A Day's Work

by Cast of A Day's Work

The show tells the story of farm workers moved from the country to the front in the first world war and the death of one of their number shot as a concientious objector.

'A Day's Work' was first written and performed in 1995. That version of the show was recorded, and released as a cassette, by Wildgoose Records in 1996 (WGS272MC) The book of the text was published in 1997 by Lyngham House (ISBN: 0 9528225).



Mick Ryan - Described by Living Tradition magazine as an outstanding singer, songsmith and musical playwright , Mick is one of the most popular performers on the folk scene. He has made numerous albums, receiving excellent reviews (‘truly magnificent’, Taplas magazine). He is well known as the originator and composer of several popular folk operas. His most recent shows, The Navvy's Wife, and The Pauper’s Path received wide critical and popular acclaim (‘a triumph', fRoots magazine). The development evident in this revival of A Day’s Work shows his mastery of words, music and the spoken word. Mick’s Irish grandfather was an Anzac, and fought at Gallipoli.

Maggie Boyle - Through her singing, continues the music and storytelling tradition passed on by her Irish family. She has accrued an impressive catalogue of live and recorded work. This includes film soundtracks, such as the title track for the movie Patriot Games, and international theatre and folk circuit appearances. Maggie has worked with James Horner, The Chieftains, Bert Jansch, Rambert Dance Company, Incantation, Steve Tilston and John Renbourn. Needless to say, then, that she is a very fine singer indeed, and also plays a mean flute and bodhran.

Heather Bradford - Heather has worked with Mick Ryan’s Folk Show productions in The Navvy’s Wife, The Paupers’ Path, and now A Day’s Work. She sang in the harmony group Hen Party and in a duo with Julian Longden. She is currently a member of the Forest Forge Act Your Age workshop group. Her grandfather volunteered for the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1914 and served throughout the First World War in Gallipoli and France.

Paul Downes - Paul is one of the most respected musicians on the acoustic music scene. He prefers to be known as a singer of songs rather than a guitar technician. He is, nevertheless, a truly consummate musician on the guitar and other stringed instruments. He has worked with a huge ranged of great performers, from Phil Beer to Pete Seeger, and appeared on literally hundreds of albums, including three with Mick Ryan. His recent solo album, The Boatman’s Cure received excellent reviews. Pete Morton - Pete has been performing on the folk scene for nearly 30 years. An energetic performer and highly acclaimed songwriter, who has toured the world with his unique delivery of talking blues and 'frap'. His most famous song, Another Train, is sung by many. Other anthems such as When We Sing Together, and The Shepherd's Song are also performed up and down the land. His song-writing is also to be found on the recent album by The Voice finalist Sally Barker

Matt Quinn - A fine singer and multi-instrumentalist, Matt plays melodeon, concertina, mandolin, fiddle. He is a 2012 graduate from the Newcastle Folk & Traditional Music Degree. From 2009 to 2013, he was a part of Radio 2 Young Folk Award finalist Dogan Mehmet’s band, and The Boombox Karavan. He is much in demand both as a solo performer and as a member of The Dovetail Trio.

Greg Russell – When he was only 19 years old, Greg, together with his musical partner Ciaran Algar, won the Young Folk Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. The following year, Russell and Algar won the Horoizon Award from the same source. Now just turned 21, he is a very fine singer who shows a maturity of delivery far beyond his years, and sings with great emotional power. Greg and Ciaran have now made two excellent and very well received albums, and clearly have a great great deal of further success to look forward to.

THE CAST

Maggie Boyle - A Mother

Matt Quinn - Her Son, a farm labourer. Later a recruit

Mick Ryan - A Father

Greg Russell - His Son, a farm labourer. Later a ‘conchie’

Pete Morton - A Poacher and farm labourer. Later a recruit

Heather Bradford - An Irish mother. Her son is in the British Army

Paul Downes - A Vicar and An Officer

1 It's All In A Day's Work / Flanders Tommy (Part One) 
Mick Ryan 
Poem - (Speech: Mick, Pete, Paul) In 1843, the old Duke of Wellington, asked for a typical soldier's name to put on the new Army pay form, thought of his first day in action. 

ii) (Lead Vocal - Mick) In 1914, the 'tommies' marched off full of hope. 


2 Sons of the Land 
Mick Ryan 
(Vocals: Mick, Greg, Pete, Matt + All) At the outbreak of war, there were still a lot of people working on the land. This song represents the life they left behind to do a day's work in very different fields. 

3 The Land I Love 
Mick Ryan 
(Solo Vocals: Matt, Greg, Pete) Though many men were straightforwardly, patriotically, enthusiastic about the war, significant minorities had more complex attitudes varying from the cynicism of those who waited to be called up to the idealism of the conscientious objector. The final verse is an attempt to show the love of home which these attitudes shared. 

4 Summer Is A-Coming In Again 
Mick Ryan 
(Vocals: Mick, Greg, Pete, Matt) The men in our story are all members of the same mummers' team. Mummers plays always act out the ancient themes of life, death and resurrection. In our tale, Saint George, played by a soon-to-be conchie, is killed and brought back to life by ‘the doctor’, played by an enthusiast for the war. This has emotional repercussions in Part Two. 

5 Come And Be A Soldier 
Mick Ryan 
(Lead vocal - Mick) The song of an old man, carried away by his own enthusiasm, urging young men to enlist by describing the 'glory' of war. The subversive chorus at the end is sung by a conscientious objector. 

6 The Soldier's Rest 
Words Mick Ryan Music - James Patterson 
(Vocals: Maggie, Greg, Paul, Heather) Based on an old photograph I saw on the wall of a pub. It showed what I imagined to be volunteers receiving buttonholes upon enlistment. This is sung by the conchie, and a mother whose son has enlisted. The image of fallen flowers is an old one, but none the worse for that. 

7 Another Harvest (Part One) 
Words Mick Ryan Music - Sarah Morgan 
(Solo Vocal - Maggie) Sung by the recruit's mother. She lives in fear of a different kind of harvest. 

8 The Call 
Mick Ryan 
(Solo Vocal - Paul. Choruses - Greg + All. Speech Paul, and Greg) There was a great deal of debate in the press about the supposedly Christian idea of the just war. The brief dialogue which occurs between the verses is an exchange between the Vicar and the conchie. It very much reflects the much lengthier clerical debates published at the time. 

9 Join the Game 
Mick Ryan 
(Lead Vocal - Heather. Choruses: Pete, Matt) This reflects the intensive pro-war propaganda used to boost enlistment. 

10 Peace 
Mick Ryan 
(Solo Vocal - Greg) The determined song of the conscientious objector in his prison cell. 

11 The Long Farewell 
Mick Ryan 
(Vocals: Mick, Maggie) Sung by the mother of a recruit, and the father of the conscientious objector. 

12 Marching 
Words - Mick Ryan, Music Steven Faux 
(Lead Vocal - Heather. Choruses: Pete, Matt) This, I hope, is self explanatory. 

13 Flanders Tommy (Part Two) 
Mick Ryan 
(Lead vocal - Greg. Chorus - Maggie) Contrasts the reality of the front with the high expectations of part one. 

14 The Night 
Mick Ryan 
(Lead Vocal - Pete. Harmony Vocal - Matt) At the front, the night, when the imagination is terrified by various noises, was the most frightening time of all. 

15 What Men Do 
Mick Ryan 
(Solo Vocal - Heather) Is the urge to fight wars really in our DNA? One would hope not. 

16 Gimme A Blighty 
Mick Ryan 
(Lead Vocal - Matt. Chorus - Pete) A blighty was a wound bad enough to get you sent home, but not so bad that it would cripple you permanently. After a while, many a man prayed for this. 

17 The Estaminet 
Music - Steven Faux, words Mick Ryan 
(Duet Vocal: Pete and Matt) Immediately before going up to the front, men were given their back pay. Officers urged them to send the bulk of it home. However, there was always the inclination to have one last, possibly final, party. The girls who worked the estaminet were always willing to help in this aim. 

18 The Lark Above the Downs 
Mick Ryan 
(Solo Vocal - Greg) No conscientious objectors were shot for their stand. However, should one weaken under the extreme physical and psychological pressure brought to bear by the authorities and, even for a moment, obey a single military order, then he could be treated as a soldier. Thus, any subsequent refusal to fight would be deemed to be cowardice, and dealt with accordingly. This song, then, is sung by such a 'coward' who has regained his moral courage, refused to fight, and been condemned to execution. It is an expression of love of homeland, in this case the downs, and also of hope. 

19 Another Harvest (Part Two) 
Music – Sarah Morgan, words Mick Ryan 
(Duet Vocal - Mick and Maggie) The soldier's mother is joined by the father of the 'conchie' for this. The mother was against the war. The father was for it. They are united in their loss. 

20 Home Lads Home 
Words - Cecilly Fox-Smith, Music - Sarah Morgan 
(Vocals - All) Set by Sarah Morgan, these words have now been slightly adapted to fit our particular tale. 

21 Land Fit For Heroes 
Mick Ryan 
(Solo Vocal - Maggie. Chorus - Greg) That's what was promised. 

22 A Day's Work 
Mick Ryan 
(Vocals - All) When I first wrote this show, back in 1995, I read the Duke of Wellington story, which is a prefix to Lyn Macdonald's book, 'Somme'. It gave me the basis for the title, a title song, and the opening poem. 

23 Christmas In Nomansland 
Mick Ryan 
(Solo Vocal - Mick. Choruses - All) The story of the show takes us from the village, at Christmas 1914, to the first day of The Battle of the Somme, July 1916. So, though the famous Christmas Truce of 1914, when men of all sides met and fraternised in Nomansland, was a tempting tale to tell, it could not be included in the show as such. We therefore offer this free standing song as a sort of emotional coda. 
It's All In A Day's Work / Flanders Tommy (Part One)
Poem - (Speech: Mick
Sample not available
Sons of the Land
(Vocals: Mick
The Land I Love
(Solo Vocals: Matt
Sample not available
Summer Is A-Coming In Again
(Vocals: Mick
Sample not available
Come And Be A Soldier
(Lead vocal - Mick) The song of an old man
The Soldier's Rest
(Vocals: Maggie
Sample not available
Another Harvest (Part One)
(Solo Vocal - Maggie) Sung by the recruit's mother. She lives in fear of a different kind of harvest.
Sample not available
The Call
(Solo Vocal - Paul. Choruses - Greg + All. Speech Paul
Sample not available
Join the Game
(Lead Vocal - Heather. Choruses: Pete
Peace
(Solo Vocal - Greg) The determined song of the conscientious objector in his prison cell.
Sample not available
The Long Farewell
(Vocals: Mick
Sample not available
Marching
Music Steven Faux
Sample not available
Flanders Tommy (Part Two)
(Lead vocal - Greg. Chorus - Maggie) Contrasts the reality of the front with the high expectations of part one.
Sample not available
The Night
(Lead Vocal - Pete. Harmony Vocal - Matt) At the front
What Men Do
(Solo Vocal - Heather) Is the urge to fight wars really in our DNA? One would hope not.
Sample not available
Gimme A Blighty
(Lead Vocal - Matt. Chorus - Pete) A blighty was a wound bad enough to get you sent home
Sample not available
The Estaminet
words Mick Ryan
Sample not available
The Lark Above the Downs
(Solo Vocal - Greg) No conscientious objectors were shot for their stand. However
Another Harvest (Part Two)
words Mick Ryan
Sample not available
Home Lads Home
Music - Sarah Morgan
Sample not available
Land Fit For Heroes
(Solo Vocal - Maggie. Chorus - Greg) That's what was promised.
Sample not available
A Day's Work
(Vocals - All) When I first wrote this show
Christmas In Nomansland
(Solo Vocal - Mick. Choruses - All) The story of the show takes us from the village
Sample not available

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

This CD is a recording of the songs mostly written by the prolific Mick Ryan in his folk opera A Day's Work which compares the working day of the farm workers who marched to war and their other 'day's work' on the battle field.

The cast includes Mick as the father and Greg Russell as his son who is a farm labourer and later becomes a 'conchie'; Maggie Boyle as the mother and Matt Quinn as her son another farm labourer who becomes a recruit; Pete Morton as a poacher and farm labourer who also becomes a recruit; Heather Bradford as an Irish mother whose son is in the British army and Paul Downes who plays a vicar (I know, hard to believe but he does it so well!) and also an army officer.

The setting for part one is in an English village Christmas 1914 and for part two the setting is 'mostly' at the front line in 1916.

Shades of the epic production 'War Horse' comes to mind as it might do with the subject matter involved but this show is very different in its approach and the songs take precedence over the acting. There is also much more coverage of the jingoistic recruiting methods used at that time including religious fervour and a strong message of the waste of life in the 'Great War' - you know - the war to end all wars - remember?

With such an illustrious cast as this with both excellent singing and instrumentation there are understandably many highlights throughout the production so that it's difficult to know where to begin.



However, some of the more outstanding performances include The Night sung by Pete with harmonies from Matt which is a haunting song that brings home the fear of death. Greg Russell does a classic performance with The Lark Above the Downs too. Maggie shows her solo vocal skills in the first part of Another Harvest and her and Mick do a lovely duet in the second part of the song later. A gently upbeat version of Sarah Morgan's setting to Cicely Fox-Smith's Home Lads Home sung by the entire cast sounds much better than some of the 'slow dirge type' versions I've heard over the years.

There's so much here I could go on for more pages than the magazine could cope with so I'll stop now! This is another classic production from Wild Goose and Doug has yet again captured the musicality of the personnel involved. A super album indeed.

Folk Monthly

Bob Taberner

Having formed alliances with France and Russia in order to protect its imperial assets from their expansion plans, Britain in 1914 had little option but to join a European war when the two power blocs squared up to each other. You know the rest. Mick's excellent folk musical has been re recorded to meet the current interest in the war. He has assembled a new cast

including Maggie Boyle, Heather Bradford, Paul Downes, Pete Morton, Matt Quinn and Greg Russell.

There have been many dramas written about the Great War as the centenary approaches, but this folk opera was originally devised in 1995. How has this 20 year old show survived the transition to today? Very well. In fact, Mick's work touches on subjects that contemporary views of the war haven't covered. Maybe I haven't been paying attention, but I haven't noticed soldiers self harming in order to avoid the conflict as in the song Gimme A Blighty. And there hasn't been much discussion of the debate that took place in religious circles about the notion of a 'just' war as in The Call.

I was constantly reminded of the ground breaking film 'Oh, What A Lovely War; one of the first productions to question the justness of the war and to expose its horror. `A Day's Work' takes a similarly robust, antiwar stance. Is it, as Mick's song says, What Men Do? Many of the songs, of course, make most sense within the context of the show. The Night describes the fear felt during night time exchanges between the front lines. The Estaminet is about the desperate search for diversion before going to the front.

It's a bit superfluous to say that the songs and their presentation are excellent. How could it be otherwise with such a cast? The booklet is particularly good, as is the recording quality and presentation by Wildgoose.

R2

Ian Croft

A Day's Work is Mick Ryan's folk opera about the Great War, updated to coincide with its centenary. There's a consummate cast Maggie Boyle, Heather Bradford, Pete Morton, Matt Quinn plus Mick himself. Greg Russell plays the central role of a conscientious objector, and Paul Downes is musical director and a surprisingly convincing vicar.

The show is a fantastically moving piece of work, with lots of drama, but the seventy one minute CD contains just the songs. Ryan utilises a variety of styles to reflect different moods, and lyrics always hit the spot, though some of the show's warp and weft is lost without the spoken word.

The first half is set pre war  patriotic songs like 'Come And Be A Soldier' contrast with songs of moral dilemma, and set up the war in the second half. After some frivolity 'Gimme A Blighty' comes the heart wrenching climax. The conshie (Russell) stops the show with 'The Lark Above The Downs; a reflective song, as he awaits execution. Later, the wonderful Maggie Boyle leads on the poignant 'Land Fit For Heroes' and I turn to jelly.

If you get the chance, see the show and buy the CD as a reminder. If you can't, buy the CD anyway  it's a great collection of songs.

Bright Young Folk

Stephen Witkowski

At first the heart sinks at the prospect of listening to another album commemorating the events of World War I. In this anniversary year there has been a glut of records, TV shows and books dealing with life in the trenches. What can there possibly be left to say?

Mick Ryan's folk opera A Day's Work was first performed in 1995 and has been re-written and re-recorded to mark the centenary of the Great War. This recording documents the original songs used in the show which is a mixture of music, spoken word, verse and movement. The work tells the tale of a group of farm labourers, members of a 'mummers team' who join up (or refuse to) and end up meeting their fate at the Battle of the Somme.

The musicians Ryan has chosen to tell his story span two generations of folk artists. Alongside the likes of Pete Morton and the much missed Maggie Boyle there are the newer faces of multi-instrumentalist Matt Quinn and Young Folk Award Winner, Greg Russell.

Part one of A Day's Work is set in an English village at Christmastime in 1914. The songs here tell of life in the village and the gradual encroachment of war into the lives of the young men who work the land.

Gradually a narrative develops which contrasts the enthusiasm for war (Come and Be a Soldier, Join the Game) with the misgivings of a mother (Another Harvest) and the protestations of a conscientious objector (Peace), sung by Greg Russell who has a rich voice that belies his years.

Part two is mostly set at the front during 1916. Here, the songs deal with the fears and pleasures of the ordinary Tommy. The Night, talks about the terrors that creep up on a soldier in the dead of night when darkness brings on the 'fear of fear'.

The Estaminet, by way of contrast, tells of the 'night before the day' when soldiers who had just got paid spent all their wages on cheap wine (and possibly more) at caf�s and other drinking houses. This is the most upbeat song on the album but, even here, death is not far away.

The centrepiece of the opera is the powerful The Lark Above the Downs. This is sung by the Conscientious Objector the night before his execution for refusing to fight, after earlier obeying an order from a superior. Magnificently sung by Russell with a haunting flute accompaniment from Boyle, the song contrasts the new life awakening in the countryside surrounding his home village with his impending death. It is, by far, the strongest song on the album.

If there is a criticism to be made of A Day's Work it is that, at some points, the songs deal in clich� and archetypes. However, it has to be remembered that clich�s usually exist because they have some truth to them and these songs deal with truths and experiences which should never be forgotten.

So, is there room for another World War I album? Yes, if it is as powerful and direct as A Day's Work.

EFDSS

Paul Rawcliffe

With the centenary of the Great War, it is very fitting for different communities to pay homage and tribute to the individual stories of normal people who fought. A Day's Work is a collaborative album with different generations of folk artists coming together to play musical tribute to such a tragic loss of lives.

Collaboration albums, with big names all coming together on projects has always been a feature of the folk community, and it has been ever increasing over the past couple of years.  These types of works always go down well with audiences and gain a lot of popularity. What's interesting about this particular project is that it isn't a 'collection of songs' but rather one huge storyboard. It was originally written in 1995 and performed by Mick Ryan who has re-launched it with some of the original team and some fresh recruits. The album follows the life and times that normal people would be going through at the time of the Great War, but also with a particular focus on the Duke of Wellington.  The music itself is very fitting to the material, slower but engaging tracks that feed emotion and passion, to faster jolly songs that reflect the kind of enthusiasm that propaganda was trying to generate (In particular 'Come and Be a Soldier'). If I heard the songs without knowing the origin, I would be easily convinced that the songs were sung at the time itself, almost like trench songs.

It shows great empathy and the talent of Mick Ryan to put together such a show.  Every artist involved shines and brings their own slice of expertise to make a fantastic album and a fantastic tribute.

The Living Tradition

Kathy & Bob Drage

This revival of A Day's Work (first performed in 1995) shows Mick Ryan's mastery of lyrics, music and the spoken word. The show (and CD) is about the move by a group of farm workers from the land to the Western front in the First World War. One of the workers is a conscientious objector and is shot for his beliefs.

The show opens in an English village, Christmas 1914, with Mick, Pete Morton and Paul Downes reciting the poem It's All In A Day's Work. In 1843, the old Duke of Wellington asked for a typical soldier's name to put on new army pay forms   the poem about this is reprinted on the insert   Tommy Atkins was the name used of course. Flanders Tommy shows the boys marching off, full of hope. At the outbreak of war, many were still working the land. The song, Sons Of The Land, represents the life many left behind to do a day's work in different fields. The Land I Love tells of the complex attitudes some had about the war, but all sharing the love of home.

The men in our story were all members of the same mummers team and Summer Is A Coming In Again reminds them of this. The Soldier's Rest is based on an old photograph Mick saw on a pub wall   sung by a conchie and a mother whose son has enlisted. There was much debate about the supposedly Christian idea of a just war. The Call is a brief dialogue between a vicar and a conchie. Pro�war propaganda is reflected in Join The Game and the solo vocal by Greg Russell in Peace shows the determination of the conchie in his prison cell. The Long Farewell sung by Mick as the conchie's father and Maggie Boyle as the recruit's mother is extremely poignant.

Part 2 takes place mostly at the front in 1916. Flanders Tommy Part 2 contrasts the reality of the front with the expectations of 1914. Many a man prayed for a wound that sent him home in Gimme A Blighty. The Lark Above The Downs is sung by one deemed to be a coward and awaiting execution and is an expression of love of homeland and of hope. Cicely Fox Smith's Home Lads Home has been slightly adapted to suit this tale and there is a bonus track not included in the show Christmas In Nomansland. The show takes us from Christmas in the village in 1914 to the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The song about the Christmas truce is offered as a sort of free standing emotional coda.

Taking part are Mick Ryan, Paul Downes, Maggie Boyle, Matt Quinn, Heather Bradford, Pete Morton and Greg Russell. All are wonderfully strong singers and musicians who give their all to this project. Mick has the propensity to be able to write songs that really convey the message contained. This is another excellent piece of work.

www.mickryanfolkshows.co.uk

Shire Folk

Tony O�Neill.

One of the many successful Folk Operas written by Mick Ryan, who over the years has gained plaudits and considerable respect as a singer, songwriter and musical playwrite. This one has been revived from 1995 and concerns a group of farm workers (including a conscientious objector) going to war on the Western Front in the First War World War.

The Cast, Maggie Boyle (now sadly deceased), Heather Bradford, Paul Downes,  Pete Morton, Matt Quinn and Greg Russel are all much admired and highly respected performers in their own right and this shines out in the recording.

The overall effect is, not unnaturally, considering the subject matter,  generally introspective and downbeat but not depressingly so and is occassionly lifted by a touch of humour or a rousing chorus.

I have never heard this play performed but I have been surprised at just how much of the material is familiar to me.  It is an indication of the quality of Mick's song writing that in the intervening years since the first performance some of the songs have become Folk standards.  'Sons of the Land' for one and 'The Soldiers Rest' (which I sing as 'The Antelope') another.  'Home Lads Home' ( CF Smith and music by the sadly missed Sarah Morgan) is also included.

I don't know if Mick is planning to take this play 'on the road' again but, based on this recording, I highly recommend that if you get a chance to see it, go!

I like the presentation, including a booklet in homage to the 'The Wipers Times' with it's introduction to the Cast and song notes.  

Mardles

Val Haines

A timely release of Mick Ryan's FirstWorld War inspired show, originally written and performed in 1995. There are 23 tracks performed by Mick and a stellar cast of Paul

Downes, Maggie Boyle, Matt Quinn, Heather Bradford, Greg Russell and Pete Morton. The album is in two parts; the first a rural setting and the second 'mostly at the front'. It's a collection of very clever songs, some catchy and some poignant, covering different wartime characters including the farmworker, the soldier, the soldier's mother, the 'conchie' and the conchie's dad. The vocals, musicianship and production are first class. My favourites are the jingoism of Come and Be a Soldier, the catchy shanty chorus in The Call, the tangoesqe What Men Do and The Lark Above the Downs, a song for the eve of the conscientious objector's execution, beautifully sung by the late Maggie Boyle as the boy's mum. There's nothing here that we aren't familiar with, but the mixture of song styles   trad, contemporary, music hall and a capella, make up for this.

Around Kent Folk

Kathy & Bob Drage

This revival of A Days Work shows Mick's mastery of lyrics, music and the spoken word. The show and cd is about the move by a group of farm workers from the land to the Western Front in the Great War. One worker is a conscientious objector and is shot for his beliefs. Opening in an English village, Xmas 1914 with Mick, Pete Morton and Paul Downs reciting the poem 'It's All in a Days Work', 'Flanders Tommy' has the boys marching off full of hope. 'Sons of the Land' represents the life of many left behind to do a days work in different fields. The complex attitudes some had about war but sharing the love of home is told in 'The Land I Love'. Singing 'Summer Is a Coming in Again' reminds our boys of being members of the same mummer's team. 'The Call' is a brief dialogue between a vicar and a conchie  much debate about the Christian idea of a just war. The solo vocal by Greg Russell in 'Peace' shows the determination of the objector in his prison cell. 'The Long Farewell' sung by Mick as the objector's father and the late Maggie Boyle as the recruit's mother is extremely poignant. Part 2 takes place mostly at the Front in 1916; 'Flanders Tommy Part 2' contrasts the reality of war with the expectations of 1914. Many a man prayed for a wound that sent him home in 'Gimme A Blighty'. 'The Lark Above the Downs' is sung by one deemed to be a coward and awaiting execution and is an expression of love of homeland and of hope. Cicely Fox Smith's 'Home Lads Home' has been adapted to suit this tale and there is a bonus track not included in the show   @Christmas In No man's land'. The show takes us from Xmas in the village of 1914 to the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The song about the Christmas truce is offered as a sort of free standing emotional coda. All taking part Mick Ryan, Paul Downes, Maggie Boyle, Matt Quinn, Heather Bradford, Pete Morton and Greg Russell are wonderfully strong singers and musicians who give their all to this project. Mick has the propensity to write songs that really convey the messages contained; this is another excellent piece of work.

Shire Folk

Tony ONeill

One of the many successful folk operas written by Mick Ryan, who over the years has gained plaudits and considerable respect as a singer, songwriter and musical playwright. This one has been revived from 1995 and concerns a group of farm workers (including a conscientious objector) going to war on the Western Front in the First War World War.

The cast, Maggie Boyle (now sadly deceased), Heather Bradford, Paul Downes, Pete Morton, Matt Quinn and Greg Russell, are all much admired and highly respected performers in their own right and this shines out in the recording. The overall effect is, not unnaturally considering the subject matter, generally introspective and downbeat, but not depressingly so and is occasionally lifted by a touch of humour or a rousing chorus.

I have never heard this play performed but I have been surprised at just how much of the material is familiar to me. It's an indication of the quality of Mick's songwriting that in the intervening years since the first performance some of the songs have become folk standards   'Sons of the Land' for one and 'The Soldiers Rest' (which I sing as 'The Antelope') another. 'Home Lads Home' (C.F. Smith and music by the sadly missed Sarah Morgan) is also included.

I don't know if Mick is planning to take this play 'on the road' again but, based on this recording, I highly recommend that if you get a chance to see it, go!

I like the presentation, including a booklet in homage to the The Wipers Times with its introduction to the cast and song notes.

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

This CD is a recording of the songs mostly written by the prolific Mick Ryan in his folk opera A Day's Work which compares the working day of the farm workers who marched to war and their other 'day's work' on the battle field.

The cast includes Mick as the father and Greg Russell as his son who is a farm labourer and later becomes a 'conchie'; Maggie Boyle as the mother and Matt Quinn as her son another farm labourer who becomes a recruit; Pete Morton as a poacher and farm labourer who also becomes a recruit; Heather Bradford as an Irish mother whose son is in the British army and Paul Downes who plays a vicar (I know, hard to believe but he does it so well!) and also an army officer.

The setting for part one is in an English village Christmas 1914 and for part two the setting is 'mostly' at the front line in 1916.

Shades of the epic production 'War Horse' comes to mind as it might do with the subject matter involved but this show is very different in its approach and the songs take precedence over the acting. There is also much more coverage of the jingoistic recruiting methods used at that time including religious fervour and a strong message of the waste of life in the 'Great War' - you know - the war to end all wars - remember?

With such an illustrious cast as this with both excellent singing and instrumentation there are understandably many highlights throughout the production so that it's difficult to know where to begin.



However, some of the more outstanding performances include The Night sung by Pete with harmonies from Matt which is a haunting song that brings home the fear of death. Greg Russell does a classic performance with The Lark Above the Downs too. Maggie shows her solo vocal skills in the first part of Another Harvest and her and Mick do a lovely duet in the second part of the song later. A gently upbeat version of Sarah Morgan's setting to Cicely Fox-Smith's Home Lads Home sung by the entire cast sounds much better than some of the 'slow dirge type' versions I've heard over the years.

There's so much here I could go on for more pages than the magazine could cope with so I'll stop now! This is another classic production from Wild Goose and Doug has yet again captured the musicality of the personnel involved. A super album indeed.

Folk Monthly

Bob Taberner

Having formed alliances with France and Russia in order to protect its imperial assets from their expansion plans, Britain in 1914 had little option but to join a European war when the two power blocs squared up to each other. You know the rest. Mick's excellent folk musical has been re recorded to meet the current interest in the war. He has assembled a new cast

including Maggie Boyle, Heather Bradford, Paul Downes, Pete Morton, Matt Quinn and Greg Russell.

There have been many dramas written about the Great War as the centenary approaches, but this folk opera was originally devised in 1995. How has this 20 year old show survived the transition to today? Very well. In fact, Mick's work touches on subjects that contemporary views of the war haven't covered. Maybe I haven't been paying attention, but I haven't noticed soldiers self harming in order to avoid the conflict as in the song Gimme A Blighty. And there hasn't been much discussion of the debate that took place in religious circles about the notion of a 'just' war as in The Call.

I was constantly reminded of the ground breaking film 'Oh, What A Lovely War; one of the first productions to question the justness of the war and to expose its horror. `A Day's Work' takes a similarly robust, antiwar stance. Is it, as Mick's song says, What Men Do? Many of the songs, of course, make most sense within the context of the show. The Night describes the fear felt during night time exchanges between the front lines. The Estaminet is about the desperate search for diversion before going to the front.

It's a bit superfluous to say that the songs and their presentation are excellent. How could it be otherwise with such a cast? The booklet is particularly good, as is the recording quality and presentation by Wildgoose.

R2

Ian Croft

A Day's Work is Mick Ryan's folk opera about the Great War, updated to coincide with its centenary. There's a consummate cast Maggie Boyle, Heather Bradford, Pete Morton, Matt Quinn plus Mick himself. Greg Russell plays the central role of a conscientious objector, and Paul Downes is musical director and a surprisingly convincing vicar.

The show is a fantastically moving piece of work, with lots of drama, but the seventy one minute CD contains just the songs. Ryan utilises a variety of styles to reflect different moods, and lyrics always hit the spot, though some of the show's warp and weft is lost without the spoken word.

The first half is set pre war  patriotic songs like 'Come And Be A Soldier' contrast with songs of moral dilemma, and set up the war in the second half. After some frivolity 'Gimme A Blighty' comes the heart wrenching climax. The conshie (Russell) stops the show with 'The Lark Above The Downs; a reflective song, as he awaits execution. Later, the wonderful Maggie Boyle leads on the poignant 'Land Fit For Heroes' and I turn to jelly.

If you get the chance, see the show and buy the CD as a reminder. If you can't, buy the CD anyway  it's a great collection of songs.

Bright Young Folk

Stephen Witkowski

At first the heart sinks at the prospect of listening to another album commemorating the events of World War I. In this anniversary year there has been a glut of records, TV shows and books dealing with life in the trenches. What can there possibly be left to say?

Mick Ryan's folk opera A Day's Work was first performed in 1995 and has been re-written and re-recorded to mark the centenary of the Great War. This recording documents the original songs used in the show which is a mixture of music, spoken word, verse and movement. The work tells the tale of a group of farm labourers, members of a 'mummers team' who join up (or refuse to) and end up meeting their fate at the Battle of the Somme.

The musicians Ryan has chosen to tell his story span two generations of folk artists. Alongside the likes of Pete Morton and the much missed Maggie Boyle there are the newer faces of multi-instrumentalist Matt Quinn and Young Folk Award Winner, Greg Russell.

Part one of A Day's Work is set in an English village at Christmastime in 1914. The songs here tell of life in the village and the gradual encroachment of war into the lives of the young men who work the land.

Gradually a narrative develops which contrasts the enthusiasm for war (Come and Be a Soldier, Join the Game) with the misgivings of a mother (Another Harvest) and the protestations of a conscientious objector (Peace), sung by Greg Russell who has a rich voice that belies his years.

Part two is mostly set at the front during 1916. Here, the songs deal with the fears and pleasures of the ordinary Tommy. The Night, talks about the terrors that creep up on a soldier in the dead of night when darkness brings on the 'fear of fear'.

The Estaminet, by way of contrast, tells of the 'night before the day' when soldiers who had just got paid spent all their wages on cheap wine (and possibly more) at caf�s and other drinking houses. This is the most upbeat song on the album but, even here, death is not far away.

The centrepiece of the opera is the powerful The Lark Above the Downs. This is sung by the Conscientious Objector the night before his execution for refusing to fight, after earlier obeying an order from a superior. Magnificently sung by Russell with a haunting flute accompaniment from Boyle, the song contrasts the new life awakening in the countryside surrounding his home village with his impending death. It is, by far, the strongest song on the album.

If there is a criticism to be made of A Day's Work it is that, at some points, the songs deal in clich� and archetypes. However, it has to be remembered that clich�s usually exist because they have some truth to them and these songs deal with truths and experiences which should never be forgotten.

So, is there room for another World War I album? Yes, if it is as powerful and direct as A Day's Work.

EFDSS

Paul Rawcliffe

With the centenary of the Great War, it is very fitting for different communities to pay homage and tribute to the individual stories of normal people who fought. A Day's Work is a collaborative album with different generations of folk artists coming together to play musical tribute to such a tragic loss of lives.

Collaboration albums, with big names all coming together on projects has always been a feature of the folk community, and it has been ever increasing over the past couple of years.  These types of works always go down well with audiences and gain a lot of popularity. What's interesting about this particular project is that it isn't a 'collection of songs' but rather one huge storyboard. It was originally written in 1995 and performed by Mick Ryan who has re-launched it with some of the original team and some fresh recruits. The album follows the life and times that normal people would be going through at the time of the Great War, but also with a particular focus on the Duke of Wellington.  The music itself is very fitting to the material, slower but engaging tracks that feed emotion and passion, to faster jolly songs that reflect the kind of enthusiasm that propaganda was trying to generate (In particular 'Come and Be a Soldier'). If I heard the songs without knowing the origin, I would be easily convinced that the songs were sung at the time itself, almost like trench songs.

It shows great empathy and the talent of Mick Ryan to put together such a show.  Every artist involved shines and brings their own slice of expertise to make a fantastic album and a fantastic tribute.

The Living Tradition

Kathy & Bob Drage

This revival of A Day's Work (first performed in 1995) shows Mick Ryan's mastery of lyrics, music and the spoken word. The show (and CD) is about the move by a group of farm workers from the land to the Western front in the First World War. One of the workers is a conscientious objector and is shot for his beliefs.

The show opens in an English village, Christmas 1914, with Mick, Pete Morton and Paul Downes reciting the poem It's All In A Day's Work. In 1843, the old Duke of Wellington asked for a typical soldier's name to put on new army pay forms   the poem about this is reprinted on the insert   Tommy Atkins was the name used of course. Flanders Tommy shows the boys marching off, full of hope. At the outbreak of war, many were still working the land. The song, Sons Of The Land, represents the life many left behind to do a day's work in different fields. The Land I Love tells of the complex attitudes some had about the war, but all sharing the love of home.

The men in our story were all members of the same mummers team and Summer Is A Coming In Again reminds them of this. The Soldier's Rest is based on an old photograph Mick saw on a pub wall   sung by a conchie and a mother whose son has enlisted. There was much debate about the supposedly Christian idea of a just war. The Call is a brief dialogue between a vicar and a conchie. Pro�war propaganda is reflected in Join The Game and the solo vocal by Greg Russell in Peace shows the determination of the conchie in his prison cell. The Long Farewell sung by Mick as the conchie's father and Maggie Boyle as the recruit's mother is extremely poignant.

Part 2 takes place mostly at the front in 1916. Flanders Tommy Part 2 contrasts the reality of the front with the expectations of 1914. Many a man prayed for a wound that sent him home in Gimme A Blighty. The Lark Above The Downs is sung by one deemed to be a coward and awaiting execution and is an expression of love of homeland and of hope. Cicely Fox Smith's Home Lads Home has been slightly adapted to suit this tale and there is a bonus track not included in the show Christmas In Nomansland. The show takes us from Christmas in the village in 1914 to the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The song about the Christmas truce is offered as a sort of free standing emotional coda.

Taking part are Mick Ryan, Paul Downes, Maggie Boyle, Matt Quinn, Heather Bradford, Pete Morton and Greg Russell. All are wonderfully strong singers and musicians who give their all to this project. Mick has the propensity to be able to write songs that really convey the message contained. This is another excellent piece of work.

www.mickryanfolkshows.co.uk

Shire Folk

Tony O�Neill.

One of the many successful Folk Operas written by Mick Ryan, who over the years has gained plaudits and considerable respect as a singer, songwriter and musical playwrite. This one has been revived from 1995 and concerns a group of farm workers (including a conscientious objector) going to war on the Western Front in the First War World War.

The Cast, Maggie Boyle (now sadly deceased), Heather Bradford, Paul Downes,  Pete Morton, Matt Quinn and Greg Russel are all much admired and highly respected performers in their own right and this shines out in the recording.

The overall effect is, not unnaturally, considering the subject matter,  generally introspective and downbeat but not depressingly so and is occassionly lifted by a touch of humour or a rousing chorus.

I have never heard this play performed but I have been surprised at just how much of the material is familiar to me.  It is an indication of the quality of Mick's song writing that in the intervening years since the first performance some of the songs have become Folk standards.  'Sons of the Land' for one and 'The Soldiers Rest' (which I sing as 'The Antelope') another.  'Home Lads Home' ( CF Smith and music by the sadly missed Sarah Morgan) is also included.

I don't know if Mick is planning to take this play 'on the road' again but, based on this recording, I highly recommend that if you get a chance to see it, go!

I like the presentation, including a booklet in homage to the 'The Wipers Times' with it's introduction to the Cast and song notes.  

Mardles

Val Haines

A timely release of Mick Ryan's FirstWorld War inspired show, originally written and performed in 1995. There are 23 tracks performed by Mick and a stellar cast of Paul

Downes, Maggie Boyle, Matt Quinn, Heather Bradford, Greg Russell and Pete Morton. The album is in two parts; the first a rural setting and the second 'mostly at the front'. It's a collection of very clever songs, some catchy and some poignant, covering different wartime characters including the farmworker, the soldier, the soldier's mother, the 'conchie' and the conchie's dad. The vocals, musicianship and production are first class. My favourites are the jingoism of Come and Be a Soldier, the catchy shanty chorus in The Call, the tangoesqe What Men Do and The Lark Above the Downs, a song for the eve of the conscientious objector's execution, beautifully sung by the late Maggie Boyle as the boy's mum. There's nothing here that we aren't familiar with, but the mixture of song styles   trad, contemporary, music hall and a capella, make up for this.

Around Kent Folk

Kathy & Bob Drage

This revival of A Days Work shows Mick's mastery of lyrics, music and the spoken word. The show and cd is about the move by a group of farm workers from the land to the Western Front in the Great War. One worker is a conscientious objector and is shot for his beliefs. Opening in an English village, Xmas 1914 with Mick, Pete Morton and Paul Downs reciting the poem 'It's All in a Days Work', 'Flanders Tommy' has the boys marching off full of hope. 'Sons of the Land' represents the life of many left behind to do a days work in different fields. The complex attitudes some had about war but sharing the love of home is told in 'The Land I Love'. Singing 'Summer Is a Coming in Again' reminds our boys of being members of the same mummer's team. 'The Call' is a brief dialogue between a vicar and a conchie  much debate about the Christian idea of a just war. The solo vocal by Greg Russell in 'Peace' shows the determination of the objector in his prison cell. 'The Long Farewell' sung by Mick as the objector's father and the late Maggie Boyle as the recruit's mother is extremely poignant. Part 2 takes place mostly at the Front in 1916; 'Flanders Tommy Part 2' contrasts the reality of war with the expectations of 1914. Many a man prayed for a wound that sent him home in 'Gimme A Blighty'. 'The Lark Above the Downs' is sung by one deemed to be a coward and awaiting execution and is an expression of love of homeland and of hope. Cicely Fox Smith's 'Home Lads Home' has been adapted to suit this tale and there is a bonus track not included in the show   @Christmas In No man's land'. The show takes us from Xmas in the village of 1914 to the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The song about the Christmas truce is offered as a sort of free standing emotional coda. All taking part Mick Ryan, Paul Downes, Maggie Boyle, Matt Quinn, Heather Bradford, Pete Morton and Greg Russell are wonderfully strong singers and musicians who give their all to this project. Mick has the propensity to write songs that really convey the messages contained; this is another excellent piece of work.

Shire Folk

Tony ONeill

One of the many successful folk operas written by Mick Ryan, who over the years has gained plaudits and considerable respect as a singer, songwriter and musical playwright. This one has been revived from 1995 and concerns a group of farm workers (including a conscientious objector) going to war on the Western Front in the First War World War.

The cast, Maggie Boyle (now sadly deceased), Heather Bradford, Paul Downes, Pete Morton, Matt Quinn and Greg Russell, are all much admired and highly respected performers in their own right and this shines out in the recording. The overall effect is, not unnaturally considering the subject matter, generally introspective and downbeat, but not depressingly so and is occasionally lifted by a touch of humour or a rousing chorus.

I have never heard this play performed but I have been surprised at just how much of the material is familiar to me. It's an indication of the quality of Mick's songwriting that in the intervening years since the first performance some of the songs have become folk standards   'Sons of the Land' for one and 'The Soldiers Rest' (which I sing as 'The Antelope') another. 'Home Lads Home' (C.F. Smith and music by the sadly missed Sarah Morgan) is also included.

I don't know if Mick is planning to take this play 'on the road' again but, based on this recording, I highly recommend that if you get a chance to see it, go!

I like the presentation, including a booklet in homage to the The Wipers Times with its introduction to the cast and song notes.