Isca Morris danced
Caseg Eira, the Nantgarw Morris dance from Tâf Vale, as a tribute to
at Gwent Crematorium, Cwmbran. Les, who was secretary and webmaster of
Isca Morris, passed away suddenly on Saturday, November 9, just as he
and his widow, Carole, were about to attend the Tredegar House Folk
Festival benefit event at Usk Community Hall. Morris and Welsh dance
teams paid their respects; among the teams were Cwmni Gwerin Pont-y-Pwl,
where Carole danced, Cardiff Morris, Plymouth, The Widders from
Chepstow, Gwerinwyr Gwent and Bristol.
Les and Carole
lived at Henllys, Cwmbran. The couple met at the folk dance club at
Reading University, and later moved to South-East Wales; Les was a
founder member of Gwerinwyr Gwent, but he left the Welsh dance team to
form the Isca Morrismen, who stood out by wearing their historical
green woollen ‘Monmouth Caps’. Isca was the Roman name for the
gigantic fort of Caerleon, and a popular date in the Isca diary was
May Day, when the men got up before dawn to dance the sun up at the
open-air Caerleon Roman amphitheatre; quaffing an early-morning beer
was just one of the perks.
Although Les had
left Gwerinwyr Gwent to form Isca, the two teams danced out at pubs at
Isca’s summer tours in the spectacular Wye Valley. Isca joined in
Gwerinwyr Gwent’s tours to Belgium; they even danced under the English
Channel (on a Channel Tunnel train) and at the gigantic Zolder coal
mine, now closed.
Les was fond of
real ale; he was a member of CAMRA and the Real Ale Club at the Mount
Pleasant in Old Cwmbran, the pub where his wake was held.
Dr Sarah Morgan,
composer, arranger and singer with numerous harmony outfits such as
Craig; Morgan; Robson, Bread And Roses and Curate’s Egg, passed away
on Sunday September 15, 2013 of inoperable cancer. Sarah, who also
sang with her ex-husband Don and with Cornish resident, musician and
storyteller Mike O’Connor, was a huge influence on the English folk
music scene and, according to Chippenham Folk Festival organisers and
friends Bob and Gill Berry, “a great holiday companion and a lovely
In the Autumn of
2003, Moira Craig, Sarah Morgan and Carolyn Robson decided to combine
their talents as an a capella harmony trio. They captivated audiences
in the UK and America, earning accolades such as: "A joy to the ear"
and "A harmony master-class". Their debut CD, Peppers and Tomatoes,
was hailed as "a gem of an album" by former BBC Midlands Radio
presenter Mick Peat.
Robson brought a new dimension to the art of a capella singing,
weaving beguiling harmonies around material from the British tradition
and beyond. Timeless songs of love and longing rubbed shoulders with
compelling contemporary pieces, and passionate, dramatic ballads took
their place alongside lilting Shetland melodies or stirring hymns from
the Ozark mountains.
Sarah had more than
30 years’ experience as a performer of folk music. Her CV included
working with American singer Mary Eagle, with Bread and Roses and with
Hen Party, as well as with Mick Ryan and others in Fieldwork's
production of A Tolpuddle Man and A Day's Work. As a
soloist, Sarah sang with warmth and conviction, and developed a
enviable repertoire of traditional and more recent songs. She had a
particular interest in songs from her adopted county of Hampshire, and
her ‘Home Lads Home’ - a Cicely Fox Smith poem set to her own tune -
has become a classic. She became involved with the Community Choirs
movement and the 2006 Gardiner Centenary Concerts. She published a
number of song books with arrangements both for solo voice and in
four-part harmony, some of the latter used by the choirs – and she
recently finished her doctorate. She was still playing and singing
only a day before she passed away.
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Derek (The Amazing Mr.) Smith
passed away suddenly on Sunday, December 8, 2013. His friend Joe Stead
paid tribute: The world has lost a very funny man; some of us have
lost a very good and sincere friend. In the meantime, my condolences
go to his daughter Rosie and to his good friend Annette. I was his
best man when he married Viva. I'm simply devastated.”
Derek was described as Monty Python's
answer to John Williams. His combination of mad inventions and
brilliant acoustic guitar playing made him one of the funniest and
most original entertainers around. The cardboard tube double bass, the
musical shoelaces, the nutcracker played on the tu-tu xylophone, the
blue danube on the condom harp and his three-minute rendition of
Riverdance had to be seen to be believed.
Time Out magazine referred to him as a
"Delightfully eccentric comic musician", and other praiseworthy
reviews included one from Manchester: “Mr Smith was absolutely
mesmerising to watch and side-splittingly funny. He could make music
from anything, including contraceptives, and the duelling banjos was a
great idea. Mr Smith quite rightly got applause after applause, and
two well-deserved encores.”
As well as being on the comedy circuit
for at least 10 years, he made people laugh in every conceivable type
of venue in the UK, performed on local and national TV and toured the
USA five times (also Holland , Germany, Norway and Jordan). Although
his act was very visual, he was asked to play some of his bizarre
instruments on Ned Sherrin's Loose Ends.
Derek married Viva Smith, vocalist
with the female trio Dangerous Curves. However, Viva contracted
cancer, and she passed away in April, 2009.
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mandolinist and old-time fiddler
Kenny Hall should have been
celebrating his ninetieth birthday, but passed away on September 18,
2013. Kenny was born in San Jose, California, and later lived in
Fresno. A unique and individual musician who played in festivals and
concerts all over America with his band, Kenny had a longstanding gig
at the Santa Fe Basque restaurant in Fresno, every Wednesday evening.
Last October, The Fresno Folklore Society organised The Kenny Hall
Festival, a benefit to raise funds to support the film Circle of
Friends: The Life and Music of Kenny Hall, by documentary
filmmaker Chris Simon. Kenny’s widow Marta used to play bodhran in the
band with him.
The Fresno folk
community was still reeling with the news of the passing of folk
singer Rita Weill
Byxbe, who died in September. Rita married Michael
Byxbe, and she made three albums. Her autoharp could be heard on the
1973 Frankie Armstrong Bay Records album Out Of Love, Hope And
Suffering, which Rita co-produced.
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Austin John Marshall,
the father of folk-rock whose entrepreneurial skills developed The
Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, The
Albions and so many more in the sixties and early seventies, died on
November 3, 2013. It was Marshall who, in 1964, hatched the audacious
concept of teaming his wife, traditional folk singer Shirley Collins,
with guitarist Davy Graham, a folk player whose own refusal to follow
traditional lines had already seen him combine with bluesman Aleis
Korner for the 3/4 AD EP. Marshall also produced Shirley and
sister Dolly’s still epochal Anthems in Eden, and he nurtured
and delivered Steve Ashley’s seminal Stroll On.
His label Streetsong was responsible
for one of the most remarkable of all Bert Jansch recordings, 1978’s
The Black Birds of Brittany. In the world of fostering folk’s
emergence into the rock mainstream, only Joe Boyd can be said to rival
Marshall’s impact. He knew unique talent when he heard it, and he
refused to work with anything else.
Austin John Marshall was born in
Leicester on 30 March, 1937. A talented graphic designer, he was
working for Vogue when he and Shirley met. Her career was already
underway, buoyed by her travels around the US with Alan Lomax, and
flowering with the Heroes in Love EP, recorded for Topic in
1963; they met when Marshall designed the front cover for a
compilation she was appearing on, Rocket On.
Marshall conceived Folk Routes, New
Roots, the album Shirley and Davy Graham recorded together, and
which is now widely regarded as one of the very foundations of all
that was to follow. The alchemical blending of musical disciplines -
Shirley’s folk purity, Davy’s jazz leanings - into a brew so utterly
unlike any other that the future could not help but pour through the
doors it flung open.
Within three years, 1967-1970, he
oversaw the crystalline beauty of Shirley’s Banks of Sweet
Primroses album, Anthems in Eden and its follow-up Love,
Death And The Lady for Shirley and sister Dolly Collins; plus a
1969 album by The Wooden O, an early music group comprising recorders,
harp, mandolin and double bass. A Handeful Of Pleasant Delites
maintained Marshall’s fascination with blending traditional and jazz
musical disciplines, baffling period critics and still astounding
Marshall had never made a movie in his
life – but he also made films, about Jimi Hendrix and the Incredible
String Band. The Incredibles’ Be Glad, For The Song Has No Ending
is a must-see for anybody intrigued by that band’s so subtle rending
of the rock-folk fabric of the pre-Liege and Lief late sixties.
– and a poster that Marshall designed for an Incredibles gig, with
Shirley supporting, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall is now in the V&A
Marshall and Shirley divorced in the
early 1970s, and his attention turned now to the Canterbury folk band
Spirogyra and Steve Ashley, the brilliant young singer-songwriter who
Shirley introduced him to in the late 1960s. Their first stab at
stardom, a single for Polydor in 1969, bombed, and Stroll On,
recorded with the cream of the folk-rock scene, including the original
Albion Country Band line-up that Steve had fronted through the summer
of 1971, searched four years for a label before it was acclaimed as a
masterpiece. Marshall emigrated to Ireland in 1975 and wrote the
brilliant ballad-opera, The Great Smudge. He reunited with
Shirley and Steve, both of whom sang on the recording project; other
players included Barry Dransfield, Dave Pegg, Robert Kirby, Lol
Coxhill (the avant-garde saxophonist who had worked with Shirley
earlier in the decade and who unfortunately died in 2012) and more.
But the music
industry grew tired of concept albums, many of which had crashed.
Marshall concluded that if The Great Smudge was ever released,
it would be under his own direction. He launched the Streetsong record
label; but just one single appeared, Bert Jansch’s ‘The Black Birds of
Brittany’, coupled with Shirley’s stunning version of Coleridge’s
‘Ballad of the Ancient Mariner’. Streetsong breathed its last, and
The Great Smudge lay fallow alongside it. Marshall moved to the US
in early 1981, living in New York.
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musician, poet and writer
Tomás Ó Canainn passed away
on September 15 at The Mercy Hospital in Cork City. He was 82. The
Derry-born uilleann piper was best known as a founder member of Na
Filí, when, together with fiddler Matt Cranitch and whistle player Tom
Barry, he brought Irish traditional music to an international audience
in the 1970s.
Na Filí (The Poets)
recorded three albums for Outlet: Farewell To Connacht (1971),
Three (1972) and A Kindly Welcome (1974). Tomás recorded
two albums as a solo artist: With Pipe And Song (1980) and
The Pennyburn Piper Presents: Uilleann Pipes (1998).
born in Pennyburn, Northern
Ireland, on the outskirts of
Derry. He went to Liverpool University, where he
graduated in Engineering, becoming a PhD; he later moved to Cork,
where he became Dean of Engineering at Cork
University (where he studied for a music degree
under Seán Ó Riada.) He also took over the Irish music lectures at the
College after Seán’s death in 1971, and taught music at the Cork
School of Music. Tomás’s daughters also play violin, viola and ’cello,
and all three appear with him on his last solo release.
He was the
author of a number of books on traditional music and poetry, as well
as writing two novels and Sean Ó Riada's biography. Tomas lived in
Glanmire in County Cork, where the funeral was held. He is survived by
his widow, Helen, and daughters Nuala, Úna and Niamh.
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– “Ralphie” to his fellow Mudcat folk forum members – passed away on
January 3, 2013, only the day after being hospitalised by a fall which
fractured his pelvis and resulted in his organs failing.
musicians paid tribute to the brilliant BBC recording engineer and
skilful McCann duet concertina player they had worked with; Tom and
Barbara Brown called him: “The best accompanist on the scene. A master
technician. A brilliantly creative musician. A delight to have worked
with. A good friend to have known. How you will be missed - but so
Mick Ryan, who teamed up with Ralph and James Patterson (formerly the
duo Silas) to form the “supergroup” Crows, said: “Ralph will be very
much missed by very many people. He was a real artist as a musician.
It was an honour to work with him. Much more importantly, he was a
really nice, good-hearted, bloke. In the end, that is what really
matters.” Journalist and Sharps folk club organiser Sheila Miller
said: “I had been friends with Ralph for 40 years or slightly more,
through all the various bands and groups, and always thought him a
kind and gentle person, as well as a superb musician. He leaves a big
gap in our musical scene.” FolkWales Online Magazine editor Mick Tems
remembered how Ralph had cleaned up and “de-scratched” 15 of
traditional singer Phil Tanner tracks for John Howson’s Veteran
Records for a CD commemorating the Gower Nightingale’s death in 1950,
restoring and revitalising them to their original quality.
concertina for a number of English bands, as well as accompanying solo
singers. There’s a
video on youtube of Ralphie accompanying Irene Shettle at
Godalming Folk Club.
“Sad to think that we will never perform that one together again - in
fact, that song was the first one that he heard me singing, and that
gave Ralphie the idea to turn my talk, then in preparation, on the
life of Lucy Broadwood into a show with accompaniment. It was a
privilege and a joy to work with him. We were talking more than once
in 2012 and 2013 about making a recording of the songs as a record of
what we had done; sadly that will now never happen.”
Irene shot a
of Ralphie playing in the Housewives’ Choice band. Housewives’ Choice
then consisted of Ralphie (duet concertina), Ed Rennie (melodeon),
Trefor Bennett and Alan Rawlinson (brass), Pierce Butler (percussion)
and Tim Normanton (banjo).
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San Francisco folk
singer and activist
Faith Petric has died peacefully at the age of 98.
Faith hosted jam sessions for the San Francisco Folk Song Club every
fortnight, and the sessions went late into the night – but her name
spread beyond California, to America and the whole world.
Music and activism
shaped her life. In the 1930s, as the Depression dragged on and the
civil war in Spain raged, she became a left-winger. She added anti-war
and union songs to her vast music bank, and she learned to play the
She retired at 55
from a job at the former State Department of Rehabilitation and she
became a full-time folk musician, playing at festivals, clubs and
protests around the world. She travelled through Wales and England
with another Folk Club entourage, the Frisco Fire Band – early
Llantrisant Folk Club members will recall how Faith whipped up such a
happy storm on one of her gigs there. She was a fixture at folk
gatherings, such as the Old Songs Festival and the Hudson River
Revival. In 1998 and 2001, she toured Australia.
She said: "All of
your life, someone dictates what you have to do - then you retire, and
at last you can do what you want to do."
She marched for
civil rights in Selma, Alabama. She was the first one to stand up for
the openly gay couple who moved into her neighbourhood. She co-founded
the Freedom Song Network and enlivened hundreds of protests with
hopeful songs about peace and justice.
In 1948, Dave
Rothkop founded the San Francisco Folk Club, "the legitimate child of
Hiroshima and the Cold War," according to the group's literature.
Faith began running the club in 1962, and before long, the Friday
meetings had migrated to her Clayton Street home. The club has never
advertised or so much as listed itself in the phone directory – but on
a Friday night years ago, a famous guest singer hailed a cab with his
guitar and directed the driver to Haight-Ashbury. "Going to Faith's?"
the cabbie asked.
With a folk revival
stirring, several dozen people and half as many guitars materialised
on a busy night. Sixty showed up for Faith's birthday celebration; but
it pales in comparison to the old days, when as many as 100 folkniks
regularly would crowd into five sweaty rooms, playing bluegrass in
one, swing in another, country-western music somewhere else. "There'd
be so many people in the living room, you couldn't sit down," Faith
At one such meeting
in 1972, Faith first decided to become a performer. In her kitchen
late one night, five folk clubbers dreamed up the Portable Folk Music
Festival. They bought an old school bus, and 15 people and one dog set
out to tour the country. They returned some months later with 18
people and two dogs. "I got bit by the bug. I loved it," Faith said.
"From then on, I became a travelling folkie."
In the busy summer
of 2013, a year before her death, Faith played at the Oregon Country
Fair. She travelled to Puget Sound for a guitar workshop. She sang at
an anti-nuclear protest on the anniversary of Hiroshima. As she had
for 20 years, she toured with the Chautauqua Group, which brings a
variety show to small towns that have little live theatre. Cardiff
resident Frankie Armstrong was flying to San Francisco to sing at a
Faith Petric Memorial memorial concert.
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singer and folk musician
Bob Webb died peacefully at home in Phippsburg, Maine
on December 25, 2013 from complications of hereditary hemochromatosis.
Born in Santa Monica, California in 1947, Robert Lloyd Webb grew up in
Culver City, California. He attended Culver City schools and the
University of Oregon, and graduated from California State University
with a degree in English.
Bob had a life-long
love of history and research and was fascinated by a wide variety of
topics, from the geology of California to automobiles and aircraft,
antique firearms, sailing ships, the history of the Martin guitar and
the writings of Jack Kerouac. Childhood explorations around the Los
Angeles waterfront with his uncle, Ted Brown, gave him glimpses of
vanishing times and a desire to preserve and document those times.
Maritime history brought him to the East Coast of America, first as
librarian and educator at the Kendall Whaling Museum in Sharon,
Massachusetts and later as curator at the Maine Maritime Museum. In
addition to public programs and exhibitions, Bob wrote dozens of
articles and three significant books - 'Sailor-Painter: The Uncommon
Life of Charles Robert Patterson' (2005); 'Commercial Whaling in the
Pacific Northwest 1790-1967' (1988); and 'Ring the Banjar: The Banjo
in America From Folklore to Factory', which was published in 1984 to
accompany a ground-breaking exhibition on the history of the banjo in
America at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His frequent
appearances at the Mystic Seaport sailing museum in Connecticut were a
Music also framed
Bob’s life and adventures, from the hootenannies of his youth, to the
True and Trembling String Band on the West Coast, two tours with the
young Tom Waits, festivals around North America and Europe and happy
afternoons of tunes around the house. A talented player of the
clawhammer banjo, guitar and MacCann duet concertina, he was also a
fine singer of songs of the sea, old-time ballads and songs of the
American and Canadian West.
He was a talented
raconteur, and a lucid and facile writer, comfortable in fiction,
non-fiction and poetry. He could discuss, at the drop of a hat - he
liked hats - The Dharma Bums, the relative tonnage of Maine-built
sailing ships, or the banjo's African antecedents. Whatever his
subject, in public or private, he brought an artist's eye and a
scholar's sensibilities to the discussion. Those who knew him, even
briefly, came away with the imprint of a man dedicated to his work, to
collegiality and conviviality, to scholarship and truth, and to
artistic expression, whether in print, on the stage, or in
Bob is survived by
his widow, Helen, and daughter Margaret. A memorial service is planned
for the spring.
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