This is Mary and Anahata's fourth album, and their second devoted to songs from East Anglia. This one specifically features songs from the Fens. The first album, Fenlandia features East Anglian Songs of many genres.
Cold Fen is an anthology of songs from their researches into songs from the Fens. They live in Cambridgeshire and are actively involved in clubs and sessions in East Anglia. They have a mission to unearth local songs from archives and restore them to the repertoire. They perform at festivals, concert and folk clubs as a duo. They play in the ceilidh bands Fendragon, English Rebellion and Four Hand Band and also play for Pig Dyke Molly based in Peterborough. They give presentations and talks about their research into songs and run instrumental workshops using tunes they have arranged.
MARY HUMPHREYS : vocals, Wheatstone English concertinas
ANAHATA: Melodeons 2½ row Salterelle; 2 row Oakwood; 1-row Hohners in C & G; 1-row Castagnari in D; Jefferies Anglo concertina; cello; Goodacre Leicestershire smallpipes; chorus
DOUG BAILEY; guitar, chorus
THE SONGS - COLLECTORS AND SOURCES
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge from 1892-94. He was an inveterate cyclist, so was probably familiar with the villages that existed around the Fens. He brought his wife to Meldreth for a summer's holiday in 1906, returning again in 1907. During these visits he collected many songs from the locality and they can be found in his manuscripts which are housed in the British Library Rare Books and Music room. There is a microfilm of these in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House, Regent's Park, London for those who don't have a BL reader's ticket.
RVW and his wife leased The Warren for their sojourn in 1906. This is a large house situated on the outskirts of the village, within a short cycle ride of the railway station
Most of the places RVW visited on his collecting journeys are situated radially within a comfortable cycle-ride of Meldreth or had railway stations close by.
RVW was familiar with Lucy Broadwood's work in performance, publication and collection of folksong. She was the Honorary Secretary of the Folk Song Society from 1904 and became the editor of the Folk Song Journal at this time. Lucy Broadwood had corresponded with Ella Bull of Cottenham who sent her collection from Charlotte Dann (nee Few) and others with the intention of publication. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Vaughan Williams' visit to collect songs from Charlotte at her home in Cottenham in August 1907 was precipitated by information passed on by Lucy Broadwood. It is likely that other songs were collected as a result of chance meetings in the public houses of the villages Vaughan Williams.Most of the contributors were farm labourers or in the labouring trades.
Hoppy Flack (from whom RVW collected the May Song recorded on Floating Verses) lived at the Black Horse pub in Fowlmere.
The Mallion brothers probably met at the Harvest Home pub situated next door to Llewellyn's home in Fen Ditton.Unfortunately neither of these pubs is still in business though the buildings are still there.
Most of the songs that are in the manuscripts are without words, though nearly all have titles. If anyone reading this has tried to simultaneously write words and music from someone's singing s/he will vouch for how nearly impossible it is. As RVW was a musician first and foremost it is unsurprising that he wrote the music in preference to the words. Many of the songs were already known by him in other variants so for publication he would use other texts for reconstructing the songs or re-visit the contributors to write down the words separately.
Fortunately for me, the detective work involved in finding the appropriate lyrics was made much easier by the existence of the Broadside Ballad collection on Oxford University's Bodleian website. In order to make the songs singable I adapted texts to a greater or lesser degree. There is no guarantee that my conjectural couplings of tunes plus lyrics are correct. Anyone hearing these songs is welcome to take them away and do their own sleuthing should they feel that I have put the wrong words to the tune.
Cecil Sharp (1859-1924)visited Cambridgeshire in September and October 1911.He collected from residents of Littleport, including pupils at the girls' school and residents of the city of Ely and its Union (the workhouse.)
Ida Huckell (b1891)was born in West Derby, Liverpool to a couple who were originally from Cottenham. She was orphaned before 1901 - possibly as a result of the flu epidemics that swept the country. The three daughters were taken back to Cambridge with their grandmother Ann Few, a farmer's widow and became acquainted with Ella Bull and her interest in folk song collecting. Ida, aged 15 years submitted a tonic sol-fa rendition of one song on a postcard to Lucy Broadwood in the hope that she might be interested.
THE TUNES - SOURCES
Several of the tunes on the CD come from the recently discovered manuscript book of William Clarke of Feltwell, Norfolk now in the possession of Peter and Lyn Law of Chester. They have been kind enough to give us free access to the book and all their research - a big “Thank you” to both Lyn & Peter from both of us!
Lyn & Peter say that it was offered for sale on e-Bay from a vendor in Michigan USA who could find out nothing about the provenance of the book. Even the “expert” on the Antiques Roadshow had the pedestrian suggestion that they get in touch with someone from the EFDSS to see if they could read the notation! Lynn writes:
There are over 270 tunes - hornpipes, reels, waltzes and quick steps - fitted into the 140 narrow pages of the Feltwell MS book. The lack of polkas may indicate a date before about 1840 and the book resembles those from about 1820. The name and address of William Clarke appear on several pages, together with the date 1858, in writing which looks similar to the musical notation which remains fairly uniform through the book. The true date of the book is therefore uncertain. Who was William Clarke? We assume he was the compiler. Someone stamped the name with an official-looking stamp beside the signatures and it would be intriguing if he could be proved to be the Wm Clarke who was Superintendent of the local workhouse. Unfortunately it is a common name and details of Clarke may remain a mystery.
The tunes never go below middle C and are written in the keys of C, D G and F in the main. Many of them have enormous numbers of ledger lines (some of the manuscript looks like a forest of telegraph poles) so we reckon that Mr Clarke was a flautist.