Shirley Collins & Comus in London, 21 Sept 2013
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Shirley Collins & Comus in London, 21 Sept 2013

John (@MilesOfSmilesUK) 19 Aug 13 - 03:42 AM
John (@MilesOfSmilesUK) 01 Sep 13 - 01:53 PM
John (@MilesOfSmilesUK) 11 Sep 13 - 06:39 PM
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Subject: Shirley Collins & Comus in London, 21 Se
From: John (@MilesOfSmilesUK)
Date: 19 Aug 13 - 03:42 AM

Hello all - been a few years since I've posted on here, but I just wanted to let people know about this show that we're doing next month - full details below, really interested to know your thoughts, and hope to see some of you there...!

Miles of Smiles very proudly presents...

COMUS (performing 'First Utterance')
SHIRLEY COLLINS (performing 'I'm a Romany Rai')

Saturday 21 September 2013
Islington Assembly Hall

* * * COMUS * * *
For anyone with an interest in British outsider music, COMUS are amongst the most vivid, intoxicating, threatening and – as yet – unreplicable propositions that these Isles have ever produced, and their rare London appearances are a mesmerising delight.

A wild synthesis of British Folk's visionary extremities (Incredible String Band, Pentangle, Mr Fox et al) and the transatlantic progressive tendency (King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Holy Modal Rounders), they link traditional music's bloodthirsty seasonal/pagan undercurrents to the spiritual questing of Blake and Milton; they also strongly recall the nightmare pastoralism of contemporaneous films like 'The Wicker Man', 'Witchfinder General' and 'Blood on Satan's Claw'. Accordingly, Comus occupy a unique and disorienting liminal space – between village green and witches' grotto, pulpit and stone circle, maypole and gallows.

Formed in the late 60s by the core duo of singer Roger Wooton and guitarist Glenn Goring, and offered early patronage by David Bowie at his 'Growth' arts lab in Beckenham, Comus released their astonishing debut LP 'First Utterance' in 1971. They followed this with 'To Keep from Crying' in 1974, before falling dormant.

Reawakened by an invitation to play the 2008 Melloboat 'rock cruise' between Stockholm and Riga, and with original members Bobbie Watson, Colin Pearson and Andy Hellaby (plus Jon Seagroatt) still accompanying Goring & Wooton, Comus made their long-awaited return to the London stage at 2009's Equinox Festival. The band then set themselves to the dual task of both writing new material and reworking their fabled 'lost' mid-70s piece 'The Malgarde Suite', and the fruits of these endeavours can be enjoyed on last year's excellent, aptly titled 'Out of the Coma.'

SHIRLEY COLLINS is the talismanic figure of post-war English folk song, formerly as the greatest singer of the period and – now – as a sage chronicler, stirring speaker and ceaseless champion of the music's history and traditions. For this very special show, Shirley and actor Pip Barnes will deliver a rare (and newly updated) performance of I'm a 'Romany Rai', her tale of southern England's Gypsy songs and singers.

Born in Hastings, East Sussex in 1935 to a family steeped in the county's singing traditions, Shirley moved to London in the early 50s, falling in with the revivalist network cultivated by Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger around the Princess Louise pub in Holborn. Through this, she met the American ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, with whom she embarked upon a field-recording odyssey (and whirlwind romance) across the Southern US; an adventure that included the 'discovery' of the great blues guitarist Mississippi Fred McDowell, and which was celebrated in her fascinating, moving memoir 'America Over the Water'.

Returning to England in 1960, Shirley set to the task of building a peerless discography which includes landmark collaborations with Davy Graham, Peter Bellamy, her late sister Dolly, and her former husband, Fairport Convention bassist Ashley Hutchings (in both Morris On and various permutations of The Albion Band). She ceased to sing in the early 80s, but has made occasional contributions to the works of others including Current 93 and – last year – Sigur Ros.

STEPHANIE HLADOWSKI & C JOYNES have both made individual appearances for Miles of Smiles in the past, but this will be the first time that we've hosted them as a duo. On their LP 'The Wild, Wild Berry' the pair reign in the eclecticism and virtuosity of their separate ventures, with a faithfully sparse, solemn selection of ballads from the shelves Cecil Sharp House that feels almost like a spooked, autumnal companion piece to Shirley Collins & Davy Graham's 'Folk Roots, New Routes'.

There are marked differences in form, however; whilst Graham's playing is bright and rapid, with a jazz-inflected snap, Joynes's guitar is spare and metronomic, the unerring rhythm of a shovel meticulously excavating the heavy bones of these old, often bleak songs. Hladowski's singing likewise provides a fascinating counterpoint to that venerable touchstone, earthy and direct but also agile and with a curious spectral haze around its resolute core; she summons a procession of spirits to keep fleeting vigil by the material remains already located by Joynes, breathing gorgeous, tragic life back into these tales of love and loss.

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Subject: RE: Shirley Collins & Comus in London, 21 Sept 2013
From: John (@MilesOfSmilesUK)
Date: 01 Sep 13 - 01:53 PM

Hello all, I hope you don't mind me giving this thread a 'bump' with three weeks to go...!

Has anyone seen '...Romany Rai' be performed before? When/where, if so? I haven't yet had the privilege.

Also, here's a great recording of Shirley's latest work 'The Outskirts of Culture'(about the women of the folk revival) from The Southbank Centre's 'The Rest is Noise' season in February...!

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Subject: RE: Shirley Collins & Comus in London, 21 Sept 2013
From: John (@MilesOfSmilesUK)
Date: 11 Sep 13 - 06:39 PM

Another quick bump for this - tickets still available from

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