Broceliande’s Sir Christmas

cover art for Sir ChristmasWell, it’s getting near that time of year again, so it is inevitable that I should have a seasonal album to review. This is the first in a set of four volumes of songs of the season from Broceliande, but I understand they have not yet completed the project. Christmas time conjures up lots of different feelings and emotions for people depending on their situations and where the live. For me, a Christian living in the Northern Hemisphere, it is a time of the year pervaded with a feeling of good will to all men and which brightens up your spirits, in an otherwise cold and dreary winter. Broceliande are four people from California, (where Christmas can be a little bit warmer) but they have chosen songs, carols and tunes from England, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany and America.

Broceliande are Margaret Davies (vocals, Celtic harp, flute, and recorders), Kris Yenney (vocals, and cello), Karl Franzen (vocals, guitar, octave mandolin, melodeon and whistles), and Kristoph Klover (vocals, guitar, octave mandolin, oboe, and English horn). If, after listening to the album, you thought the band has been classically trained, you would be one half right. The tempo, playing and singing are absolutely note perfect. In fact for some of the folk music buffs it might be just a little clinical, but it was okay by me, and it is pleasant enough. It was, however, just a little strange to hear the song ‘Gloucester Wassail’ sung in a mid-Atlantic accent instead of a Gloucestershire dialect. A similar comment might be directed to the tune ‘Abbots Bromley Horn Dance’ as this is the tune that is played as team of Morris Dancers re-enact the old custom of holding reindeer antlers above their heads, to bring in the luck, as they dance through the village.

The songs include ‘Gaudete’, which was made famous by Steeleye Span, but in this version Broceliande have added instruments to good effect. Other songs included are the medieval Spanish ‘Yo Me Soy La Modenica’, the English ‘Shoot The Wren’ (aka Hunt the Wren), ‘The Boars Head Carol’, ‘Away in a Manger’, ‘The Holly and the Ivy’, and the French ‘Entre Le Boeuf/Noel Nouvelet and ‘Un Flambeau, Jeanette Isabelle’, two noels. Even if, like me, you don’t speak French, the tunes are good and the music is pleasant to listen to. The gem on the album for me is the Spanish Cantiga ‘Yo Me Soy La Modenica’. This is cleverly paired with the tune ‘Tres Hermanicas Eran’. The album takes its title from a song I have not heard before: ‘Sir Christmas’, a 15th Century English song attributed to Richard Smart, vicar of the village of Plymtree in Devon.

As a folkie I was just a little disappointed that Broceliande used the church tune for the carol ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ instead of the one usually associated with traditional folk singers. But hey, nothing in life is perfect, so I will forgive them!

If you are looking for something to give to your nearest and dearest for Christmas, this might be the ideal present.

(Flowinglass Music, 2001)

Peter Massey

Born in 1945, Peter Massey, Senior Writer, is now living in the city of Chester, England with his wife Sandra. Now medically retired he worked for 35 years in the shoe business. He has been a semi-professional musician and singer performing mainly traditional / contemporary folk songs for over 38 years as part of the duo (and sometimes trio) 'The Marrowbones'. His musical interest started at the age of 14 with Rock 'n' Roll and by the time his seventeenth birthday came along he was already playing rock 'n' roll and R&B in and around the local dance venues and clubs such as the Cavern in Liverpool. Thankfully he was saved from the evils of rock 'n' roll when he discovered real music and folk clubs. His collection of recordings houses over 3500 folk songs alone. Other interests and hobbies include Computers and Amateur Radio (he has a class A G4 call sign) His latest project is 'The Little Room Studio' dedicated to making 'live' recordings of folk artists and producing their work on to CD using a portable digital recording studio. To date he has written and composed over 12 folk songs and co-wrote with Gordon Morris another 10 that have been recorded on CD. The song writing has continued and they have another 10 songs in the pipeline not yet recorded to CD. Favourite music / bands at the moment are Steeleye Span, The Battlefield Band, Little Johnny England and Fairport Convention, (in that order), and much admires the work of Martin Carthy, Martin Simpson, Roy Bailey, Vin Garbutt, and Bob Fox, to name but a few! You can visit the crummy Web site here and read about The Marrowbones and how to get your free songbook.

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