Mudcat Café message #3946311 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3946311
Posted By: Vic Smith
26-Aug-18 - 07:30 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
Pseudonymous asked:-
On 'melody', I am wondering whether you can have a song - as opposed to a recitation, say, without it?
September 1970.
2 Yeaman Street, Rattray, Blairgowrie
The home of Belle & Alex Stewart, the parents in the famed family, The Stewarts of Blair.
It was a house ceilidh with virtually everyone there high status Scots traveller performers. Belle, Alex their daughters Sheila and Cathie, Davie Stewart, Big Willie McPhee, Shug & Bella Higgins and others who sang and played really well but were not so well known - well I didn't know who they were anyway. We were only invited because we has already organised a couple of tours for them in England and were in Blairgowrie for the festival which had finished the day before. Tina and I sat on the floor and kept very quiet; we didn't want to sem like intruders.
There was a very old lady sitting by the fire. Cathie seemed to be looking after her and later I heard that she had married into this woman's family.
Belle approached this woman and said, "Whit aboot you, ma dear? Ye've got some fine sang. Will ye no gie us ane o' thon?
"Ach, Belle. Ah'm that auld Ah canna sing ony mair.... bit Ah'll say yin... jist as a poetry."
She then recited in a slow stately voice a beautiful and dramatic rendition of a very full version of Lord Lovell - the sort of performanance that you would never forget. When we came back a few days later to see Belle and Alex, we found out that her name was Charlotte Higgins. Subsequently, we found that she had been recorded by Isabel Sutherland in 1954 in some of the first made for the School of Scottish Studies at the U. of Edinburgh. I learned some of Charlotte's songs from Isabel and her Lord Bateman and Susan Pirate, I think of as the finest version of that ballad and it is the one that I sing.
I often think of that night and the wonderful music we heard. Actually, I had my little cassette tape recorder with me but I had enough sense to realise that it would have been inappropriate to get it out.
I also remember how we were teased and tested by them. We had never met Micky McGregor, Sheila's husband before that and he came to sit with us on the floor and told us that he knew the sort of songs that we liked and were after and he sang "South of the border, down Mexico way.... " keeping a close eye on us for our reaction, but I never flinched. When he finished, I told him it was great, that Frank Sinatra was one of my mother's favourite singers and that she was always playing that record.
Micky said.l " Well, I canna' fool you" and then sung a stunning version of The False Knight on the Road which I remember as being similar to the one collected from Bella Higgins.
At another point in the evening, Big Willie came and sat by us and he had picked up Davie Stewart's melodeon. He prentended to try and play it and said to Tina, "Ah canna' get a note out of this thing." Somewhat embarrassed Tina pointed out that he was holding it upside down. "Och! It's the ither way up." He turned it round and tried pressing the buttons again. "It still doesna' work!" Tina pointed out the clasp that held the bellows closed. "Oh! There's a wee strappie at the top!" He undid that. "It srill...." Tina leaned over and undid the strap at the bottom. "Anither yin..."
He then drew out the bellows and played a stunning version of Lady Elspeth Campbell Halfway through playing, he turned to Tina with a huge smile on his face and said, "Ah can play it fine now!"