And here’s to 2015. If one of your resolutions was along the lines of take up a new hobby, get out of the house, meet new people, do something healthy and cheering – why not come along and check out Voicemale?
Well here it is, the last session of 2014. The weeks seem to have flown by, loyally supported by a band of brothers, I mean regular attenders. We will be starting again on 6 January 2015. We adjourned to the pub to reward ourselves with some delicious refreshment.
And talking of pubs... We are into December and Christmas no longer seems so far away. We have built up quite a stock of season-appropriate songs to be aired at the exciting upcoming event known as “Folk Carols in the Pub”. This is a celebration of the happy marriage of pubs and harmony singing, open to all. There are events on both the South Side and the West End of Glasgow, with an optional workshop before each one for those who’d like the chance to learn a few songs before the day. There will also be a few instruments in evidence, the sort of thing you imght have found in one of those folky church bands of the 18th or early 19th century.
Why not come along? Find out all about it here:
Christmas comes but earlier every year, they say. So, this week, time for an English folk carol, ideal for singing at Folk Carols in the Pub. This fine event involves some people getting together, in a pub, to sing some folk carols. There will be music from around the world, but the idea is based especially on those last fragments of a carolling tradition once widespread in the UK, that still survives in places like Cornwall and mid-Wales and South Yorkshire. More about that here.
Somehow we hadn’t got round to singing a Scots song before. “In Freenship’s Name” is an anthem about the blessings of convivial company, no doubt in licensed premises. “Here aroon the ingle bleezin’ / Wha sae happy and sae free? […] Time shall see us all mair blyther / Ere we rise tae gang awa’.”
It was part of the recent Scots Chorus project fronted by Mick West and Muldoon’s Picnic, which produced (among other things) this CD. If you should happen to read this in time, you can see the show live at Irvine Folk Club on Wednesday 10 December.
One of the types of song I always wanted to do with this group was drinking songs. It seems a shame that the tradition of singing in pubs has declined so far in our culture, leaving us with piped music or karaoke if we're lucky.
This week we started a Roma song from Slovakia that can only be called a “non-drinking song”! The lyrics are in both Roma and Slovak, and mean: “No vodka shall I drink, nor any rum, to hell with it, I will drink no vodka!” I don’t know what the reason for this abstinence is, perhaps a massive hangover, but the tune is an example of a czardas, which I think typically has crazy or comical words set to it, so presumably the idea of not drinking is just inherently absurd.
Well, the K word in Georgian, Kristes shoba, or rather the ქ word: ქრისტეს შობა — Christmas. This week we sang a Georgian “alilo”, one of many wassailing songs associated with 25 December. Alilo is equivalent to Alleluia.
We also added the Welsh words to the plygain carol, “Ar gyfer heddiw’r bore”, which sounds amazing with male voices. I’ve known this song since childhood but never heard it sung with just male voices. Quite an emotional experience for me actually.
Too much exotic festive material for one evening, you wonder? Hah! We laugh in the face of such fears. Haha!
Spare your sympathy for the people in the next room trying to have a meeting. They’ve been regaled (through the wall) with everything from sea shanties to union songs to anthems in praise of ale. And they take it all with such patience, even being kind enough to say it sounds good. Now their eardrums are becoming hardened to the onslaught. This week one of them said “we could hardly hear you!” Sing up, lads!!
Down on numbers this week, but in a strange way it's almost better like that! There’s nothing like the sound of a small dedicated band with everyone pulling together, it’s very rewarding to make a big strog sound with just a few voices. We recorded a couple of songs in the church this week, a fantastic space to sing in, and they sounded pretty darn good — “Only remembered” and the Georgian love-song “Lale t’arit’ula lale”. You can find them on our new Soundcloud page.
The room we meet in is good for the purpose, a loud room with quite a low ceiling which bats back the sound, but there’s sometimes a strange hum in the background. in the church the acoustic is just gorgeous, perfect for a small a cappella group, and the visual ambiance is lovely too. Apparently you can hire it for events, if you’re lucky enough to hit on a date when it’s not already being used for something.
Another really enjoyable session, back up to normal numbers. We finished the Georgian love-song and made a start on two new ones: “Union miners” (a parody of a 19th-century mission hymn), and our first drinking song: “Oh good ale, thou art my darling, thou art my joy, both night and morning…” (Soft drinks are also available.)
Starting to get some sounds up on Soundcloud. More on that soon.
Some kind of throat infection seems to be going round. These last three days I’ve hardly been able to sing at all, which makes it tricky to demonstrate lines. Pretty frustrating, as well as pretty horrible for anyone listening!
This may have something to do with the fact we were down to five singers tonight. Now that might not seem like a large number, but they really worked together well and made a lovely balanced tuneful sound. Not only did we finish learning Shosholoza which we started last week, we also made short work of a new Georgian dance song which I didn’t even think we’d get onto.
We also finished learning the melody and bass of a song we started last week: “Only Remembered”, a setting by the famous American gospel composer Ira Sankey of words written in the 1870s by Horatius Bonar of Edinburgh, an arrangement of which by John Tams features on the soundtrack of the film War Horse.
This week we managed our first trip to the pub after the session. Delicious ales and interesting conversation, what better way to round off the evening? Let’s hope it becomes a regular feature.