Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Lavender's Blue....or is it?

I've always been fascinated by nursery rhymes and the half truths we tell to children.  I was brought up on Tim Hart's nursery rhyme renditions.  These were two children's records made by top notch folkies of the time to save their own ears from the dire children's recordings that they were expected to inflict on their offspring.  

I loved these records.  We had my dad's old record player in the play room and these were the only two records we ever played.  I still have a vivid image of the front sleeve of 'What shall we do with the drunken sailor' - a girl in a bright yellow sequinned dress supporting a drunk sailor in a stripey top.  There were also years of my dad complaining that we had either lost or scratched this record until both were thankfully released on CD recently.

In contrast to these were the children's records of Roy Bailey.  Songs such as 'you need skin' sat happily alongside 'swallow swallow' which explained beautifully the migration of birds to warmer climates in the winter.  I watched Roy Bailey at the Skegness folk festival when I was 6.  I asked him if he'd play 'swallow swallow', but he smiled kindly and said that he couldn't remember the words. Then a few years back I went to see Roy Bailey with Tony Benn and heard for the first time his political songs.  But Roy Bailey in my view didn't ever glamourise in his children's songs to the point of telling untruths.  His lines included 'some women love women, some men love men', 'the vitamin dance' and a fab poem about how frustrating it is to be small.  I always felt that Roy Bailey's songs gave children a truth that they deserved.

I have worked with children of varying ages for the past 11 years and have sung nursery rhymes on a daily basis for many of these jobs.  I've been struck by how many nursery rhymes have lost meanings or are simply very difficult to understand.  There are plenty of books on the subject, but during our collaborative songwriting week, I used the idea of untruths in nursery rhymes to write 'Lavender's Hue'.  This is a song about disillusionment and the impact of half truths on adults - although the theme we were given was 'the night' and to write within AABA/ 32 bar form.  I was pounced upon by a film crew whilst writing this song and below is their very well crafted documentary which they have titled 'Queen of Truth'.  I hope that you enjoy both the film and the song, and thanks for all their hard work.





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