Caught by the River

Birdsongs 9

19th January 2012

It’s been a long time coming but I’m happy to announce that number nine in our series of ‘bird songs’ downloads is going to be coming your way tomorrow. That is of course if you are on our mailing list. If you’re not then sign yourself up in the box at the top of the page. Each Friday we send out a round up of the sites activites along with the occasional competition, special offer or an early birds heads-up of a Caught by the River event. What’s to lose?

Bird Songs 9 has been compiled by Stephen Cracknell, singer, songwriter and all round good bloke. Along with his band, The Memory Band, Stephen is very much involved in an evening of ‘Folk on Film’ that is taking place at King’s Place, London on Friday, 27th Jan. Programme details and ticket information can be found in the following press release:

Listen To Britain: Folk On Film is a mixture of film and live music, celebrating folk music and culture on the big screen, featuring excerpts from such classic films as Far From The Madding Crowd, The Innocents, Barry Lyndon and The Wicker Man.

We are delighted to welcome special guest Lisa Knapp, returning to work with The Memory Band once more and bringing her amazing folk singing and fiddle playing. You can check out more about Lisa’s own work at her website.

Also joining us for the first time and our musical arranger for the evening is F-IRE Collective member and pianist Fred Thomas, fresh from composing his own musical version of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience.

our very own Lizzie Stutters will be showing off her recorder skills and the wonderful Jason Garth Steel, whose second album is soon to be released on Rif Mountain will also be singing with us.

The evening will open with a short set of traditional songs by myself and I shall be joined by Hannah and Caughlin and Jess Roberts for a few numbers. Then we will venture on to the main event.

Tickets and full details are available at the King’s Place website.

Tickets are considerably cheaper bought in advance.

We’re extremely excited about this show and would love to see you there!



“The image speaks. Sound amplifies and comments”
Lindsay Anderson

Listen To Britain:Folk on Film is a programme of film and live music by The Memory Band, with a special guest appearance by folk-singer Lisa Knapp and new arrangements by F-ire Collective member and pianist Fred Thomas. The show celebrates pivotal pioints where modern approaches to both cinema and folk music in post-war Britain coincided to indelibly define so much of our visual perceptions of our musical past, our culture and it’s place in our landscape, whilst navigating the tension between realism and fantasy..

Although the Free Cinema movement was better known for it’s use of jazz and classical music, the occasions when those who emerged from it did employ folk music have had a far reaching effect. One of the most stunning uses was the song “O Willow Waly” which permeates the 1961 classic film The Innocents. The song was sung by Isla Cameron who was a highly regarded folk singer who had collaborated with Ewan MacColl and featured in broadcats by folklorist Peter Kennedy, responsible for forming Garland Films, the film division of the EFDSS.

O Willow Waly dominates the film right from the opening credits and it’s haunting, disturbingly seductive refrain is presages those of later films such as Rosemary’s Baby and Nightmare On Elm St. and creates a near-perfect template of spooky-folk:

In the early days Britsih cinema most folk songs in films were mostly the odd sea shanty in adventure films or as unrealsitic as those in Powell & Pressburgers I Know Where i’m Going like the over-theatrical studio based films they came from, they were rejected by a new generation which wanted location filming and music and acting which rang with authenticity.

Cameron also played a significant role in the majestic score to John Schlesinger’s 1967 version of Far From The Madding Crowd, which mixed Richard Rodney Bennett incrdibly lyrical yet modern score with songs collected by the likes of Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams. It also featured Dave Swarbrick as the fiddler and a young Trevor Lucas ghosting for Terence stamp, both of whom would go on play a part on the Fairport Convention story. But once again it is Cameron’s voice which dominates, no better than in this rendition of The Bold Grenadier so wonderfully amplifying the stunning photography of Nicholas Roeg.

But Far From The Madding Crowd wasn’t just realism, it’s sense of bigger budgets and a “heightened realism” was taken to a further extreme by Stanley Kubrick in Barry Lyndon, perhaps his most British of all of his films, which painstakingly recreated famous paintings of the time and allied it with a detailed period score which included contributions from The Chieftains.

This tension between realism and high-art would go on to define the debate on cinema in the 70s and like folk music would lead artists along a multitude of paths. The amateur cast assembled by Kevin Brownlow for Winstanley sing folk-songs in the Digger’s camp and Peter Hall in the wonderful Akenfield, augment a similar amatuer cast drawn from a handful of Suffolk Villages with song from respected folk singers Dave and Toni Arthur.

Yet it was 1973’s The Wicker Man a film made in the French form of cine-fantastique which was to sneak up on the outside and speak to a younger generation, eager once more for new perspectives. The Wicker Man tossed realism aside and it’s score by Paul Giovanni, aided by the playwright Peter Schaffer merrily mixed up sources and cultures, to make a hybrid which has also stood the test of time.