FOLK SESSION – Howard Arms, Brampton

In defiance of a record heatwave, we met in the Howard Arms on 19th July to make music and merriment on the theme of ‘relatives’. 

To start with instrumental music, Sally Hardaker on recorder gave us Uncle Bernard’s Polka, Uncle Jim’s Barn Dance, and Twin Sisters, while Adrian on melodeon played Father’s Polka and Haste to the Wedding (because ‘a wedding is probably the biggest gathering of relatives’).

Although there was plenty of celebration of family, some songs were both dark and sad: a mother grieving over her son damaged by war (My Son John – Gary); successive generations struggling through conflicts from the Boer War to Vietnam (Old Man’s Song – Sally Jones); the threat to our children posed by nuclear war (Crow on the Cradle – Adrian); the bitter family splits that followed the 1984 miners’ strike (These Coal Town Days – Geoff); and perhaps darkest of all, Among the Gorse (Gerda).

Before you assume that the whole evening was suicidally depressing, we also sang along cheerfully to Dance to thy Daddy (Polly) and the tall tales of My Grandfather’s Clock (Geoff); Granny’s Old Arm Chair (Phil); and Grandma’s Feather Bed (Kathleen and Geoff).  We enjoyed David’s true story of The Three Aunties (being introduced to his future in-laws) and the Stanley Holloway monologue The Runcorn Ferry (Richard) about the further adventures of the Ramsbottom family.  Sam celebrated the link between the generations in Old Land (the Road to Aberdeen) and in his own song The Flame. 

Some songs centred on relatives-by-marriage: the heroine of Eighteen Years Old (Gerda) demands that her mother find her a husband; the hero of Little Bridget Flynn (Kathleen) intends to marry the girl he likes in spite of his parents’ plans for his future; the father in Richard’s song simply asks Treat me daughter decent; the narrator of Robin Tamson’s Pet (Katy) ends up with a father-in-law and stepfather in the same person.

And then there are the more – ahem – irregular forms of family life.  Hordes of unexpected half-siblings turning up to Dad’s Funeral (Phil); the extremely tangled parentage revealed in Johnny be Fair (Sally Jones); the unfortunate maidservant and her baby in The Bedmaking (Gary)Knowing folk music, it’s surprising we didn’t have more along these lines!

We next meet on Tuesday 16th August at 8pm in the Howard Arms, Brampton.  The theme will be ‘metal’ (gold, silver, lead, iron, steel, brass…or maybe things made out of metal? People who work with metal?)  ALL WELCOME!