Album of the Month

THE MUSIC FROM BAGPUSS – SANDRA KERR & JOHN FAULKNER

12th of February, 1974, and for an audience of small children at 1:45pm, a life irrevocably coloured by the wayward wonderings of one saggy cloth cat. Some 44 years later and Earth Recordings opens the door to Bagpuss & Co. once again, revealing for the first time the original music in all its newly-mastered splendour.  

The 32 tracks that make up the main body of the compositions are – like all good folk music – a patchwork of traditional pieces, half-remembered tunes and pure improvisation. It’s testament to Sandra Kerr and John Faulkner‘s musicianship that the recordings work so well, not only within the context of the television episodes, but as an album in its own right. Of the recording, Oliver Postgate (in his exquisite autobiography ‘Seeing Things’) says: “Between them Sandra and John could play every sort of instrument from a mountain dulcimer to an Irish fiddle. They knew and could sing every tune in the world and didn’t bother with written music, except as a last resort. They were exactly suited to Gabriel the Toad and Madeleine the Rag Doll and in those roles were happy to play whatever music and sing whatever songs would be needed.”  

Those songs manifested themselves as reworkings of familiar tunes (‘I Saw A Ship’; ‘Row Your Boat’; ‘Bucket’s Burning’), takes on traditional ballads (‘Brian O’Lynn’; ‘The Frog Princess’; ‘Weaving Song’; ‘The Old Woman Tossed Up in a Basket’) and delicious flights of fancy (‘The Bony King of Nowhere’; ‘Turtle Calypso’; ‘Uncle Feedle’). The counterpart to Madeleine and Gabriel’s more polished ditties are the interludes from the mice; a raggle-taggle chorus that accompanies the creatures’ efforts of help (with the mice once famously going on strike when they were not permitted sang as they worked). Again, Postgate muses: “Once I had worked out a few episodes I would make a very rough list of the bits where I though music would be appropriate. I would send it to [Sandra and John] to think about. Then we would borrow a fairly silent room in a remote house and, taking the various articles that we intended to celebrate with us, would spend a happy day with a tape recorder, thinking up and recording whatever songs and tunes came to mind.” 

The outtakes provide an intimate – and often very humourous – insight into the trio’s work ethic, if it can be called such a thing. (By all accounts they sound as though they’re having a very jolly time indeed.) Highlights include alternative opening words and end music, as well as Postgate sound-checking in character as Bagpuss. This never-before heard audio provides a real treat for fans (and indeed those new to the Smallfilms stable) – affirmation again to the enduring quality of these special recordings, and the beloved programme that inspired them.  

“An accidental classic of the folk-roots underground that we never dared hope we’d hear with such clarity.” 

-Stewart Lee

Thanks to Earth Recordings for image and text. https://earthrecordlabel.com/product/the-music-from-bagpuss-sandra-kerr-john-faulkner/

Kitty Macfarlane – Namer of Clouds

Her remarkably accomplished debut album, Namer Of Clouds, beguiles with its poetry and tenderness, and her eye for detail, vivid imagination and bright vocals make it a captivating listen. She is a talent to watch”​

      – The Guardian (full article here)

Kitty Macfarlane is a songwriter and guitarist from Somerset, whose music is rich with visual imagery and written with an eco-eye. From the starling murmurations on the Somerset Levels to the lowly eel’s epic transatlantic migration, and the small part we ourselves play in a much bigger picture, her songs are bound by the underlying theme of mankind’s relationship with the wild. Kitty Macfarlane’s highly anticipated debut album Namer Of Clouds, released September 2018 and produced by Sam Kelly and Jacob J Stoney, gathers inspiration from the sky to the seabed. Carried by a voice ‘as clear as a mountain stream’ (FRUK), her lyrics touch on intervention and rewilding, climate change and migration, and woman’s historical relationship with textiles and the land. The album is augmented by all kinds of ‘found sound’ recorded in locations from Somerset to Sardinia – birdsong, waterfalls, the click of knitting needles – and bookended by sounds of the wild. 

Kitty is performning at Halsway Manor Sunday 4th Nov 7:30pm-9:30pm 2018

Songs of Witchcraft and Magic

Songs & Ballads compiled by the Museum of Witchcraft

This collection of songs reflects the significant part that magic has played in our culture. They connect with myths and folktales that take us back to the distant past; but they also represent a living and evolving tradition. The magic of these songs still exerts power over us today. They are a striking demonstration of the breadth and variety of magic – from the brutal revenge of The Brown Girl through the bizarre transformations of The Two Magicians, to the haunting mysticism of The Bells of Paradise. The world of these songs is not just of humans but of animals – seals, serpents, hares, horses and even mackerel. A world of anger, cruelty, love, fear and courage. A world of brilliant colours – scarlet, green, purple. Of silver wands, velvet mantles and tinkling bells. A world of moonlight, blood and the roaring of the sea.