Posts Tagged ‘EFEx’


A Carol for Our Times: The Melrose Quartet perform "Sing John Ball" from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

As a music journalist it may seem out of place to bring up the socio-political issues of the day. But in the music that I have recently covered at the English Folk Expo, I found this song whose words and music stir me, and drove me to think about who we are and what we stand for as a species.

It’s a great song, written by Sydney Carter about the revolutionary cleric John Ball who preached against the class system. His sermons were a rallying cry for the Peasant Revolt of 1381.

In Ball’s own words:

“From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by…. unjust oppression…. And therefore I exhort you to consider that now the time is come, appointed to us by God, in which ye may (if ye will) cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty.”

These were radical thoughts for a time when Church, Manor and Monarchy were the only systems, and the working class were starving while the royalty feasted. The rebellion was harshly put down. Ball was drawn and quartered and his severed limbs put on display as a caution to anyone who might think to challenge the powers of the day.

But Ball’s words are remarkably close to the words of our own founding fathers, 400 years later. As an American attending the English Folk Expo, I found myself deeply moved by this song and its back story, and thinking about it repeatedly. It was also by far, the most often sung tune of the event.

The version I have chosen to post is by the glorious Melrose Quartet. These four people presented such a strong show that I truly wanted to stop my camcorders and just enjoy myself. In fact, this video only exists because I HAD stopped shooting, and then started with my handheld again.

For all the hope and idealism of the lyrics of Carter’s anthemic song, the reality is that we all carry within us the primal hard wiring that seeks to subjugate the “other.” Perhaps it is a survival mechanism, but whether by a fluke of birth, race, wealth or brute force, there will always be a battle between the predators and the prey, the haves and have-nots, or simply “us” vs “them.” Even the victims of yesterday can become the oppressors of today; no one is exempt. It is why all spirituality attempts to connect us to each other, to see the face of the godhead in the face of the stranger, and to become better than the isolated, selfish creatures we are.

It is the toughest commandment; “to be ruled by the love of one another,” but these days it is one we need to carry forth beyond the Holidays and into every day, and to everyone. It may even be more of a survival strategy that we ever thought. To quote a founding father “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

This song may not be a traditional Christmas Carol. But it should be.

The Concert at the Main Stage was part of the Homegrown Festival, a joint venture between the The Met Arts Center and the EFEx
For more about the Melrose Quartet:
For more about the English Folk Expo:
For more about The Met:

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Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman perform “52 hz” at EFEx from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

This duo was another pleasant surprise at the English Folk Expo. Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman have returned to the performance circuit after a stint of intensive parenting. This may have broadened the subject matter of Roberts’ songwriting –although they also performed several traditional ballads– and I was very much taken with this poignant song, a very different approach to the subject of the whale within a folk setting.

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Leveret plays “Upon A Summer’s Day” and “Abbots Bromley Horndance” from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

Leveret is: Andy Cutting, Sam Sweeney and Rob Harbron. This performance was part of the Homegrown Festival at The Met in Bury, England which was presented in collaboration with the English Folk Expo.
“Upon A Summer’s Day” appears in the Playford Book of English Dances and Tunes that first appeared in 1651. The Abbots Bromley Horndance can be traced back to the Middle Ages and the origin of the tune is unknown. It was collected by Cecil Sharpe.

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Here’s where you’ll find my weekly original world music video blogs that appear on Huffington Post, as well as an archive starting in April of 2009.

This is also the place where you will find video that is exclusive to my site. I’ve traveled to places like Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Taiwan and no matter where I go I have found amazingly talented and creative people working in every genre from the deepest traditions to the cutting edge.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to interview them and to capture some of what they do on video. Enjoy what you see and hear, and let me know what you think. I welcome your feedback.