The Vesuvians

Some years ago I told the story of my Grandad Kendall in the song Here Is Jack, and Roger Kitchen filmed me singing and talking about it. Video- ‘Here is Jack’

At the time of writing the song I was intrigued by a story my mother had told me, that Jack, her dad, had played in a dance band. I so much hoped this was true, because it gave me a feeling of connection with him denied to me by his early death, but I had no proof. Sadly, my mum had passed away herself before I finished the song, so she never got to hear it, and couldn’t tell me any more stories about her dad.

Then, clearing out my father’s bungalow following his death last September, my sister and I were excited to find this photograph:

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Vesuvians City Hall Players

Isn’t it great? Here are The Vesuvians at the ‘Philharmonic Hall’, East Ham, on October 3rd 1930. My Grandad is on trumpet.

Grandad Kendall, builder and decorator by trade, was first and foremost a musician. He joined the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment before the First World War as a boy bandsman, serving through the war and for some years afterwards. In later life he played his cornet in brass bands, often as a soloist. But here he is playing dance music.

What’s more, I think the sax player may be Frank Bradshaw, an old mate of his from his earliest Army days, who was also his best man- witness these photos:

JWK + Frank Bradshaw
Jack and Frank on Jack’s wedding day
JWK & FB in uniform
Jack and Frank, army days. Both with two good conduct stripes.

It seems the lads knew each other from way back before the war. Here they are in the Battalion Boys’ Football team – Boy Kendall and Boy Bradshaw. I have this picture on my wall, and I often wonder how many of these lads came through the war as well.

JWK football team
Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment Boys’ Battalion Football Team

I’m sure a lot my musicality comes directly from Jack, via my Mum. She learned to play piano as a girl, and continued to play all her life, including stints as a church organist. Mind you, my Dad was musical too. He played bugle and snare drum in the ATS as a teenager during the war, and sang bass in choirs all his life. Apparently his Aunt Florrie could tinkle the ivories in the pub to get everyone singing along. So the Adams side contributed as well as the Kendalls- but only Jack played for dancing.

This is my musical DNA, and I bless them all for it.

 

The Cathedral Builders

Ruth and I have been enjoying Tony Robinson’s Channel 5 series Britain’s Great Cathedrals. We’re looking forward to the forthcoming episode on Canterbury. That’s where we met (at the University though, not the Cathedral itself.) The Cathedral was a favourite place to visit, and the experience was always awe-inspiring. When, later, I found this poem by John Ormond I was reminded how such staggering beauty was created by so many hard-working, skilful, ordinary blokes. I love the concluding line.

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Ciné Qua Non

‘Ciné Qua Non’, as everybody knows, is Latin for ‘publish video on Youtube or not’.

In my case, as a determined late adopter, (see here for instance) the answer has been ‘not’. Until now. Continue reading

The cosmology of song writing

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Song writers have to be prepared to answer these two questions ad nauseam:

“How do you go about writing songs?” and “What comes first, the words or the music?” Continue reading

A Harrier

A song dedicated to the beautiful North Norfolk coast and to bird watchers everywhere. Ruth and I knocked this up one holiday. The inspiration was the sight of a horse staring over the fence as we drove along; he was obviously counting the cars on the North Norfolk coast road. With apologies to Paul Simon.

Cley Continue reading

The Ghost of Lady Bennet

This song was written for the Living Archive Band’s radio ballad The Horse and the Tractor, but was not included when the ghost story fell victim to the editorial axe- a not inappropriate metaphor! Continue reading

Farewell, old friend

No going back. I have sold my fiddle.

My 19th century German workshop Maggini copy, with two bands of purfling front and back, and an extra turn in the scroll (apparently not one of Maggini’s signatures).

In thirty years together we have seen and done a lot: from Castlethorpe Village Hall to Westminster Hall, from Leicester to Leipzig, countless ceilidhs, innumerable morris stands and nearly as many pubs as there are stars in the sky. I ought to be sad, but I truly am not. Continue reading

The Valley of the Shadow

Arras, April 9th 1917

Today marks the centenary of the opening of the British and Canadian offensive at Arras, on the Western Front.

Hawtin Mundy of New BrHawtin Mundyadwell, Buckinghamshire, fought and was captured in the battle. His powerful memories were recorded late in life, inspiring community drama and song that ties modern Milton Keynes and its inhabitants to its past.

Here is a part of Hawtin’s moving testimony:

Hawtin’s description of the battlefield at Arras was carefully turned into song by Paul Clark for the play Days of Pride, and has never failed to move audiences each of the many times it has been sung since. Continue reading

Slipjazz

Fresh old music from the depths of StudioBlend:

I named this tune years ago. If only  I’d known then what would happen when you search on ‘Slipjazz’ I might have had second thoughts. Ah well… Continue reading