Sleeve Notes for A Celebration of Old England by Anna Shannon
Hailing from the North Yorkshire National Park, Anna Shannon deeply embraces all things rustic. On hearing her compositions it is clear that the wonders of the natural world are the things that strongly colour her narratives. She is an immensely skilled multi-tasker, a creative and strikingly accomplished singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, arranger and designer, with her own definite, intense vision and a strong musical identity to match. Anna is carrying on a musical tradition, finding fresh meaning and relevance for us all in the old ways. Anna was born into a musical family but it wasn’t until in her early twenties that she discovered the folk scene. 2006 saw her first album “The Whale Dreaming” being released after being encouraged by winning BBC Radio “Yorkshire Songwriter of the Year”. Her latest sees her forging a strong path into the heart of today’s folk club and festival circuit.
Anna played Chapel guitars, fiddle, oboe, soprano sax, flute, recorders, chanter, shruti, bowed psaltry, and percussion.
Roy Piper played Chapel B-Bass on Old Jonny Barley
A singer/songwriter of the highest calibre. Her thoughtful and imaginative guitar accompaniment is a true match to these fine songs"
I have had the honour of sharing the stage with Anna Shannon, She's a truly fine multi instrumentalist, a great singer and as far as I'm concerned, a major song writing talent. The clubs and festivals are yearning for what she has to offer" Vin Garbutt
"She has a really innovative approach to songwriting, her work is melodic and extremely interesting; the strength of her vocal delivery took me completely by surprise. Her lyrics carry precise story lines wrapped in just the right amount of imagery and her guitar work is so much more than accompaniment, rather it is an integral part of each song." Mike Silver
1 Birthing the Plough
The travelling stallion was a welcome sight to communities across England. Mares would be brought for servicing and the handler housed in cottages and barns before moving on to the next town. "The Diamond Cutter" was a famous sire and although there are no written records, his lineage is in many of the coloured cobs we see today.
During Cromwell's reign, song, dance and music were punishable by gaol or the gallows so any such activity would need to be short and sharp, followed by an even quicker disappearing act.
3 The Sheep They Bide
The creatures I admire the most that have to endure the North Yorkshire Moors in winter, are the sheep. They take life in the moment and simply bide their time till the first signs of spring push through.
4 Ways of the Hunting
Fox hunting has caused more controversy and heartache than most traditions over the centuries and continues to do so. The people mentioned in this song are all local to our Staintondale hunt. I must add that, as a songwriter, I am delighted to be able to have a triumphant fox once again!
5 Craftsmen of Old England
Where would England have been without her master craftsmen and their skills? Skills that we must endeavour to keep alive today. I have included only a handful here, I wanted to mention many many more but the resulting song would have lasted for 46 verses... a daunting thought indeed!
6 Lady of Grace
A lady in waiting declares her love and admiration for her beloved queen
7 The Gilded Cage
Caged birds were thought to bring good luck and were common right up to Victorian times, when conservation began to grow in popularity and observing birds in the garden became positively fashionable. This tune represents a caged bird and culminates in his flight to freedom through the open window.
8 Old Bob and the Poacher
Poaching as we all know was a necessity in order to keep a poor man and his family alive, providing he was able to get away with it!
9 Polly Cooper
A servant girl tells of her plight after being dismissed through no fault of her own. Sadly a tale all too common in Old England
10 The Traveller’s Ways
Stories often tell of gypsies wanting to steal gorgios (settled people’s) children when in fact many cases have proved exactly the opposite. "Well to do" families would often attempt to buy or acquire Romani children whilst their families worked in the hop groves or on farms, with no regard for human feeling. In this song a gypsy takes what is rightfully his, but by questionable means.
11 Old Jonny Barley
Since time immemorial, alcohol has fuelled every man, whether he be rich or poor!
12 Little Bright Bird
A "little bird" informs a young girl of her lover's infidelity
How could l have recorded this album without including my favourite of all time! This 15th century piece never fails to stir a great sense of excitement in me!
14 Harbinger’s March
A vast and coloured entourage would accompany an English queen as she moved throughout her domain.