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History and song at Lancashire Sagas

Posted by Darren Leadsom on 13 November 2019

Earlier this year, Lancashire Music Hub staged their big show at Blackpool Winter Gardens that brought together schoolchildren from across Lancashire to celebrate the county’s heritage and history through music. Acclaimed folk group The Young ‘Uns worked with the children to create new songs to be performed at the show.

LYVE also got the opportunity to collaborate with them, writing the song ‘Dark Ages’. Music leader Emma Williams has written the following blog about that experience, and you can also hear the song they wrote, which has been put together with a new video made by Ash Murphy featuring the LYVE singers.

“When we were approached to get involved with the Lancashire Sagas project it didn’t seem like the most obvious ‘fit’ for LYVE. The Dark Ages? History workshops? Songs from 500 years ago didn’t seem like a happy place for the LYVErs.

But if the LYVErs are anything; they’re open-minded!

We got to work with the team from Lancashire Heritage; two thousand years of history in a few minutes and that got our imaginations running. We pictured the Dark Ages; a time before most historical detail was documented and the fate of the country was uncertain. David and John from the Heritage Team painted a picture for us of home life 1500 years ago; women in control of the home front; using songs and storytelling to document their history.

We came up with these words;

Tales of the early time of man…
Fairest fields enfolded by water…
Of mortal beings that breathe and move…
A light to lighten the land dwellers… (Beowulf)

Mother to daughter, father to son; Fear and fire, language begun.
Women in power, Vikings in sight. 300 stories by candlelight.
What do the eyes see as grotesque? Searching for dreams and hopes picturesque.
In the unknown life becomes harder. Will there be war? Will you pray for your father?

Strong in bond, fear never felt, holding the land with a sword on their belt.
Alone and confused; fiercely go on, but what do we know? The facts? There are none.
Raids full of jewels, sights of blood; Songs full of stories, a soldier once stood.
A Silverdale hoard, found one day; split like the kingdom in seven different ways

Although the lyrics LYVE wrote were very different from much of our previous writing, the music was familiar and the singers took inspiration from Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” and Lin Manuel Miranda’s ‘Burn’ from Hamilton. We even experimented with a more choral flavour at the end.

We got to perform Dark Ages at the Sagas event which was held in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens on June 27th, 2019 alongside schools from across Lancashire, the Lancashire Youth Folk Ensemble and The Young Uns. We were also able to create 3 other musical transitions within the show; a fresh interpretation of ‘Poverty Knock’ about conditions for 19th century Mill-workers, “Where are we now?”; a rap questioning our place in 21st century history, led by Logan and also a lovely two-part version of the familiar song ‘Greensleeves’; rap, beatboxing, body percussion, unison, harmony, accompanied and a capella vocals, folk, RnB, Hip Hop and Tudor songs; a truly mixed bag!

It was a great night and the response was really positive with Karen from the Arts Council commenting that LYVE were “truly fab and really stood out, both in quality and presentation”

Sean from The Young Uns added; “I thought LYVE were fantastic. Young people singing with such joy was a pleasure to see. Breathing life into an old Lancashire song and creating a new piece about Lancashire in the Dark Ages with gorgeous harmonies and wonderful rapping and beat boxing.”

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