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Origins: The Gower Wassail

Jack Blandiver 16 Dec 09 - 05:24 AM
Crane Driver 16 Dec 09 - 05:48 AM
Jack Blandiver 16 Dec 09 - 05:53 AM
Crane Driver 16 Dec 09 - 06:06 AM
GUEST,BanjoRay 16 Dec 09 - 05:45 PM
Jack Blandiver 19 Dec 09 - 04:18 PM
doc.tom 20 Dec 09 - 05:06 AM
Crane Driver 20 Dec 09 - 07:11 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 20 Dec 09 - 11:15 AM
doc.tom 21 Dec 09 - 06:06 AM
Mick Tems 21 Dec 09 - 02:15 PM
Mick Tems 22 Dec 09 - 04:06 AM
Brian Peters 22 Dec 09 - 06:32 AM
*#1 PEASANT* 22 Dec 09 - 10:19 PM
RTim 02 Mar 12 - 09:11 AM
RTim 02 Mar 12 - 09:15 AM
GUEST,Sally 08 Dec 12 - 10:42 PM
GUEST,Blandiver 09 Dec 12 - 04:22 AM
GUEST,Blandiver 09 Dec 12 - 04:28 AM
Tradsinger 07 Jan 13 - 03:20 AM
GUEST,Evan Ingalls 29 Nov 14 - 02:14 PM
GUEST,Henry piper of Ottery 29 Nov 14 - 02:50 PM
GUEST,Ed 29 Nov 14 - 03:12 PM
MGM·Lion 29 Nov 14 - 03:35 PM
Brian Peters 29 Nov 14 - 04:16 PM
GUEST,Blandiver (Astray) 29 Nov 14 - 04:37 PM
GUEST,Rahere 29 Nov 14 - 05:45 PM
GUEST,Blandiver (Astray) 18 Dec 14 - 05:37 AM
GUEST,Sapper at work on TIC2 in Fenchurch St. 18 Dec 14 - 10:24 AM
Brian Peters 18 Dec 14 - 10:49 AM
GUEST,Blandiver (Astray) 18 Dec 14 - 12:30 PM
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Subject: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Dec 09 - 05:24 AM

For the Venereum Arvum Yuletide YouTube Xmas Card this year I thought it might be nice to do The Gower Wassail. Weirdly, despite being immersed in folk from birth, Rapunzel wasn't too familiar with it, so it seemed the natural thing to acquaint her with the source, which I've always believed to be the singing of The Gower Nightingale, Mr Phil Tanner. Looking on Digitrad however the song is sourced to various wassails sung by Watersons, Jean Ritchie, John and Tony Langstaff Revels - no mention of the venerable Mr Tanner! Also looking at the version in Digitrad, whilst the chorus follows Mr Tanner's Aldi-dals, rather than the Fol-de-dols typical of revival performances, it doesn't quite add up. Anyway, here's the transcription I made of the longer of Phil Tanner's versions (4'42") in the hope others too might seek out the source of this quite remarkable song and its even more remarkable singer.

*

The Gower Wassail (Traditional / Phil Tanner)

A-wassail, a-wassail, throughout all this town
Our cup it is white and our ale it is brown
Our wassail is made of good ale and cake
Some nutmeg and ginger, the best we could get

Al di dal - al di dal di dal
Al di dal di dal - al di dal di dee
Al de deral - al de derry
Sing too rel I do

Our wassail is made of an elderberry bough
Although my good neighbour, we'll drink unto thou
Besides all on earth, we'll have apples in store
Pray let us come in for it's cold by the door

We know by the moon that we are not too soon
And we know by the sky that we are not too high
We know by the star(s) that we are not too far
And we know by the ground that we are within sound

With a company resigned for to taste of your ale
Out of that little kilderkin that's next to the well
We want none of your pears (?) beer, nor none of your snell (?)
But a drop from that kilderkin that's next to the well

Now master and mistress if you are within
Pray send out your maid with her lily-white skin
For to open the door without more delay
Our time it is precious and we cannot stay

You've brought here your jolly wassail, which is very well known
But I can assure you we've as good of our own
As for your jolly wassail, we'll care not one pin
But it's for your good company I'll let you come in

Here's a health to our Colley and her crooked horn
May God send her Master a good crop of corn
Of barley and wheat and all sorts of grain
May God send her Mistress a long life to reign

Now master and mistress thanks to you we'll give
And for our jolly wassail as long as we live
And if we should live 'til another new year
Perhaps we may call and see who do live here

*

We based our version loosely on the above, loosing the kilderkin verse, and the domestic response, if only to bring it down to a more manageable duration. Other deviations occur by way of organic immediacy. Already we're calling it The Aldi Wassail (though the best Xmas fare is invariably to be had at Lidl...). For those who wish to hear it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZYBhP7mUgU


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: Crane Driver
Date: 16 Dec 09 - 05:48 AM

This is the version collected by Maud Karpeles from Mr Edwin Ace, Llangennith, Gower, April 18th, 1928, published in the Folk Song journal. I don't have the reference to hand.

Karpeles transcribed the chorus as 'Fol de dol (etc)' - that isn't an invention of the recent folk revival, unless you count Karpeles as 'recent'.

Direction in italics added by me based on local information

The Gower Wassail Song

(First 5 verses sung by wassail party outside the house)
The wassail, the wassail, throughout all this town,
Our cup it is white and our ale it is brown.
Our wassail is made of good ale and cake,
Some nutmeg and ginger, the best we could make.
Chorus                Fol de dol, dol de dol de dol,
                Dol de dol de dol, dol de dol de day,
                Oh sing toorali-o-ay, sing toorali-ay

Our wassail is made of an elberry bough,
Although, my good neighbours, we'll drink unto thou;
Besides all of that, we've apples in store,
Pray let us come in for it's cold by the door.

We know by the moon that we are not too soon,
We know by the stars that we are not too far,
We know by the sky that we are not too high,
And we know by the ground that we are within sound.

Now master and mistress, if you are within,
Pray send out your maid with the lily-white skin,
For to open the door without more delay,
For our time it is precious and we cannot stay.

We're a company designed for to taste of your ale
Out of the kilderkin that's next to the wall.
We want none of your small beer, nor none of your pale,
But out of the kilderkin that's next to the wall.

(Next verse sung by the family from within)
You've brought your jolly wassail which is very well known,
But we can assure you we've as good as your own.
As for your jolly wassail we care not one pin,
But for your sweet company we shall welcome you in.

(Last 2 verses sung by the party on leaving)
Here's a health to old Colley and to her crooked horn,
May God send our master a good crop of corn,
Both barley and wheat and all sorts of grain,
May God send our mistress a long life to reign.

Thanks to our jolly master, thanks to him we will give
And for our jolly wassail as long as we live;
And if we should live to another New Year
Perhaps we may call and see who will live here.
Chorus                Fol de dol, dol de dol de dol
                Dol de dol de dol, dol de dol de day,
                Oh sing tooralioay, sing tooraliay

The song was reportedly widely used in the North Gower villages (Llangennith, Llanmadoc, Cheriton etc). Several slightly different versions of the words were noted by the Victorian rector of Llanmadoc, Rev J D Davies, a keen local historian.

Andrew McKay, Llangennith
Crane Drivin' Music


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Dec 09 - 05:53 AM

Thanks for that, Andrew - excellent stuff. As I say I'd always assumed Phil Tanner was the source so this adds to the over all picture.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: Crane Driver
Date: 16 Dec 09 - 06:06 AM

Phil was a link in the chain, Sweeney - a very important link. I don't think he would ever have claimed to be the source of anything he sang, but certainly he kept these old songs going when others were letting them die.

This is well worth a listen, for anyone who hasn't heard (of) Phil Tanner.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: GUEST,BanjoRay
Date: 16 Dec 09 - 05:45 PM

Before WWII my dad used to live in Gowerton, and he used to pedal down to Llangennith on his bike. He told me he remembered a guy called Phil Tanner who used to sing in the pub down there. It's a pity dad had cloth ears, but I'd have loved to have been there with him.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 19 Dec 09 - 04:18 PM

For those who haven't heard Phil Tanner's Gower Wassail:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zlXnNGiS5U


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: doc.tom
Date: 20 Dec 09 - 05:06 AM

Can't find the above ref. to Maud's collected version in the FSJ / JEFDSS index for up to 1950! Charlie Bate (Cornish traditional singer) was always proud that he had been given the song by Phil Tanner - and it was Charlie singing it on the Caedmon 'Fok Sound of Britain' series (Songs of Ceremony), which was the source for several revival groups that recorded it.

Happy Wassail season.

TomB


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: Crane Driver
Date: 20 Dec 09 - 07:11 AM

Hi Tom,

As I recall, MK's version was published in an article titled something like 'Folk Songs from Gloucestershire' for reasons that must have made sense at the time. Sorry but my 'office' has been refitted recently and I can't find anything at the moment - I know I've got a photocopy of it somewhere.

There's no doubt that Phil Tanner's singing of the song is the one that brought it to the wider audience, but it's interesting to see the song as Tanner must have heard it.

Wassail!

Andrew


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 20 Dec 09 - 11:15 AM

Journal of the Folk-Song Society 8 (1930) pp.231-232 according to my copy of Roud.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: doc.tom
Date: 21 Dec 09 - 06:06 AM

Spot on, Mick.
"Sung by Mr. Edwin Ace @ Llangeneth, Glamorgan. April 18 1928." BHasically Dorian, but with a 6th that is variable. "Also sung by Mr. Williams, of Llanmaddock" - without the variable 6th. "These words wityh slight variation are printed in 'Historical Notices of the Parishes of Llanmadoc and Cheriton in the rural deanery of West Gower, Glamorganshire', by J.D.Davies M.A., rector of Cheriton and Llanmadoc, Part 2 (Swansea, 1879). The song is still sung in the Gower Peninsula during the Christmas Season." M.K.
TomB


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: Mick Tems
Date: 21 Dec 09 - 02:15 PM

The earliest version I have found appears as The Wassail Song in Reverend J D Davies'(a noted vicar, carpenter and historian) A History Of West Gower, published in 1884. He described it as being sung on New Year's Eve, and said that although it was seldom now heard in other parts of Gower, it was "invariably sung in this parish; the singing party go round with a large jug of warm spiced ale." It differs from later versions in that the verses contain only two lines and the chorus is very brief:

A wassail, a wassail, throughout all the town,
Our cup it is white and our ale it is brown.
CHORUS: Tol-de-rol-lol.

Our wassail it is made of a good ale and cake,
Some nutmeg and ginger, the best we could get.

Our bowl it is made of an elbury bough,
And now, my good master, I'll drink unto thou.

Besides all of that, we have apples in store,
Pray let us come in, for 'tis cold by the door.

We know by the moon that we are not too soon,
We know by the sky that we are not too high.

We know by the stars that we are not too far,
We know by the ground that we are within a sound.

We come on a design for to taste of your ale
Out of that li'l kinter keg that stands next to the wall

Now master and mistress, if you are within,
Pray send out your maid with a lily white skin

To open the door without more delay
Our time it is precious and we cannot stay.

You have brought us your wassail, that's very well known.
But we can assure you we've as good of our own.

And as for your wassail, we care not a pin
But for your good company you shall come in.

Now master and mistress, thanks to you we'll give
And for our jolly wassail, as long as we live.

Here's a health to Old Colley, with her crooked horn,
Pray God send our master a good crop of corn.

Both barley and oats, and all sorts of grain,
Pray God send our master a long life to reign.

And if we should live 'til another New Year,
Perhaps we may come and see who do live here.


In April 1928, Maud Karpeles recorded this from Mr Edwin Ace of Llangeneth (sic):


A wassail, a wassail, throughout all this town,
Our cup it is white and our ale it is brown.
Our wassail it is made of the good ale and cake,
Some nutmeg and ginger, the best we could bake.

CHORUS: Fol-de-rol, lol-de-dol-de-dol, lol-de-dol-de-dol, lol-de-dol-de-day,
Sing too-ra-li-addy, sing too-ra-li-ay.

Our wassail is made of an elberry bough,
Although, my good neighbour, we'll drink unto thou.
Besides all of that, we've apples in store,
Pray let us come in, for it's cold by the door.

We know by the moon that we are not too soon,
We know by the stars that we are not too far,
We know by the sky that we are not too high.
We know by the ground that we are within sound.

Now master and mistress, if you are within,
Pray send out your maid with the lilywhite skin
For to open the door without more delay
For our time it is precious and we cannot stay.

We're a company designed for to taste of your ale
Out of the kinker-gate that's next to the wall.
We want none of your small beer, nor none of your pale
But out of the kinker-keg that's next to the wall.


Gower historian Horatio Tucker, writing in 1957, says the wassail would be carried out either on New Year's Eve or on Twelfth Night, January 6. The party carried a "susan", a large earthenware pitcher, wrapped in a sheepskin. This held the wassail, a special concoction of warm and highly-spiced ale, which would be replenished at each place where they called. Outside the door, the wassailers sang:


A wassail, a wassail, throughout all this town,
Our jug it is white and our ale it is brown.
Our wassail it is made of the good ale and cake,
Some nutmeg and ginger, the best we could get.

(He does not give a chorus).

Our wassail is made of an elberry bough,
Although, my good neighbour will sing unto thou.
Besides all the others we have apples in store,
Pray let us come in, for it's cold by the door.

We know by the moon that we are not too soon,
We know by the sky that we are not too high.
We know by the stars that we are not too far,
We know by the ground that we are within sound.

We're a company resigned (sic) to drink of your ale
Out of that kilderkin next to the wale (sic).
We want not your pale beer, nor none of your smale (sic)
But a drop from the kilderkin next to the wale (sic).

Now master and mistress, if you are within,
Pray send out your maid with her lilywhite skin,
For to open the door without more delay
Our time it is precious and we cannot stay.

(Members of the household replied):

You have brought here your wassail which is very well known,
But I can assure you we've as good of our own.
As for your wassail, we care not a pin
It's your good company that we'll let you in.

(The door was opened; the party entered and decanted some of their wassail into the traditional bowl provided. The "susan" was topped up, gifts were given to the wassailers, and as they left they expressed their thanks):

Here's health to Old Colley and her crooked horn,
Pray God send her master a good crop of corn,
Of barley and wheat, and all sorts of grain,
Pray God send her mistress a long life to reign.

Now master and mistress, thanks we do give
For our jolly wassail, as long as we live.
And if we should live 'til another New Year,
We'll come along to see who lives here.


Mr Eric Gibbs, of Llangennith, remembers Phil Tanner carrying out the wassail ceremony with his friend Billy Bond, always on January 5, the eve of Twelfth Night. Phil would prepare the wassail a week before... a blend of home-brewed brown ale, elderberry wine, fruit cake, ginger and spices. The wassail would be carried in a large tin can holding about a gallon and a half. After a while, the wassail would have been enhanced with brandy, whisky, rum, anything donated by the villagers - and there would still be 12 pints of it. Phil and Billy used to retire to the Picnic Room at the King's Head, Llangennith, where straw would thoughtfully have been provided by the landlady. They would not be seen again for a couple of days.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: Mick Tems
Date: 22 Dec 09 - 04:06 AM

Not vicar, but rector - apologies to the Reverend Davies!


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: Brian Peters
Date: 22 Dec 09 - 06:32 AM

Excellent details, thanks Mick.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: *#1 PEASANT*
Date: 22 Dec 09 - 10:19 PM

Interesting-

I tend not to be too concerned with origins but with song content, context of singing- purpose etc and type of transaction- that is either begging or offering or if the bowl contained liquids which sometimes it never did. It is important to discover if the song was actually used in visitation or celebration that is door to door or in the hall or simply offered for performance - whilst sitting around, on the stage that is not part of a wider ritual activity.

Conrad


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: RTim
Date: 02 Mar 12 - 09:11 AM

Can anyone point me to a Musical notation for Phil Tanner's version of this song??

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: RTim
Date: 02 Mar 12 - 09:15 AM

Sorry Guys - forget it - I found it on the DT!!!

Tim


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: GUEST,Sally
Date: 08 Dec 12 - 10:42 PM

I'm curious to know the meaning of the verse:

"We know by the moon that we are not too soon,
We know by the stars that we are not too far,
We know by the sky that we are not too high,
And we know by the ground that we are within sound."

Perhaps it originally gave a description of how the date of the holiday is determined, based on sun & moon & stars?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: GUEST,Blandiver
Date: 09 Dec 12 - 04:22 AM

I personally doubt there's any hard & fast 'meaning' as such, just a bunch of images. The MOON line suggested calculation, whilst the STARS line harks back to the MAGI. Too far? My goodness, unless they're watching our for Orion in the winter sky... The SKY line is surreal; and the GROUND line likewise. As a whole I'd say it's one of the most ICONIC verses in British folksong.

Here's our 2011 version, which doesn't differ too much from the 2012 version, which differs from the 2009 version in that Ravhel gets a harmony in for the chorus, which she added diring the 2010 version, which you can hear edited on the Mudcat Winter CD put together by Bradfordian.

Rapunzel & Sedayne : Gower Wassail 1-12-2011


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: GUEST,Blandiver
Date: 09 Dec 12 - 04:28 AM

PS - We did the 2012 version the other night at the Salford gig with Sproatly Smith + The Woodbine & Ivy Band. No sounds as yet, but here's a picture of us doing it:

Rapunzel & Sedayne : Gower Wassailing at tthe Sacred Trinity, Salford, 7th December 2012


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: Tradsinger
Date: 07 Jan 13 - 03:20 AM

Now here's a thing. I have been singing the Gower wassail for years but the words I have, and I can't remember where I got them, are different to the Tanner or Ace versions above. Here's what I sing:

A-wassail, a-wassail throughout all the town,
Our cup it is white and our ale it is brown.
Our wassail is made of the good ale and cake,
Some nutmeg and ginger, the best we could bake.

Chorus (after each verse):
Fol dedol dol dedol Dol dedol dol de dol
Fol de de ro Fol de da ri
Sing too ra li o

Our wassail is made of the elderberry bough,
And so my good neighbours, we'll drink unto thou,
Besides all on earth, you have apples in store,
Pray, let us come in for it's cold by the door.

We hope that your apple trees prosper and bear
So that we may have cider when we call next year.
And where you have one barrel we hope you'll have ten
So that we may have cider when we call again.

There's a master and a mistress sitting down by the fire
While we poor wassail boys stand here in the mire.
Come you pretty maid with your silver-headed pin,
Pray, open the door and let us come in.

We know by the moon that we are not too soon,
And we know by the sky that we are not too high,
And we know by the stars that we are not too far,
And we know by the ground that we are within sound.

It's we poor wassail boys so weary and cold,
Please drop some small silver into our bowl,
And if we survive for another New Year,
Perhaps we may call and see who does live here.

I see that the 'barrels of cider' verse does not appear in the collected versions, and that the 'master and mistress' and 'see who do live here' verses are considerably different. Can anyone shed light on this? Am I perchance singing a Bert Lloyd or Steeleye Span version?

Tradsinger


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: GUEST,Evan Ingalls
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 02:14 PM

Tradsinger, it looks like you are singing the Steelye Span version! I haven't seen the apple trees/ barrels of cider verse in any other transcription...
Steeley Span sings just what you have with the last two verses reversed (I believe). I personally like this order. And of course, I have no idea what melody you are singing!


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: GUEST,Henry piper of Ottery
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 02:50 PM

Here In Devon, at least, the apples and cider related verses are more usually associated with apple tree wassailing rather than any kind of Christmas or new year house visiting tradition, I wonder if the two traditions have become conflated by some singers or collectors, leading to confusion between two different rituals both called wassailing I'm not sure that there is a great tradition of cider production and drinking in the Gower district, but certainly in many parts of Devon cider making is still widely carried out.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 03:12 PM

Tradsinger,

It seems to be a Bert Lloyd vesion.

From this page:

"This little-known wassail is printed (a tone higher) in A.L.Lloyd's book Folk Song in England (1967)"


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 03:35 PM

There are also, unsurprisingly, verses/phrases &c associated with the Pace-Egging tradition of the North of England, and other variants of the mumming tradition which have been adapted to house-visiting and singing for 'treats'*. The name "Pace Egg" is probably a variant of Pasch/Paschal Egg ("'Paschal' - adjective: of or pertaining to Easter" [Wiktionary]) -- the traditional Easter egg which has long existed in variant forms, such as gaily painted hardboiled eggs &c, before settling into its most usual present form of a hollow ovine chocolate confection decoratively wrapped in silver paper.

≈M≈

*See entry "Mummers' play" in Wikipedia


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: Brian Peters
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 04:16 PM

Interesting idea about 'Paschal', Michael.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: GUEST,Blandiver (Astray)
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 04:37 PM

A timely revival. For our seasonal on-line revels I've just uploaded a wee set recorded live last month at The Heretics' Folk Club in Sheffield where we shared the bill with The Lords of Thyme + Phil & Cath Tyler. It's a seasonal medley, comprising The Gower Wassail & Robin Redbreast's Testament:

Rapunzel & Sedayne : We Know By The Moon @ Heretics' Folk Club, Sheffield, 13.11.14

*

I recall an old woman in the Co. Durham village we used to live in telling they were called paste eggs, because they use to paste them, i.e. smash their pointy ends together to break them.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 05:45 PM

Folkwales has an interesting article which shows how some aspects of it are English and some Welsh. In particular, one element was that Phil served as a "bidder", which doubled as the wassail leader, who competed with the householders in rhyming, much as some of the debate here tries to outwit the opposition. There were a number of ways to win that informal battle, by including local references (much as London Cockney has a vector referring to local events), by the simple elegance of the rhyme, by the wit or invention in the invective, and I think that should be reflected in performance here. If the householder won, then he was under no obligation to be hospitable - but then again, he wouldn't win, would he?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: GUEST,Blandiver (Astray)
Date: 18 Dec 14 - 05:37 AM

Someone did a video of our Gower Wassail at the Heretics' Folk Club in Sheffield last month... Rough sound quality, but fascinating visuals!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=IVtSwZRCi6s


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: GUEST,Sapper at work on TIC2 in Fenchurch St.
Date: 18 Dec 14 - 10:24 AM

A bit ironic, there was a small choir singing at the South Bank yesterday evening when I had a stroll there and this was one of the songs they performed. A rather pleasant little interlude!


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: Brian Peters
Date: 18 Dec 14 - 10:49 AM

Like it, Mr B.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Gower Wassail
From: GUEST,Blandiver (Astray)
Date: 18 Dec 14 - 12:30 PM

Cheers, Mr P!


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Mudcat time: 20 April 2:37 AM EDT

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