Review by Dawn Wakefield
Here is a real cornucopia of catchy cheerful ceilidh band tunes led by the very versatile Val on a variety of different recorders – ranging from the energising fast fingerwork on garklein, sopranino and descant on several tracks, to the mellower tones of treble, tenor and great bass on others.
I have always particularly loved the few bands that feature recorder players prominently and the Hosepipe Band is a recommended example. At an actual live ceilidh or on their existing CD recordings, recorder solo tunes are scattered in amongst those led by other instruments, however here we have a collection of ‘the best bits’ for recorder, selected from recordings made over many years (1986 – 2017) in their current band as well as previous groups.
The inspiration for compiling the CD, came as a result of my contact with Val and husband Simon (also a band member), when writing an article about folk music on the recorder for The Recorder Magazine, which was subsequently skilfully adapted to appear HERE on the Mardles website. Simon helpfully enhanced the writing by adding photos, video clips and audio recordings of the various players mentioned. If you have not read it yet, do go and take a look - and listen!
This collection is likely to be enjoyed by those who love hearing folk tunes played on recorders, and also possibly by recorder players in search of tunes that suit their instrument well.
Most of the tracks consist of a set of 2 or 3 separate tunes played without a break – just as they would be in a ceilidh or in a folk session. The selection includes an impressive number of tunes penned by Val herself and Simon, as well as traditional tunes, and tunes from friends and fellow band members. It is not easy to choose favourites as they are all good, but I would mention the following: Track 1 - Cheviot Rant & Conway Reel, Track 6 - May’s Hornpipe & Jet’s Hornpipe which are full of particularly happy lively performances and Track 3 Martial Air - with inventive recording techniques where we hear Val on several different recorders in her own ‘consort of one’. Track 5 - Brother Edmund - is a slower tempo number which opens with a poem accompanied by Val on the Paetzold double bass recorder.
Care has been taken to vary the texture between some tracks whose instrumentation is just a trio and others with the full band sound. There’s also variety of tempo: in amongst the many lively dance tunes are slower interludes such as the calmer Sun in the West set, Ivor’s Jive with its relaxed bluesy feel and Silver Apples/Scottish à Clementine with lyrical French style melodies.
There is understandably some variation in sound levels as the tracks all originally come from different recording sessions, but overall a good job has been done in balancing the volume levels as one can listen all through without adjustments needed.
This CD is great as background music, and also deserving of a more attentive listen to give it full appreciation. Listening to it filled me with nostalgia and yearning for being at live ceilidhs (at the time of writing not possible due to the Covid19 pandemic) – and it soon had me dancing around the kitchen!
Full track details are available HERE on the Mardles website, where you can also listen to all the tunes!
Several of the tunes on this recording are available in Polstead Meadow – a printed collection of dance tunes for melodeon, bagpipes and other folk instruments by Val Woollard and Simon Haines. This is available to order as a PDF only from the Hosepipe Band website HERE at the bargain price of £2.50!