Good Order!
Ladies and Gentlemen please

This CD (VT 140 CD), released by Veteran in December 2000, is based on restoration of two BBC radio programmes recorded either side of the Second world War in The Eel's Foot, Eastbridge, Suffolk - capturing the pub's atmosphere marvellously.

The first set of recordings was made in 1939 by A L Lloyd, the second in 1947 for a programme made by Moeran exploring the folk-singing of East Anglia which also included music from a pub in Norfolk. Veteran have used a mixture of BBC archive acetate discs and recordings held by the National Sound Archive.

The sound quality has benefited from careful restoration, though there is some clear difference between the two recordings, with the later part significantly cleaner, and the CD presents briliantly an audio portrait of the pub folk-singing of the time. This is surely the closest we will ever come to hearing what Moeran referred to as a 'frolic', and which first kindled his interest in collecting folk music around England and Ireland.

MP3 Audio


"The Dark-eyed Sailor", credited by Moeran in his 1946 article as the first song he ever collected, is sung by Jack Clark (pictured) on the 1947 recording, with a short programme announcement at the end.
(1.95 MB)

The Dark Eyed Sailor

Interestingly, the sleevenotes state: "This is a joint production between Theberton and Eastbridge Community Council and Veteran [Records]. It is a millennium project with the aim of celebrating the unique singing tradition recorded by the BBC at the Eel's Foot by the production of the CD and the staging of a vilage concert...a copy of this CD is to be given free to each household in the village"

For more information and to order a copy of the CD, visit the Veteran website. I am grateful to John Howson at Veteran for permission to include audio from the CD on this site.

Disc Prices from Veteran:

Uk & Eire - £12.99 including P+P
EC - £13.99 including air mail
Rest of the World - £14.49 including air mail


Comment

Writing in Volume III of the Penguin Music Magazine in 1947 in an article on the then new BBC Third Programme, "Music On The Air", Stanley Bayliss commented:

"In a recent issue of Music Magazine E J Moeran introduced some recordings of folk-singers recently made in Norfolk. This was a most interesting broadcast, but not altogether an enjoyable one. It proved that collectors like Mr Moeran have been faithful and accurate in noting down these traditional congs; but let me confess that I found the timbre of the voices of all the singers extremely raucous and almost unbearably ugly."

I wonder if Mr Bayliss would have preferred the Suffolk singers?

 

From the Sleevenotes:

The Eel's Foot

The Eel's Foot in Eastbridge, just like the Ship at Blaxhall, will go down in traditional music history as one of the great singing pubs of East Anglia. Its singers were visited over the years by many collectors but it was the evenings recorded by the BBC in 1939, instigated by folksong scholar A. L. Lloyd and in the 1947 visit arranged by the Irish [sic] composer E. J. Moeran, that captured the true spirit of a Saturday night's singing in such a remote, rural pub.

The pub was in the Ginger family for seven years and the Morling family for over forty years. Eileen Morling, who is now in her eightieth year, kept the pub with her husband Stan from 1945 to 1958. She was at the 1939 recording, aged nineteen, and of course was the landlady when the 1947 recording was done. She remembered that the producer, Maurice Brown, asked her not to spread the word about that visit, but the word got out and the pub was crowded.

She described what went on Saturday nights:

"Everyone would arrive and they all had their own chairs, then at eight the dart board would be taken down and order would be called by Phil Lumpkin with a crib pegging board being banged on the table and they used to go around the room, 'sing, say or pay', and if you didn't sing you had to give a little forfeit of some sort. Then they would sing the whole evening until ten o'clock because you had to close on time in those days. Then there would be stepdancing: 1 believe Jumbo danced and Eric Stollery could stepdance.. Some of them wouldn't always come out 'cause they weren't regular pub goers. Some like Percy Denny were regulars and others just came on a Saturday for the singing. Velvet used to come from Leiston, then Mrs Howard, she used to also come on dart matches. When the BBC came in '47 the pub was packed and I was so proud. We didn't tell anyone but everyone knew and they all turned up early and they just let every one sing ordinarily. They treated everybody really well and gave them all free beer. What you heard was how it was. That was a lovely night but that was just a beer house in those days and Stan had to go out to work but 1 had Philip to help me. Everyone were so pleased; they were thrilled to bits to think the BBC came to our little pub."



Real Audio

The opening announcement to the Moeran-recorded section of the disc.

Introduction (1'00")

Sleevenotes on Moeran

E J Moeran submitted articles to many learned publications and in December 1948 he had a piece published in the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society entitled 'Some Folk Singing of Today'. In his introduction he mentioned an article he had written some eighteen months before for a quarterly journal where he had stated that it seemed likely that the spontaneous singing of old songs, when men foregathered on Saturday nights, had now died out. He continued:

"Last autumn I was asked by the British Broadcasting Corporation to make investigations In East Anglia with a view to obtaining authentic recordings of traditional singers. I visited my old haunts in East Norfolk and to my surprise, I found that not only were many of my old friends living, hale and hearty, but that they were still having sing-songs on their own in local pubs.

"I was also told of a remote pub in Suffolk where singing took place, and there I found the same thing happening. One of the singers there was a man of about fifty who learned his songs from his father. The latter was also present, singing in the quavering and asthmatic tones of old age, but it was only recently that he had allowed the young man of fifty, his son Jumbo to 'perform in public,' for he was determined that he must acquire the true traditional style, uncontaminated by outside influences, before so doing.

"In this Suffolk pub it is literally 'performance in public'. Every Saturday night the company, male and female, assemble in a low-ceilinged room, and through a haze of smoke from strong shag tobacco the chairman can be seen presiding over the sing-song (or 'frolic' in local parlance) calling in turn for a contribution on those of the company he sees fit to honour. He maintains absolute discipline; talking must cease during the singing of a song, and he has such a personality that he succeeds in producing conditions like those in Wigmore Hall during a quartet recital.

"There is dancing too, and proceedings always begin with a series of clog dances, danced on a wooden table to the accompaniment of a melodeon; a grotesque performance, inasmuch as the dancer has to bend nearly double because of the lowness of the ceiling

'Two weeks after my preliminary trip I went again with a recording van. The singers seemed quite excited about it and were out to do their very best. The engineers, for the most part, arranged things in such a way that all the men had to do was sit and sing and carry on as usual."

 

 

 

©2011 The Worldwide Moeran Database

 

This is surely the closest we will ever come to hearing what Moeran referred to as a 'frolic'...