Sleeve Notes for Susie Fair by Maggie Sand and Sandragon
It was the making of this album (Maggie's fourth and the first for WildGoose records in England) that lead to the formation of Sandragon. Malcolm Bennett took over from Will on woodwinds, and Will Hughes from Anthar on percussion. On this album, you have all six of them.
The album demonstrates the band's trademark blend of traditional songs and hi-energy dance tunes from the medieval and Renaissance eras. The dragon is the symbol which is found in both the English traditional tales of "St George & the Dragon", and the mythological dragon legends of medieval times.
Maggie Sand & Sandragon perform a unique blend of English traditional songs and hi-energy dance tunes from the mediaeval and Renaissance eras, played on crumhorns, recorders, hurdy-gurdy, harmonium, bouzouki, mandola guitar and percussion.
MAGGIE SAND: voice, backing voices, harmonium, bouzouki.
Maggie studied classical piano from the age of five and grew up singing along with her mother, a professional opera singer, who introduced Maggie to a wide range of singers ranging from Maria Callas to Maddie Prior. Maggie then studied music in Canada, France and at Morley College in London. Now based in London, she has, during the past few years, released three solo albums in Germany with her other music project "Alquimia" ( the last two in collaboration with Mark Powell) and has also collaborated with many other German musicians such as Roedelius (Kluster) on other albums for the BSCMusic label.
In 2007 Maggie and Mark (voice and guitar) performed traditional songs from her latest album "Forever" around the folk club circuits in England, Switzerland and Germany, appearing in their own right and also as support to artists such as Martin Carthy, Jez Lowe and Johnny Collins. The duo then underwent a transformation when they were joined by Will Summers on crumhorns, recorders and flute, and Anthar Kharana on percussion. Maggie then added the harmonium, Mark added the hurdy-gurdy and bouzouki, and the four of them began to work as the Alquimia Band.
MARK POWELL: guitar, mandola, hurdy-gurdy, bouzouki.
Mark has worked with some of the folk world's leading figures such as the Steve Ashley Band and Mick Ryan's touring folk theatre group, Fieldwork. He has also worked as studio engineer and/or producer with luminaries such as The Albion Band, Belshazzar's Feast, Blowzabella, Fairport Convention, Hoover the Dog, Bert Jansch, Danny Thompson and many others.
MALCOLM BENNETT: flute, recorders, & crumhorn.
Malcolm has played with bands that include Gryphon, The Home Service and the Michael Nyman Band. He also directed the music for Sir Peter Hall's production of the "Oresteia" at the National Theatre.
ANTHAR KHARANA: percussion
Apart from his work with Maggie, Anthar is a founder member of his own band, Khantara. He is also the instigator of a project to research, publish and perform the traditional music of his homeland, Columbia.
WILL SUMMERS: recorders and crumhorns
Will is an established teacher and authority on early music, specialising in recorder and crumhorn.
WILL HUGHES: tarabouka
Will started his music career as a drummer, then, after four years at the Academy of Contemporary Music, he went on to do a BA honours degree in contemporary music performance.
1 SUSIE FAIR
We collected the lyrics to this song in the traditional way- on the Internet. We weren’t sure about the tune that went with them, so we wrote our own. It’s a warning about dancing while you’re wearing your sword- if you slip, it could have fatal results, as experienced by the hero of the song. Fortunately for him, his girlfriend has magical powers, so she’s able to bring him back. The tune that follows the song is a mediaeval salterello.
2 BUSHES AND BRIARS
This ballad of unrequited love is believed to be the first song collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams, in Essex, England.
3 A LA PORTE AU PALAIS
This fairly nonsensical song comes from the tradition of French chansons de danse- songs that are sung by the dancers to accompany the dance. This one is a little unusual as the dance is made up of six-bar movements, instead of the more usual eight. The words are an entreaty by le fils d'un cordonnier (the son of a cobbler) to his loved one; he fantasises about all the fun they will have together in a “beau lit carré, garni de roses blanches” (a beautiful bed garnished with white roses) before they “laverons nos chemisettes ensemble” (wash their clothes together) in the stream that conveniently flows under the bed (see verse 9.) To add dramatic tension to the story, we incorporate snatches of traditional, mediaeval and renaissance tunes between the verses.
4 LOW DOWN IN THE BROOM
The lyrics of this version of the song came from a Sussex singer, Henry Hills, and were found by W. P. Merrick in January 1900. The tune was discovered by Percy Grainger, though at the time it had an altogether different set of lyrics and went by the name of “Brigg Fair.” It was Percy who first set the words to this tune. There is a Scottish song: “My daddy is a canker't carle” which bears a close resemblance, and it is believed that the English version was derived from that. In some versions of the song the sex of the participants changes- it is the man who is going to meet the woman, “down in the broom”- a Victorian euphemism for having a carnal encounter. The mediaeval estampie that lurks between the verse was written by us especially for this song.
5 COB A-COALING
A street-song, originating from the Yorkshire-Lancashire border in the north of England and traditionally sung around the time of Bonfire Night, the 5th November. It is normally sung to a different melody, but we thought that this mediaeval jig tune suited it well. The instrumental tune that follows it is a traditional French farandole.
6 DANCE TO YOUR DADDY
A well-known song from the north-east of England though this version was collected by Cecil Sharp in Berkshire around 1909. It is often performed in a more up-tempo fashion, but we felt that the poignancy of the lyrics, in which a father is wishing his son all the things that he cannot give him, made them fitting to the more subdued treatment that we give the song here.
7 THE RIGS OF THE TIME
A well-known song that dates from the early 1800's. The rigs are ruses used here by the butcher, baker and landlord to cheat their customers, though some versions of the song go on to include other tradesmen, the farmer, the doctor and even the parson.
8 A ROSEBUD IN JUNE
This song was collected from William King, a Somerset singer, by Cecil Sharp, in 1904. We've always though it a bit odd that a song that celebrates a happy time- the coming of summer with lads and lasses dancing and singing before going off to plough their fields and shear their sheep- should have such a sad-sounding tune.
9 THE BANKS OF SWEET MOSSOM
This song was discovered by Bob Copper, who learned it from Jim Swain of Felpham, Sussex. Jim, in turn, learned it from his father. We thought that the title may refer to the sweet mossy banks, but our research has uncovered the fact that it's actually about a place, though it's a bit of a mystery where Mossom is. Perhaps it is one of these English villages (there are a suprising number of them) that have vanished, either by being flooded or as a result of coastal erosion? Or is it a made-up name? Whatever, this is a happy, feel-good song about a lad who's going off to meet his girl.
10 SAILOR LADDIE
This song dates from the Napoleonic wars in the early part of the 19thcentury. A girl is pondering the benefits and drawbacks of having a sailor for a boyfriend- he makes more money than the humble fisherman, but there’s a good chance that he might get killed doing it.
11 IF I WERE A BLACKBIRD
Versions of this songs have been found in Ireland, Canada, the USA and England. It is believed to date from sometime before about 1925.
12 LES GARCONS DE MONTAGNE
Our version of this French tune, which we believe originates from the Massif Central region. There is another tune of the same name, a Breton bourée, which sounds quite different.