steeleye Span started Maddy was just one of a number of members of the band. However she stayed with the band through many changes of personnel and through this persistence she has come to be thought of as almost a personification of Steeleye Span's identity. "The voice of Steeleye Span".

See also the Steeleye Span page of this site.

Maddy has proceeded to develop a successful career in her own right, either under her own name or in partnership with others. She is dedicated to English Folk Music and has performed on at least 35 albums.

Maddy is notable not only for her singing but her honest appreciation of good instrumental music too, and does not dominate the instrumentalists, thus allowing them make a valuable contribution to the music. 

Since joining Steeleye Span, one of Maddy Prior's first enterprises outside the band was with June Tabor, recording the album Silly Sisters.

She has collaborated with The Carnival Band a number of times since 1984. See below.

The album Year was released in 1993 under her own name alone. Mostly original songs composed by Maddy Prior and by Rick Kemp. Some traditional songs. The major part of the instrumental backing is from a variety of keyboards played by Nick Holland. A Cello and other instruments contribute nicely to the sound.

Traditional songs on this CD: What Had You for Supper, Saucy Sailor, Twa Corbies.

The album Flesh and Blood is somewhat similar in style to Year, but is more serious and less varied. Mostly original material composed by Prior/Kemp. It has only three traditional songs. Instrumental backing is mostly piano from Nick Holland, but there are pipes and low whistles on some tracks too.

Traditional songs on this CD: Sheath & Knife, Hind Horn, Bitter Withy.

Maddy Prior and The Carnival Band

Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band

Maddy Prior collaborated with The Carnival Band in 1984 for a BBC radio programme of Christmas carols. Since then they have continued to work together occasionally and have released quite a few albums. These have mostly been collections of carols and other Christmas music most of which are traditional and early English music. One album is a collection of original compositions, and there is at least one live recording.

Note that not all their albums were on the Park label. Some, especially the earlier ones are to be found on the Saydisc label.

video clip

Video of Maddy Prior and the Carnival band available at
Needs broadband and flash player.



A Tapestry of Carols. Saydisc 1987. Perhaps the first CD by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band. I haven't heard it yet.

Sing Lustily and With Good Courage. Gallery hymns of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Saydisc 1990. (CD-SDL 383). This is best thought of as a collection of early English music performed on authentic instruments of the period. It has more in common with folk music than hymns as we know them today from church and school. The title is a quote from Charles Wesley taken from his lengthy directions of how the congregation should sing the hymns of the day. Be not daunted by hobgoblin nor foul fiend, buy it!

Carols & Capers

Carols & Capers. Park Records 1991. A mixture of carols and other Christmas songs, plus one or two instrumentals. Nearly all traditional compositions. The definitive Christmas CD by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band, done in their distinctive style. Great singing by Maddy, and great instrumental and vocal harmonies by the band. The music on this CD is still the basis of their live Christmas concerts.

Tracks on this CD: The Boar's Head, Away in a Manger, My Dancing Day, Monsieur Carpentier's Christmas Stomp, See Amid the Winter's Snow, A Boy was Born, Poor Little Jesus, Turkey in the Straw / Whiskey Before Breakfast, Wassil!, Joy to the World, Cradle Song, Shepherds Rejoice, Old Joe Clark, Ane Sang of the Birth of Christ (Balulalow),  Monsieur Carpentier's Christmas Swing, Quem Pastores, While Shepherds Watched, I Saw Three Ships.

Most tracks are traditional compositions.

Hang Up Sorrow and Care CD

Hang Up Sorrow and Care is an excellent album, by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band. Subtitled "A Cure for all Melancholy being a collection of the Wit and Philosophie of Old Simon the King". Released in 1995. In common with her other work with the Carnival Band Maddy's great singing is combined with excellent instrumentation throughout, and includes some instrumental tracks. It is based on Old English music, consists entirely of traditional compositions and uses mainly traditional instruments. This album is more secular than the previous work with the Carnival Band. It is also a bit more varied and contains more up-tempo and lively material. Two tracks make use of some well played electric guitar which surprisingly fits in well with the early instruments.

Although the earlier works are very good, this album builds on the successful formula and improves on almost all aspects of the music. Somehow it is less formal, more uninhibited and more importantly perhaps, it is beautiful, deeply emotional and sheer fun. No superlatives are good enough to describe it!

Tracks on this CD: The Prodigal's Resolution, Playford Tunes, The World is Turned Upside Down, The Jovial Begger, The Leathern Bottel, Iantha, An Thou Were My Ain Thing, Oh That I Had But a Fine Man, Now O Now I Needs Must Part, Man is for the Woman Made, A Northern Catch / Little Barley Corne, Granny's Delight / My Lady Foster's Delight, A Round of Three Country Dances in One, Youth's the Season Made for Joys, In the Days of my Youth, Never Weatherbeaten Saile, Old Simon the King.

Tunes: Playford Tunes: The Old Mole, Mill-Field, The Wherligig, The Whish, Millison's Jegge.
The Little Barley-Corne - Tune 'Stingo' or 'Cold and Raw'.
In the Days of my Youth - Tune 'A Shepherd kept Sheep'. 

(Alternative spellings for searches: beggar, leather bottle, barleycorn, corn, sail.)


Maddy Prior
Andrew Watts - Flemish bagpipes, shalmes, curtals, recorders, melodica, kazoo, vocals.
Wm. Badley - Lute, guitars, banjo, mandolin, vocals.
Rafaello Mizraki - Drums, percussion, cello, Hammond organ, vocals.
Giles Lewin - violin, recorder, hoboy, mandolin, vocals.
Jub Davis - Double bass, vocals.

The Carnival Band

The Carnival Band exist in their own right and although most of their recordings have been with Maddy Prior they have albums of their own including Hoi Polloi which is a collection of different styles of music from around the world.

Andrew Watts

Andy Watts is the musical arranger and spokesman of the band. He plays Breughel bagpipes and a variety of other blown instruments, shawms, recorders etc.


Giles Lewin

Giles Lewin plays violin and also shawms, recorders and medieval bagpipes.

Other band members play upright acoustic bass, mostly bowed, drum kit and other percussion, mandolin and various guitars including electric.


Maddy Prior - a personal site

Maddy Prior at Stones Barn - In 2003 this appeared identical to the above.

The Carnival Band

Park Records - The label for Steeleye Span and Maddy Prior's recent work. Pictures and information about her albums.

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