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. 
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
BUSHES AND BRIARS
This ballad of unrequited love is believed to be the first song collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams
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
Sample not available
LOW DOWN IN THE BROOM
The lyrics of this version of the song came from a Sussex singer
Sample not available
COB A-COALING
A street-song
Sample not available
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
Sample not available
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
A ROSEBUD IN JUNE
This song was collected from William King
Sample not available
THE BANKS OF SWEET MOSSOM
This song was discovered by Bob Copper
Sample not available
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
Sample not available
IF I WERE A BLACKBIRD
Versions of this songs have been found in Ireland
Sample not available
LES GARCONS DE MONTAGNE
Our version of this French tune
Sample not available

Folk London

Toby Freeman

Everyone who reads Folk London or who comes to Sharp's is enthusiastic about traditional English Folk Music.

Maggie Sand and Sandragon play something very different to the style of music we are all used to. They have returned to the mediaeval roots using crumhorns, recorders, hurdy-gurdy, cittern and flutes to recreate a high energy sound which is truly splendid. These days, mediaeval and renaissance music is usually to be found in the rarefied atmosphere of Radio 3 or the concert hall. In the hands of Maggie Sand and Sandragon it once again becomes a living breathing thing.

I particularly like "Cob-a-Coaling", a song for Guy Fawkes night that comes from the Lancashire/Yorkshire border. �A Rosebud is June" and �The Banks of Sweet Mossum� are also quite lovely.

This is a fascinating CD distinguished particularly by the full exciting sound of the group of instrumentalists who have come together as Sandragon.

EDS EFDSS

Jacqueline Patten.

To create a rich sound that crosses the boundaries of traditional and early music requires exceptional talent, insight into both genres of music,and the dedication to persist until the right blend has been achieved. On Susie Fair, Maggie Sand and Sandragon demonstrate that they have all three requisites.

Maggie Sand,who provides both the lead and backing vocals, also plays the harmonium and bouzouki. She is joined by Malcolm Bennett, Will Hughes, Anthar Kharana, Mark Powell and Will Summers; between them the instruments covered are guitar, mandola, hurdy-gurdy, flute, recorders, crumhorns, tarabouka and percussion. For anyone considering purchasing the album, that mix sets the tone.

Of the twelve tracks, ten are traditional English songs while two are French; one a song, one a dance tune. All settings are arranged by Maggie Sand and Mark Powell; the song notes give concise details of sources. The performances are superb, as are the arrangements, and some of the quieter songs, such as 'Bushes and Briars' and 'If I were a Blackbird' are exquisite. Maggie studied music in France, a fact that the two French tracks belie; 'A la Porte au Palais' and 'Les Garcons de Montagne' transport the listener to the French countryside. No less is the listener transported to the English countryside while listening to the other tracks. The blend of English traditional songs and hi-energy dance tunes with arrangements in mediaeval and Renaissance styles, heightens the sense of history, both social and political, portrayed in the songs.

Most, if not all,of the English traditional songs should be familiar to the reader of this magazine. There will, however, be some surprises; for example, 'Dance to your Daddy' is taken at a much slower pace than often,and the musical interludes on such tracks as 'The Rigs of the Time' and 'A Rosebud in June' create a welcome addition. It is an album that will become a much-played favourite for those drawn to the cross-over of styles. Those for whom such a cross-over is viewed with hesitation might find that this is the album that will change their minds.

fRoots

David Kidman

This attractive-voiced singer has already released three solo albums in Germany (two in collaboration with Mark Powell), and for her fourth she brings an exotic new flavour onto the WildGoose menu. Maggie's special musical interest is the creative blending of English traditional songs with the stance, gait and instrumentation of the mediaeval and Renaisance-era music. This description may lead you to expect something like Anthems in Eden, with a hint of Amazing Blondel, but what you hear on this disc probably has more of a kinship with the modern-day minstrelsy of, say, Pint and Dale or Maddy Prior and her Carnival Band than the rarefied Shirley and Dollie intensity or the more experimental Gryphon edge.

Maggie and her musicians (playing hurdy-gurdy, recorders, crumhorns, flute, harmonium, mandola, cittern, guitar, bouzouki, percussion) make a bright, lively and busy sound, which, in consort with its typically hi-energy, dance-bedecked treatments (interposing salterello, estampie or jig as appropriate), will, by its nature, suit some songs better than others. For example, The Banks of Sweet Mossom and Cob-A-Coaling are irresistible, as are the discs two items of French origin (although Maggie's a bit cheeky sneaking a snatch of Grieg into the nonsense song A La Porte Au Palais!) What may count as a stumbling block for some listeners (I run the risk of generalisation here, but it's not a criticism) is that Maggie's musical aesthetic tends sometimes to make her interpretations feel more setting-driven than text-driven, the words seeming at the service of the musical arrangement and idiom rather than the other way round. Rigs Of The Time might be judged too jolly for its message in this regard- but then it's great fun. Having said that, Maggie makes the right decision to employ a more restrained and sombre instrumental complement for Bushes And Briars, while her trouv�re-ballad-style treatment of Rosebud In June is not inappropriate (although on the latter, along with If I Were A Blackbird, Maggie might appear to mildly over-indulge her ornamentation skills).

In all, Maggie has produced a stylish, entertaining and fresh-sounding record that provides an interesting twist on the interpretation and performance of traditional song. The key is to acknowledge and celebrate its differences from the standard approaches to this material, and on those terms I found myself readily warming to the charms of Maggie and her Sandragon consort (Mark Powell, Malcolm Bennett, Anthar Kharana and guests Will Summers and Will Hughes.)

Mardles

Andrew Paige

It is true confession time. I have to admit to having been a great fan of the late David Munrow and the Early Music Consort and have entertained some doubts about the use of mediaeval instruments to accompany folk music; similar doubts to what some fans of electronica might feel about Seth Lakeman's approach.

Flirtation between early music and folk is nothing new. Some of the more successful efforts include Blowzabella, Gryphon and Love, Death and the Lady by Shirley and Dolly Collins. Maggie Sand and Sandragon may not be ground-breaking, but Susie Fair is a thoroughly enjoyable station along the mediaeval mystery tour. Maggie has a pure voice, well suited to English song, and does not use the vibrato and ornamentation well-loved in Irish music but, in my view, much less successful when adapted to material this side of the Irish Sea.

All the tracks bar two are fairly well-known traditional English songs, and the arrangements are sensitive and occasionally innovative. The early instruments- mandola, hurdy-gurdy, recorders and crumhorn- are played with skill and flair.

The most interesting are the title track- collected in the traditional manner from the Internet. A la Porte au Palais has an unusual choice of traditional, mediaeval and renaissance tunes between the verses. The Rigs of the Time is a very topical traditional song; if only bankers were included among the tradesmen. Less successful is the multi-tracking on Cob a-Coaling, and I was unsure about the subdued treatment of Dance to your Daddy- a version collected by Cecil Sharp in Berkshire.

Maggie Sand contributes vocals, harmonium and bouzouki; Mark Powell guitar, mandola, hurdy-gurdy and bouzouki; Malcolm Bennett flute, recorders and crumhorn; Anthat Kharana percussion, and Will Summers guests on recorders and crumhorns and Will Hughes on tarabouka.

To conclude, despite minor flaws, this is a likeable CD with a number of instrumental highlights and a worthwhile step along the mediaevalisation of traditional folk music.

Rock n Reel

Dai Jeffries

From the outside, Susie Fair looks set to be either as we as a Pre-Raphaelite sponge or a new and exciting take on traditional music. In fact, it's neither although it does mix all sorts of musical threads and influences.

Maggie Sand's classical training shines through the music and her right-hand man is Mark Powell, who boasts an impressive CV, as does wind/reed player Malcolm Bennett. Columbian percussionist Anthar Kharana completes the band.

As to the roots of the music, Shirley and Dolly Collins, Phil Pickett, Pentangle and The Oxford Waits spring to mind. There are two French tunes which are perfect for hurdy-gurdy and crumhorn but sometimes Sandragon seem to be trying too hard to be innovative. 'Cob A-Coaling' is set to a mediaeval jig and that's just plain wrong while their version of 'Dance To Your Daddy' is that collected by Sharp in Berkshire and used by Horslips.

When song and style agree everything's lovely � 'A Rosebud In June' and 'Bushes And Briars', for example, but 'The Rigs Of The Time' needs the earthiness of a Peter Bellamy rather than pretty recorders.

Mardles

Andrew Paige

It is s true confession time. I have to admit to having been a great fan of the late David Munrow and the Early Music Consort and have entertained some doubts about the use of mediaeval instruments to accompany folk music: similar doubts to what some fans of electronica might feel about Seth Lakeman's s approach. Flirtation between early music and folk is nothing new. Some of the more successful efforts include Blowzabella, Gryphon and Love, Death and the Lady by Shirley and Dolly Collins.

Maggie Sand and Sandragon may not be ground?breaking, but Suzie Fair is a thoroughly enjoyable station along the medieval mystery tour. Maggie has a pure voice well?suited to English song and does not use the vibrato and ornamentation well loved in Irish music, but in my view, much less successful when adapted to material this side of the Irish Sea.

All the tracks bar two are fairly wel1known traditional English songs and the arrangements are sensitive and occasionally innovative. The early instruments ?mandola, hurdy?gurdy, recorders and crumhorn ? are played with skill and flair.

The most interesting are the title track ?collected in the traditional manner from the internet. A la porte au Palais has an unusual choice of traditional, medieval and renaissance tunes between the verses. The Rigs of the Times is a very topical traditional song, if only bankers were included among the tradesmen. Less successful is the multitracking on Cob a?coaling and I was unsure about the subdued treatment of Dance to your Daddy ? a version collected by Cecil Sharp in Berkshire.

Maggie Sand contributes vocals, harmonium and bouzouki; Mark Powell guitar, mandola, hurdy?gurdy and

bouzouki; Malcolm Bennett flute, recorders and crumhorn; Anthar Kharana percussion and Will Summers guests on recorders and crumhorns and Will Hughes on tarabouka.

To conclude, despite minor flaws, this is a likeable CD with a number of instrumental highlights and a worthwhile step along the mediaevalisation of traditional folk music.

Whats Afoot

Colin Andrews

I came across Maggie Sand, with Mark Powell, when she performed as Alquimia, and I reviewed her album Forever Acoustic in a previous issue. Two songs from that album, Bushes and Briars, and Dance To Your Daddy, also appear on this new CD, with a different arrangement.

Most of Maggie's material is largely traditional English, but she manages to make the songs her own, with her distinctive, clear voice which has quite a haunting quality at times, and some unconventional arrangements. The instrumental accompaniment that includes guitar, harmonium, hurdy-gurdy, recorders, crumhorn & percussion, etc., intentionally gives the whole album a mediaeval flavour, or even a sound more closely associated with French music. Indeed, there are two French pieces: A La Porte Au Palais is a nonsense song intended to be sung to accompany a dance - I loved the snatch of In The Hall of The Mountain King in one of musical interludes. Les Garcons De Montagne is a tune from the Massif Central.

The treatment of familiar traditional songs such as If I Were A Blackbird, Rosebud in June, and Rigs Of The Time, might not appeal to the purist, but personally I thoroughly enjoyed the songs and the music. It shows that there are a variety of ways in which our wealth of traditional material can be well presented with quality and skill. I'm in favour of innovation and experimentation if it can produce an album like this.