Monday, 27 December 2010

new video

Asleep at the guitar - photo courtesy of Ian Gilchrist
Well, Christmas is over and 2010 is nearly done. Just time to upload a video of a song from our recent concert. The song is 'Ritual' which was on our last album. The live version is a bit faster than the album version and has more menace to it. Don't be frightened!
Regards - John

Friday, 24 December 2010

photo courtesy of Ian Gilchrist

Well, the Winter Solstice has past and it's the evening of Christmas Eve and all is quiet and there is just time to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year - let's hope it is better than the 'Old' Year.

Rehearsals start in a couple of week's time in preparation for our concert in Birling, near Maidstone in Kent, in March. The two traditional songs I sent demo recordings of to the others seem to have met with approval so we might well try and work them up for the concert.

In between rehearsals we will be recording the final tracks for the new CD and hope to be starting mixing it during February.

So, happy wassailing to one and all and an enjoyable Plough Monday.

Regards - John

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A shot from the St. George's concert courtesy of Ian Gilchrist

Steady progress is being made on the recording of the new album. I must try and remember where the files are on the computer. You knew where you were with several ten inch square boxes of half inch magnetic tape - or at least the cupboard where they were!

I've just finished putting together a rough edit of the recent concert footage so that the band can see what was going on with all the amazing lighting around us. Thanks again to '10 out of 10' for organising all that. The next stage will be to choose a few of the songs to go on a DVD which will eventually be available for sale. In the meantime I will try and get a song up on the blog for people to listen to.

A few weeks ago, with Alice and Bruce's help, Sue and I hosted a house concert for Susan Enan, an English singer-songwriter now based in the USA, and currently touring the UK following Europe, Canada and USA . It was a great success and it made me think it would be great to be able to an acoustic concert ourselves. It would certainly save on the hours of setting up and taking down that goes with a full PA performance. Mind you there are six of us which will start to fill up your front room before you add in 20-25 audience members. So if you have a large lounge and you would like us to play an intimate concert for you ........

I've also found a couple more traditional songs that might work well for the band. I've prepared a demo of each and I will be sending them to the others for consideration in due course.

Regards - John

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

On stage at the St George's concert - a still from our video footage

Well, the St George's concert is over now and went very well by all accounts. The lighting was amazing and our thanks go to all at '10 out of 10' for providing it. Eventually the concert will be available on DVD. In the meantime we are concentrating on completing the new album.

A date for our first concert in 2011 has been confirmed for March 19th and will be at Birling in Kent. More details will be available in the new year.

Regards - John

Thursday, 7 October 2010

What's that down there? - photo courtesy of Ian Gilchrist

Hi - Less than a fortnight now until our concert at St Georges on Saturday 16th October. One more rehearsal to go. The set list has been finalised and I am really looking forward to playing there again. This will be our fifth time. I hope you can come along.

Unfortunately the planned launch of the new CD has been delayed because of the continuing building work at the Salomonjay Studios and recording has been put on hold. Hopefully things will improve in the near future and we are hopeful of having the CD completed early in the new year. I will keep you posted on progress.

Regards - John

Sunday, 25 July 2010

an illustration from the demo video of 'A 1000 Ships'

In the last blog I mentioned that the song about Helen of Troy didn't end up quite like I had intended. Well I did a series of illustrations to go with it when I read the lyrics as a poem for an informal do at Christmas. The drawing above is the characters taking their final bow at the end of the piece. I have animated it against the demo I did of the song and there will be a clip in the 'Work in Progress' section on the web site in due course. I'll probably put the full thing up on the site once we have recorded it for the album with Dave on vocals.

In the same lighter vein as 'A 1000 Ships' I have now finished another song about the exploits of one 'Lucy Anna Martin' and her exploits when kidnapped for ransom by pirates. It has sixteen verses at the moment, so is a bit of a epic piece, lasting some seven minutes. We haven't tried it in rehearsal yet so I don't know how it will change in the transfer from demo to band. Again there will bes a sample in the 'Work in Progress' section.

And Bruce has composed an instrumental piece called 'Warp and Weft' - because the various instrumental lines weave in and out. He composed it on his new iPad whilst on holiday. I'm not sure we'll do it live as Bruce doesn't have that many hands but it will be on the album.

Regards - John

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Live at Hunton Village Hall - a gig in aid of the charity gamBLE

Thank you to everyone who came along to the gig at Hunton Village Hall last weekend. It was a great success and I understand the evening raised enough money to pay for another teacher for a year.

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and everything went very well apart from the initial scare when Dave manged to fall off stage before a note had been played. Luckily he wasn't hurt and was able to continue. Take more water with it next time, Dave!

Now attention transfers to recording songs for the new CD which we intend will be ready for sale at our next planned gig at St George's on 16th October.

Regards - John

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Who says we never look happy? - photo courtesy of Sue Richards

Regular rehearsals now, preparing for our return concert at Hunton Village Hall on May 8th. We are trying out some new material to add to some old favourites for the concert. Once the concert is over we will be starting recording the new songs for the new CD which we intend to have ready for October to coincide with our concert at St George's on the 16th. No pressure!

Once a CD is finished I always think I will never be able to write anything new ever again and that I've used up every piece of inspiration. Then when I'm least expecting it, an idea pops up and there's a germ of a new song that nags away until I have some words and music more or less sorted out. I find the next stage is to record a demo of the song to see how it hangs together. That gets chopped and rearranged to get the overall structure sounding right- verses, chorus, fills etc. The words then get changed once I try and sing them and find out that they don't scan properly or there's nowhere to take a breath! When the demo is reasonably settled it gets sent to the rest of the band and hopefully to rehearsal where it gets refined again in performance.

Usually the music comes first and then the hard work, for me, is writing the words. So it is a surprise to me that I've just finished a new song that, at the moment, runs to sixteen verses - usually I have trouble getting two or three verses together. The rest of the band haven't heard it yet so a lot of it may end up on the cutting room floor before it gets to the CD.

Regards - John

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Asleep at my post - caught in mid dream - photo courtesy of Sue Richards

Our first full rehearsal of 2010 coming up next weekend and I am trying to get new things together to work on. We had a 'vocals only' rehearsal a week or so ago and tried out a few new things. When I say 'new' I mean new to the current line up - two of the pieces were done at various times in the band's dim and distant past. The songs I am thinking about are the Agincourt Carol and the Swinton May Song. They are both traditional songs so some might argue that 'new' is a totally the wrong word to use - but you know what I mean. We did the Agincourt Carol back in the 70s as an unaccompanied piece. I picked it up from the Young Tradition 'Galleries' album, although they do it with an early music ensemble behind them. It's got tricky harmonies with staggered timings so it's a challenge and we'll see how it develops. The May Song is a simpler song altogether and was sung by carollers going round the village to various houses in the hope of food, drink and/or money. It's from the singing of the Watersons.

I've needed a rest from writing so I've looked afresh at traditional songs for 'new' material for the band. Another song I am looking at introducing to rehearsal is 'The Blacksmith'. There are various recorded versions of this and several tunes, the most common being the one adapted and used for 'He who would valiant be'. The recording I like the best is by Shirley and Dolly Collins on their 'Anthems in Eden' album. The trouble is that the backing -Dolly playing portative organ - is so distinctive and woven across the melody that using the tune Shirly sings I would feel that one would be obliged to repectfully copy the intricate backing. I therefore decided to use my own tune to avoid such difficult decisions. It is based on a harmony I was singing to 'He who would valiant be' whilst walking round the house. It's sad isn't it? I really must get out more......

Regards - John

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Alice on the bowed psaltery at rehearsal - picture courtesy of Sue Richards

A belated happy New Year to everyone. My first blog of 2010. I must start with an apology to all those who have been trying to email us or order things through the website. Apparently our webhosters have screwed things up which resulted in nothing getting through to us at all. Luckily Bob in California alerted me and I am hoping that things are sorted out very shortly.

Moving on to gig news - we can confirm that our annual concert at St. George's will take place on Saturday 16th October 2010. It is my intention that we will have a new CD available by then as well. We are also returning to Hunton in Kent for another concert, hopefully in May, but we have yet to have the date confirmed. As soon as we know I'll post it up on the blog.

We have started rehearsals again after the bad weather and will be working hard on the new material over the coming months and should be starting recording around Easter time.

Bye for now.
Regards - John