The Full English is a groundbreaking project sponsored by the English Folk Dance and Song Society that draws together for the first time the early 20th century folksong collections of Harry Albino, Lucy Broadwood, Clive Carey, Percy Grainger, Maud Karpeles, Frank Kidson, Thomas Fairman Ordish, Cecil Sharp, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Alfred Williams. The result is the most comprehensive searchable database of British folk songs, tunes, dances and customs in the world.
And to mark the launch of the project, folksong scholar and acclaimed singer Fay Hield has assembled The Full English Tour, pulling together half a dozen of the top talents on the English folk music circuit for an evening of songs drawn from these unique collections. They include singer and fiddle player Seth Lakeman, who has successfully steered English folk into the musical mainstream with his high-energy performances and a series of best-selling albums, and one of the world’s finest and most admired guitarists, Martin Simpson. Nancy Kerr is another fiddler/singer with a deep commitment to the English traditional repertoire, celebrated for her boundary-smashing partnerships with Eliza Carthy and James Fagan. Sam Sweeney (fiddle) and Rob Harbron (concertina) are formidable instrumentalists who feature in Fay’s backing band The Hurricane Party as well as in Jon Boden’s Remnant Kings, and are two of the most in-demand session musicians on the scene. Nailing all this multi-instrumentality down is Ben Nicholls, double bassist of choice for artists as diverse as the Seth Lakeman Band, Martin Carthy and Jimmy Sommerville.
There is no mildewy whiff of ancient archives about The Full English Tour. The singers and musicians shake out the songs into fresh new life with exciting instrumental textures and irresistible singalong choruses. The material ranges widely through comic songs, broadsides, tragic ballads and dance tunes—some new takes on the well-known, others newly unearthed—with the manuscripts themselves and portraits of both the collectors and their informants displayed on screen as the performance unfolds. The whole process from transcription to interpretation to performance is laid plain before your eyes and ears.
To support the project, four of Fay’s students from the University of Sheffield researched the collectors and their singers with guidance from Julia Bishop – click here to download their materials.