The sun is setting here over the Calder Valley as I sup a pre-prandial chez the Kirkpatricks – a welcome restful evening following a travel day, and a refreshing hiatus during this month’s Faustus tour. Although the last two days have not been at all onerous, indeed, far from it. This morning I woke up in Peel on the Isle of Man to the sound of seagulls and a breakfast of locally smoked Manx kippers, and a slightly muggy head following a great gig in the Centenary Centre and after-show pub session featuring a heady combination of Manx music and single malts. Definitely the high point of the tour so far, which is saying something as all of the gigs have been excellent (and my credit card reader has been a hit with both our audiences and our bank account).
Prior to this Faustus stint, Benji and I worked with a couple of Hampshire primary schools, writing songs about the celebrated boy-soldier Lempriere, who was killed during the Crimean War. The culmination of the project was a moving concert presentation of the songs in front of Lempriere’s memorial in St Mary’s, Newton Valence.
February was something of a military-themed month, as in preparation for this month’s Galipolli centenary I researched and presented a collection of songs from the First World War for the second leg of Superact’s Last Post project. The highlight of the anthology is ‘Canakkale Turkusu‘, a Turkish folk song about Galipolli which is known and sung throughout Turkey today, which I recorded withCigdem Aslan and Tahir Palali in the studio, and in Harrow School Speech Room under the portrait of Winston Churchill, the man responsible for the Dardanelles Campaign.
In the midst of my research, I spent a week with Belshazzar’s Feast in hospitals and elderly care settings in Bristol, and managed a trip to Celtic Connections in Glasgow for two performances ofMade in the Great War at the celebrated Tron Theatre. In February I was booked by the English Folk Dance and Song Society, alongside Emily Portman and James Fagan, for two anti-Valentine’s concerts of traditional songs and tunes, titled Broken Hearted Ballads or Love Gone Wrong. By way of contrast, last month I made an unusual guest appearance, following a session recording, withEnter Shikari at the Roundhouse – possibly the first use of cor anglais in post-hardcore electronic punk?
But for the time being, it’s back to the day job with Faustus, finishing with a home gig at The Lightsin Andover. Thence to tutor with the National Youth Folklore Troupe of England, and the Aldeburgh Young Musicians in the Maltings at Snape, for the duration of the Easter ‘holidays’; and a ten day tour bus stint with Bellowhead. So tonight, best to enjoy the beautiful sunset, with the aid of a further prandial or two…