The strength of oaks

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Nightingale  photographed by John Bridges

Today's music comes from the brilliant British folk singer and folk song collector Sam Lee. I'm completely in love with this young man's music -- as well as with the wide variety of collaborative projects he instigates or contributes to. If you ever have the chance to see him live, please don't miss it.  His recordings of old ballads and Gypsy Traveller songs are wonderful, but hearing them live -- as they are meant to be heard -- is just extraordinary.

The Nightingale by Henry Justice Ford (1860-1940)Above: A BBC profile of Lee's "Singing With the Nightingales," an annual series of events in which folk, classical, and jazz musicians collaborate with nightingales in their natural habitats. As the website explains, guests at the nightingale gatherings are invited "not just to listen to these birds in ear-tinglingly close proximity, but to share an evening around the fire, delving into your hosts’ and guest musicians' own funds of rare songs and stories." After supper by the fire, the small audience for each event is lead "in silence and darkness into the nightingale’s habitat, not only to listen to these majestic birds, but to share in an improvised collaboration; to experience what happens when bird and human virtuosi converge in musical collaboration."

Below: "One Morning in May," a traditional British song performed by Lee and Kathryn Tickell (on Northumbrian smallpipes) for BBC Radio 3.

Above: "Blackbird," a traditional British Traveller song peformed by Lee in Amsterdam -- with Jonah Brody on piano, Joshua Green on percussion, amd Flora Curzon on violin.

Above: "Lovely Molly," a gorgeous rendition of a Scottish Traveller song by Lee, Brody, and Green for The Lullaby Project at the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds.

Above: "The Blind Beggar," performed by Lee with Lisa Knapp and Nathaniel Mann at the Foundling Museum in London as part of their Broadside Ballads project. A broadside, the three musicians explain, "is a single sheet of inexpensive paper printed on one side, often with a ballad, rhyme, news and sometimes with woodcut illustrations. Broadside ballads, from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries, contain words and images once displayed and sung daily in Britain’s streets and inns. Although part of living traditions of folksong, popular art and literature, these illustrated printed sheets are now rare and preserved in only a few libraries." In developing the project, they spent time researching the ballads at the Bodleian, and then created new contemporary arrangements for these historic songs.

Below: "Lord Gregory" (Child Ballad #76) performed by Sam Lee with the Choir of World Cultures (directed by Barbara Morgenstern) from Berlin.


For more on Sam Lee's work with Gyspy ballads, see this previous post from 2015,  and a video talk about his work here.


Singing with the nightingales -- what an idea (tho the BBC man was an awkward reminder of life without magic - shhh - just listen) But 'the blackbird ' recording oh my - and my hair was standing on end - thank you for this.

You're very welcome. It's lovely to share Sam's music.

SUPERIOR offering Terri. What a pleasure to have so much Sam Lee in one lovely post.

For me, as an antipodean girl, it is the magpie. I doubt if there is any sound that would warm the cockles of a far-from-home Aussie more than the sound of a magpie's song. They are not celebrated, often seen as annoying and dangerous (they can be in Spring, when they'll dive-bomb people), or just rats-with-wings, but their song catches my heart like no other birdsong. I absolutely adore this idea, singing with the birds. I want to go out and record magpies now, and make a song with them!

That's a lovely idea!

He's doing so many good things these days. When the world seems grim, I think of young men and women like this, re-making the world through art and activism, and it gives me hope.

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