Here and Now

by Moirai

The awaited second album from the wonderful group Moirai - pronounced 'More-eye') Jo Freya, Melanie Biggs and and Sarah Matthews are three women who manage to create an orchestra and a choir of sounds and yet there are still only three of them. Throw away your preconceptions about what constitutes folk music and open your minds to a colourful pallet of sounds and song. They will take you on a roller-coaster ride through beautiful traditional tunes, haunting and buoyant compositions and songs that will pluck at your heartstrings as well as have you holding your sides to prevent bursting with laughter. Many bands can do beautiful music, many bands can do comedy, many focus on instrumentals others on their vocals, here you get it all in one tight but fluid package. Between them you get accordion, flute, fiddle, viola, guitar, traditional whistles, soprano and tenor sax, clarinet and bass clarinet and three voices.



1 Dust If You Must 
lyrics Anon / Sarah Matthews / Jo Freya 

Lyrics found on that well known traditional source, Facebook, by Anon. It was suggested in one comment that someone should set these words to music - so Sarah came up with the melody to the verses here and Jo added the catchy chorus. 

2 The Black And The Grey / The Green Ship 
Trad / Trad 

Jo found this first tune within the archive of wonderful material held at Halsway Manor and just fell in love with it. The second piece is one of those haunting and memorable tunes that reached all of us through session playing over the years and seemed to complement the set. 

3 Rolanda’s Grandmother 
Jo Freya / Trad 

This powerful song, written by Jo, is dedicated to Fatima Maria Ibler. This is her family’s story and tells of the profound and repetitive repercussions of the treatment of wartime victims. A traditional French 2/4 Bourree, Voille au Vent, creates the mid section of the piece. 

4 Doffin Mistress 
Trad 

Sarah learnt this from the singing of Corinne Male. The song is based around the Doffers of the linen milling industry, their hard life and the Doffin Mistress who led them in their work. 

5 Muna And Mimi / Steve Fisher’s Lament 
Jo Freya / Mel Biggs 

A poignant pair of mazurkas here, the first of which was written by Jo for her dear friend Linda Thompson. Following four lovely grandsons this tune celebrates the arrival of the first granddaughter. The second melody Mel says she found in Steve Fisher’s BbEb Hohner Piccoletta melodeon when she inherited it, had it restored, and played it for the very first time. 

6 Here And Now 
Daz Barker 

Sarah first heard this song performed by the composer, Daz Barker, in around 1995, and loved it every since. Living in the world of here and now and realising this moment wears a crown are important ideas to sustain us in this busy and ever changing world. 

7 The Bedmaking 
Trad 

The Cuckoo’s Nest tune has many variations and the term is a euphemism for the charms of the female sex. The first tune is a Gloucestershire version. Intertwined around the verses is another Cuckoo’s Nest variation and the Coleg Y Brifysgol Abertawe from Welsh fiddler Pat Shaw. The words, whilst to a jaunty melody, really tell of the abuse of power by those who have it on those who do not. 

8 The Bellamont Sisters 
Sarah Matthews 

This is a traditional tale from the South Derbyshire region about how and when the Swarkestone Causeway Bridge came to be. Verses and melody set by Sarah with a little help from traditional Morris dance tune, The Princess Royal, in the middle. 

9 Brexit Biscuits / Calarem, Calarem Pas 
Mel Biggs / Trad 

So very saddened and disturbed by the political happenings of June 2016, Mel turned to eating biscuits to console her feelings. Features of the arrangement are from a dream Mel had where this tune was conceived. Jo was introduced to the 3/8 Bourree that follows by Anna Pack, who plays it with Dave Shepherd. A powerful track venting how we were feeling at rehearsal that day! 

10 The Hare 
Jo Freya 

A magical misty introduction created by Mel and Sarah, sets the scene for Jo’s song about the folk tale of the origins of Easter bunnies and painted eggs. The tune in the middle, written by Sarah, is a variation on the initial melody, only moving more like a hare, or Special Big Fast Rabbit (if you can’t think of the word!). 
Dust If You Must
Lyrics found on that well known traditional source
The Black And The Grey / The Green Ship
Jo found this first tune within the archive of wonderful material held at Halsway Manor and just fell in love with it. The second piece is one of those haunting and memorable tunes that reached all of us through session playing over the years and seemed to complement the set.
Sample not available
Rolanda’s Grandmother
This powerful song
Sample not available
Doffin Mistress
Sarah learnt this from the singing of Corinne Male. The song is based around the Doffers of the linen milling industry
Sample not available
Muna And Mimi / Steve Fisher’s Lament
A poignant pair of mazurkas here
Here And Now
Sarah first heard this song performed by the composer
The Bedmaking
The Cuckoo’s Nest tune has many variations and the term is a euphemism for the charms of the female sex. The first tune is a Gloucestershire version. Intertwined around the verses is another Cuckoo’s Nest variation and the Coleg Y Brifysgol Abertawe from Welsh fiddler Pat Shaw. The words
Sample not available
The Bellamont Sisters
This is a traditional tale from the South Derbyshire region about how and when the Swarkestone Causeway Bridge came to be. Verses and melody set by Sarah with a little help from traditional Morris dance tune
Sample not available
Brexit Biscuits / Calarem
Mel Biggs / Trad
Sample not available
The Hare
A magical misty introduction created by Mel and Sarah

Folking dot com

Dai Jeffries

Here & Now must be the first album to open with a song collected from that bastion of the tradition, Facebook�. 'Dust If You Must' is an anonymous poem set to music, and while there is nothing wrong with it, per se, I'd rather have it as an encore than an overture.

Moirai are Jo Freya, Melanie Biggs and Sarah Matthews, multi-instrumentalists, composers and vocalists, and this is their second album. They have settled into their groove now; mixing original compositions with traditional pieces and a title track borrowed from Daz Barker. The ratio of songs to instrumentals is higher this time with Jo and Sarah handling the majority of the vocals. Jo's history with Blowzabella and her penchant for reed instruments frequently give their music a continental feel and bourrees are often intertwined with songs. There's a pair of mazurkas, written by Jo and Melanie, and Jo's clarinet combined with Melanie's rhythmic melodeon playing give 'The Black And The Grey/The Green Ship' a European vibe although I suspect that both tunes are British.

The first of two traditional songs is 'Doffin Mistress', learned by Sarah from Corinne Male and not quite like any other version I've encountered. I suspect that it's closer to its Irish roots than some more popular variants. The second is 'The Bedmaking', combining tunes from Gloucestershire and Wales into a particularly fine version. Sarah's 'The Bellamont Sisters' is an old Derbyshire tale of the building of the 13th century Swarkestone bridge that probably should have been a song but wasn't and Jo's 'The Hare' is a rather odd song about the origins of Easter eggs and bunnies. Best of all is 'Rolanda's Grandmother'. There is a back-story that I've been unable to track down but essentially it's about the way the horrors of war never leave those who witness them.

Here & Now sees Moirai in a more serious mood that did Sideways and gives the impression of material gathered with the trio specifically in mind. There is some lovely playing from all three and everything just feels right.


Fatea

David Kidman

Literally here and now, we're treated to the second album from the self-styled "spinners of destiny", individually Jo Freya (saxes, clarinets, whistles), Melanie Biggs (melodeon, flute) and Sarah Matthews (violin, viola, tenor guitar). Instrumentally, they cover most bases (save plucked strings), while each member of the trio is also a talented singer in her own right. In its able mix of material, this new set can be considered a true companion to Moirai's debut excursion Sideways, which appeared almost exactly two years ago, since the appearance of which the trio has been gigging extensively and honing their distinctive and full-bodied combined sound. The trio's spicy palette of varied instrumental colours has a definite European flavour at times (inevitable, I guess, considering Jo's Blowzabella history), and the whole remains admirably well-balanced, achieving its appealing impact without needing to resort to the ubiquity of bog-standard strummy guitars for its rhythmic impetus; Moirai's special instrumental blend remains lively and zestful, and the effect is both upbeat and uplifting.

This time round, the proportion of songs to tune-sets is slightly greater, and relies less on traditional sources than Sideways (although there's often still a strong traditional influence in the writing). Jo provides two of her own compositions; The Hare is a mystical-folk explanation of the Special Big Fast Rabbit's contribution to the seasonal calendar, while Rolanda's Grandmother is dedicated to Fatima Maria Ibler, whose family's story it tells while presenting a powerful condemnation of the treatment of victims of war. Sarah's song The Bellamont Sisters recounts a traditional tale concerning the origin of South Derbyshire's Swarkestone Causeway Bridge, and incorporates a minor-key variant of the morris tune Princess Royal (the ladies display their speciality of interleaving tunes within songs to good effect on several tracks here). Sarah and Jo both had a hand in the disc's catchy opening song Dust If You Must, although the basic lyrics of its fun tongue-in-cheek homilies have their origin (we're told) in an anonymous Facebook posting. The sense of spirited fun extends to Moirai's deliciously quirky take on The Bedmaking, through the fabric of whose jaunty, cheekily syncopated rhythms the musicians ingeniously intertwine versions of The Cuckoo's Nest from Gloucestershire and Wales. The second traditional song is Doffin Mistress; this variant, learnt by Sarah from the singing of Corinne Male, gives the ladies an opportunity to show off their a cappella vocal skills. The album's title song is a fine cover of a beautiful Daz Barker composition voicing a simple but important philosophy.

I realise that I've concentrated thus far on the vocal tracks, but the disc's three instrumental medleys are no less enjoyable, attractively scored and played - Mel contributes two tunes, including the mildly riotous Brexit Biscuits (which by means of a neat passage of vocal diddling segues comfortably into a traditional 3/8 bour�e). An embodiment of the sense of pure joy - and the spirit of the dance - that Moirai bring to their music-making. And I love Mel's intriguing and thoughtful artwork too, streaming through the package.

The Living Tradition

John Oke Bartlett

Moirai is a band of three confident ladies who perform with aplomb and assurance, which of course is everything one would expect from their exemplary musical pedigree: Jo Freya � Blowzabella, Token Women, Fraser Sisters; Sarah Matthews � Cupola, Cupola:Ward; Melanie Biggs � Former All Blacked Up. The name Moirai comes from Greek mythology depicting the three goddesses of fate who assign every person their allotted destiny by weaving a personal thread of life. The choice of Moirai as a group name is interesting and, in my view, perfectly encapsulates and personifies the essence of the group.

There is something for everybody on this, their second CD, with a mix of musical tastes that combine in a unique style that is a joy to listen to. There is a distinctive quality to their overall sound which is quite inspiring. From a personal point of view, some of the subject material perhaps leans towards a feminine perspective, but there is nothing wrong in that. I particularly liked the instrumental mix and production values of Here & Now - saxophones, clarinets, whistles, flutes and the more usual violin, melodeon and guitar. The choice of instruments available to this talented trio, and perhaps more importantly what to do with them, have created truly creative, robust and innovative arrangements. Of course, their musical talent doesn't end here because there is also a fine vocal track laid over the whole with fine harmony work throughout.

On closer inspection, whilst the music is a fusion of styles, some British with the occasional nod towards a European sound, the actual material is firmly rooted in influences and tunes found deep within the tradition. This is a great accolade; to weave contemporary music and older material into a cohesive whole is a very fine skill and a great strength of the group's identity. A really fine example of great craftsmanship can be found in the �poignant pair of mazurkas�, Muna And Mimi / Steve Fisher's Lament, composed by Jo Freya and Mel Biggs respectively, which I am sure, if they aren't already, are destined to become mainstays of sessions the length and breadth of the land. There is a seamless quality to the various tunes that have been employed and twisted together into the construction of some of the tracks, which is quite awe-inspiring.

This is a fine CD, highly recommended � Moirai: 'Spinners of Destiny' indeed.

fRoots

Vic Smith

Having heard them in one of their first club performances, then their first album, Sideways, and now this second release, it is pleasing to be able to report the considerable progress and development made by Moirai.  Of course, Jo Freya always brings a lot of sax beefiness and musical insight and adventurousness to the bands she plays with � what a long journey it has been for her for those of us who first heard her playing recorder as a schoolgirl in the early incarnation of the Old Swan Band � but there is more than this in the evolution of this band.

Though every instrumental has its sturdiness, it does not mean that they cannot play with subtlety as a couple of poignant mazurkas show. Elsewhere on the tunes there are some thoughtfully different chord accompaniments and some well known tunes played in different modal settings.

For all that, it is the songs and their treatments which impress most. Moirai's earlier repertoire included some rather whimsical pieces but here all the songs show their strength in different ways. Jo contributes two that she has written, and a song like The Bellamont Sisters by Sarah Matthews could only be written by someone who has a deep understanding of traditional song and ballads.

The real triumph of the album is the way they approach The Bedmaking, probably the best of the recordings of this lively song. The way they intersperse the words and tunes throughout with various versions of The Cuckoo's Nest, their arrangements, harmonies, accompaniments could be regarded as prime examples of how to be creative with respect to the tradition.

There is not a weak track on the album.