Afternoon tea recital – Songs of Waterloo

Songs of Waterlooinn Ipsden Church : L to R David Wells-Cole and Peter Brown

Songs of Waterlooinn Ipsden Church : L to R David Wells-Cole and Peter Brown

The last tea recital in the church for this year was a real treat and a great concert for a freezing cold afternoon at the end of November. This was not an occasion for sitting silently and shivering gently through an aesthetic experience in which the cold was increasingly gaining the upper hand. Rather we were encouraged to clap, slap, pound your thighs, sing along and even stomp our feet on the floor in time to the music. For under an hour we came over all nineteenth century and I felt the breath of Becky Sharp peering over my shoulder with acerbic  and sometimes heartless comments, telling the battle as she saw it from the comparative comfort of Brussels (where with her eyes on a half chance she even made profit selling her own horses for battle).

Songs of Waterloo: Susan Spindler joins David Wells-Cole and Peter Brown

Songs of Waterloo: Susan Spindler joins David Wells-Cole and Peter Brown

Today the spell of battle was summoned up by a loosely woven band of  journalists, academics and folk singers whose singing was augmented by the welcome nudge of a narrator reminding us of historical background and details of the music (sometimes existing melodies to which new words were added). Have a look at their website which includes recordings of just a few of the songs they sing and tells you a bit about them. (Susan Spindler, a camp follower and wife to Peter Brown stepped in to sing one of the songs but she doesn’t usually perform with them which is a shame as she sang as beautifully as she was modest.) 2015 has already seen them performing in the British Museum, the Army and Navy Club, at the Waterloo Dinner of the Royal Logistic Corps in Grantham, at the Wordsworth War and Waterloo Event at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, Walmer Castle during the New Waterloo Despatch Celebrations and even in Hatchards Book Shop in Piccadilly who own the copyright to one of the songs.We were delighted to add Ipsden Church to that illustrious list.

Songs of Waterloo, L to R : David Wells-Cole, Susan Spindler and Peter Brown

Songs of Waterloo, L to R : David Wells-Cole, Susan Spindler and Peter Brown

Once more Gillian Kelley had organised the event beautifully. Tea and cakes afterwards were excellent and we went out happily into the cold darkening afternoon with snatches of half remembered ballads on our lips. (Peter Brown, one of the band, was not the only one who learnt ‘Bony was a warrior’ at school from BBC ‘s School Radio programme Time and Tune in the late 50s – or may be early 60s!) We look forward to more songs of battles. A lovely afternoon in church in which no one mentioned Christmas!

Post Script: Several people have remembered school singing of hymns and folk songs many of which have disappeared from the hymnals for being too aggressive or inciting of wrong thinking. In this context I just can’t resist quoting the second verse of God Save the Queen  (the national anthem since 1745).  Scarcely ever sung this verse has suspect rhymes, lyrics guaranteed to reduces a school assembly to fits of ill suppressed giggles and sentiments verging on the politically incorrect. The French national anthem may rouse with turning ploughshares into weapons and furrows running with blood but the British are urged to nationhood by ears at the keyhole and noses for an unpatriotic rogue.

O Lord our God arise,

scatter our enemies,

and make them fall;

confound their politics,

frustrate their knavish tricks;

on thee our hopes we fix:

God save us all.

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  1. Posted November 25, 2015 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    I always get distracted from the original song to “Boneywasawarriorwayayix” in “Asterix in Corsica”..

    It sounds as though great fun was had by all!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 26, 2015 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      And once that gets fixed in the mind there’s no way back. I can never hear the introduction to University Challenge without hearing it followed by “Bamber Gascoigne” – however many more times Jeremy Paxman may have done it subsequently!

  2. marge
    Posted November 26, 2015 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    What a treat, and an unusual theme. Also, we had a BBC programme in junior school assembly in the mid-60s – was it every Tuesday? I associate one particular hymn with it – Fight the Good Fight?…or To Be a Pilgrim maybe? Both are swimming round in my head now!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 26, 2015 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      Both probably now viewed as too aggressive for regular outings. The one that goes round in my head is ‘When a knight won his spurs’ which I’m delighted to have just discovered has words by Jan Struther and is set to an arrangement of a folk melody by Ralph Vaughan Williams. I love it so much I sing it as a lullaby to my grandson.
      I’m sure we had the same BBC programme – how clever of you to have any idea what day of the week it was on.

      • marge
        Posted November 27, 2015 at 9:12 am | Permalink

        Haha – I’m probably wrong about the day – but yes, I remember ‘When a knight won his spurs’. I’d forgotten all about it. Thanks for the memory!

        • Mary Addison
          Posted November 28, 2015 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          We sang some wonderful things in childhood and it’s sad to find that many I enjoyed have been hushed into a back room as a result of political correctness’s strong arm – including Percy Dearmer’s ‘Remember all the people who live in far off lands’ (including the immortal lines ‘some work in sultry forests where apes swing to and fro’) which is currently excluded from most hymnals.

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