The Full English
A new digital archive of folk manuscripts brought to life through performance
The groundbreaking Full English project (sponsored by the English Folk Dance and Song Society) draws together a magnificent 20th-century haul of folk songs and artifacts – by collectors such as Cecil Sharp, Percy Grainger and Ralph Vaughan Williams – in a free online database.
What better way to bring the collection to life than in making new music from it? To that end, Fay Hield has assembled a hugely talented group – she is joined by Seth Lakeman, Martin Simpson, Nancy Kerr, Ben Nicholls, Rob Harbron and Sam Sweeney to play 12 of the songs from the vast archive on a national tour and CD released on Topic Records.
The album is shortlisted for the fRoots Critical Poll ‘Album of 2013’. Here are some reviews of the project:
"Singer and folk scholar Fay Hield was commissioned by the English Folk Dance and Song Society to create new arrangements from the archive; and what began as a promise to perform a few numbers at the launch party turned into an album and tour by a collective of folk-world A-listers including Martin Simpson on guitar, Seth Lakeman on fiddle and Bellowhead's Sam Sweeney on seemingly everything including the splendidly arcane nickelharpa, a Scandinavian cross between a typewriter and a violin." The Guardian
"The music is full of inventive arrangements and the album is elegantly presented, with interesting sleeve notes from Hield. Discussing her treatment of the reworked Edwardian opener Awake Awake, she asks: “Controversial and callous treatment of a sacred text or the folk process at work? Discuss!"
Well, history needn’t be trapped in the past and I’m sure the great folk collectors honoured in The Full English would be singing rather than spinning in their graves at this fine album." The Daily Telegraph
"Bringing the past into the present, this joint set (assembled by the singer Fay Hield) gives a formidable group of performers, including Martin Simpson, Nancy Kerr and Seth Lakeman, the opportunity to peer into a world of Edwardian innocence. If Vaughan Williams’s setting of Linden Lea isn’t a folk song in the strictest sense, no one, surely, is complaining." Sunday Times
"This online project, helmed by singer/scholar Fay Hield, draws together a collection of early 20th Century English folk songs. The splendid resource also gives its name to the contemporary supergroup convened here to bring the collection to life, vividly depicting many shades of working class struggle and triumph as they do so. Seasonal celebrations, tragedies, comic interludes and oodles of foot-stomping, spirit-lifting warmth ensue. Seth Lakeman and Martin Simpson join Hield and a colourfully appointed band. All human life is here." Daily Mirror
"It’s a potent seven-strong line-up and the set of 12 songs opens with the grainy vocal chorale of “Awake Awake”, drawing on one of English folk’s archetypal tunes and lyrical themes – betrayed love. It’s a deep cut for an opener, and the album is full of powerful sources and performances – whether it’s the dance tune, William and Nancy, Martin Simpson delivering a superlative “Creeping Jane”, or Seth Lakeman leading “Portrait of My Wife”. It feels stately and rich, and is a fascinating way in to the wealth of the Full English portal of songs and sources." Theartsdesk.com