magyar english
Simply English

Rosy Apples (2009)


This is the end result of a long project, or rather an intermittent hard labour with many false starts. It began with the idea of making a CD for children, as some of our songs from other albums have accidentally  found great favour with the under-tens, despite the texts not being designed for youngsters and many of our younf "fans" not even understanding English. Then at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House I discovered the volumes of songs originally collected by Alice Gillington (1863-1934) from children living in the southern English counties of Hampshire and Surrey and on the Isle of Wight, published exactly 100 years ago, in 1909. All but two of the songs here come from those volumes.

  1. The Birdies' Ball
  2. Where Are You going To My Pretty Fair Maid?
  3. The Fox Jumped Up in a Hungry Plight / Maypole Dances (Taking Ribbons, Entry)
  4. Ding, Dong, Bell
  5. Rosy Apple, Lemon or Pear / Down in the Meadow / Nutting Girl
  6. Wim Wim Wobble-O
  7. Roman Soldiers
  8. Simple Simon
  9. There Was a Jolly Miller Once (Miller of Dee) / Sun from the East
  10. Threadle the Needle / Oats and Beans and Barley
  11. Carrion Crow
  12. Hori Horo

Andy: vocals, recorders, Appalachian dulcimer, small percussion
Bulcsú: guitar, accordion, vocals
Tamás: mandolin, vocals, guitar, wood flute, accordion


As time went by, the songs began to grow and become our own. The original idea of an album specifically for young people disintegrated to a great extent, as we set out to discover musical solutions to short texts. Ding Dong Bell, Pussy's in the Well has but one verse, and if you'd have asked me five years ago whether I would ever record it I would have denied it strenuously. But then came the idea of using a combination of falsetto voce, enharmonics on the guitar and the introduction of a canon-like sequence. We also created medleys that sometimes extended in time as far as or sometimes further than a full-length ballad. It was always musical progression that decided on the succession of linked songs, some of which, like Threadle the Needle and Oats and Beans and Barley Grow preceded by the Hardy dance tune Sun from the East, have no textual connection apart from all originally being "action" songs. Some songs, like Wim Wim Wobble O and The Birdies' Ball, have irresistible audience refrains, but the hauntingly beautiful Where Are You Going To My Pretty Fair Maid? provided us with a chance to harmonise and for me to attempt to get into the brain, if not the voice-box, of a lovely, cheeky, and very independent milkmaid. The Miller of Dee is sung throughout as a part-song.

The Fox Jumped Up in a Hungry Plight, which is followed by two May tree dance tunes, is one of many versions to be found all over the English-speaking world. We decided to keep the text published a hundred years ago, even if fox-cubs fighting for duck-scraps may not be all that politically correct these days. However, I did change the odd word here and there, and even wrote a new verse for the end of Roman Soldiers, in which the warring Romans and English soldiers (5th century?) make peace at the end of the battle. Not historically correct: just our contribution to world peace! I also evened out the changes in role in Oats and Beans and Barley, so that not only does the wife cut the wood but the husband cooks the food! Simple Simon is another well-known English children's song, though as happens so often, only the first fragment is usually sung. Here you will find a couple more. In the medley Rosy Apple. Lemon or Pear - Down in the Meadow - Nutting Girl Tomi follows me in a boisterous little chant that originally would have been a counting-out song. The snippet of The Nutting Girl dance tune, with its morris-like slow-down, rounds this number off.

The two songs not from the Gillington collections (Hori Horo, Carrion Crow) have been part of the Simply English repertoire for many years. I first heard Carrion Crow sung by the vocal quartet Isca Fayre, who for many years were the resident singers of the long-lived "Jolly Porter" folk song club in Exeter, and where I began singing in my student years in the 1970s. Hori Horo, a lullaby for a boy from his father, I also first heard performed at the Porter, sung by the Suffolk singer John Goodluck, whose surname I have always envied. Both songs appears on earlier Simply English albums, but since our advance from duo to trio they have taken on new life and it was a good opportunity to finally record them as we sing them today. Hori Horo I also first heard performed at the Porter, sung by the Suffolk singer John Goodluck, whose surname I have always envied.

We hope that you will enjoy our interpretations of these songs. We have given them quite a lot of breathing space to turn into their present form, gradually including them in children's performances (and occasionally sneaking the odd one in for grown-up children) and can say they have met with a positive response wherever we have performed them. The mummies are always enthusiastic singers of the refrains!

Alice Gillington (1863-1934) was a prolific folksong collector. The selection of children's songs featured on this album is but a drop in the ocean that is her full life's work, which included Breton as well as English songs. Most of all, though, she will be remembered for her close relationship with the English Romany community. For many years she lived the travelling life herself, though not always with the Gypsies, and she took up their cause throughout her life: her last article (in 1925) was about the "Trades of the Travellers of the New Forest". She was something of an outsider and was berated by other noted folklorists for not being sufficiently academic and precise. But out of all of them she possibly lived closer to her source, both physically and emotionally, than any of her contemporary collectors.

Simply English was founded in 1995 (or maybe even earlier). Nearly 15 years old, it is perhaps befitting that once again Andy is tackling children's material: his first recording, This the Way, was made in 1989 (with Szélkiáltó). But whereas This the Way was commissioned work designed as a teaching aid for young Hungarian children learning English, the present recording has by and large ignored the conscious, didactic approach and instead concentrated on reinterpreting the songs and linking them with traditional English dance tunes. The present material is quite different from anything else the band has tackled; nevertheless it has acquired the "Simply English sound" that emanates from the very diverse musical backgrounds of its musicians, which range from reggae, calypso and rock to traditional English, Irish and Hungarian to the music of the Middle East. For all that, Simply English is not a world music group, but is not afraid to borrow the odd motif whenever it seems a good idea to do so. On the other hand, this time round we have not borrowed any guest musicians: although very occasionally we have used studio techniques, for instance to allow Andy sing and blow at the same time, the songs you hear here are virtually as you will hear them at any live performance.




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