Showing posts with label Ewan MacColl. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ewan MacColl. Show all posts

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Ewan MacColl version of Scotland

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger


MacColl was a Scottish indy supporter

He wrote some incredible songs. 

He is remembered best for his songs – Dirty Old Town, First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Shoals of Herring

He was born Salford, Jimmie Miller -he would lie and said he was from Auchterrarder and had a Glasgow childhood. 


He had Scottish parents – his mother from outer Hebrides. He read of 19th century Gaelic poet Eoghan MacColl of Lochfyneside. He collected Scots ballads, 


MacColl recorded album of street songs from Dublin, Salford and Glasgow with Irishman Dominic Behan. He was friends with Scots poets Hugh MacDiarmid and Hamish Henderson.


MacColl was part of the Scottish Literary Renaissance – 1920s, 1930s connected to the Celtic revival movement renewed cultural nationalism. Both looked back to poets such as William Dunbar and also to contemporary poets such as Ezra Pound, TS Eliot, WB Yeats, Edwin Morgan , first Scots Maker. 

Town planning of people and their environment – place-work-folk. 

Also novelists  Neil Gunn, Lewis Grassic Gibbons, 

Scottish Gaelic Renaissance – Sorley MacLean.

Edwin Morgan

Hugh MacDiarmid

He had strong left wing views and monitored by M15. He married Peggy Seeger lived Beckenham, Kent on his song royalties. He was a prophet not fully acknowledged. Who felt and imagined himself as part of the Scotland of his parents. 


We need honest visionaries who recognise the past and see the ways forward.

BOOK: The cultural and political life of Ewan MacColl by Ben Marker.


Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole writes, “MacColl’s influence on the culture we live through now is so ­pervasive as to be almost invisible – so much taken for granted that we hardly bother to see it.”

Friday, 10 July 2015

Peggy Seeger Oran Mor

The timeless story of songs and words

I enjoyed a gig last week at the Oran Mor Glasgow with the delicate clear voice of folk legend Peggy Seeger (wife of renowned folk  songwriter Ewan MacColl) She sparkled and shone at the age of 80 and took us into her world of music. She said that it is only music that uses all of our minds.

What a lovely classy, dedicated and informed lady!  She offered us some of her collection of stories she held in a large notebook – some were funny, some profound and some moving. Seeger is an accomplished musician and the daughter of folklorist Charles Seeger and her brother is the American folk singer songwriter Pete Seeger.

The Gig
Peggy played a full set with her two sons from 7.30 to 10, (there was no support) with a twenty minute interval. I was glad I wasn’t late!  I feel sure it must take careful thought to choose from a lifetime catalogue of traditional folk songs and stories to chose from. Peggy beamed and showered little pearls of wisdom. 

They began the set with the traditional folk song Hard Times. They sang of longings and of good times and the words, “The dark rolling sea between you and me, How I long for the days gone by.“ Neill and Callum sang Freight Train and also a couple of unaccompanied songs. 

She clearly enjoyed sharing the stage with her two sons with Neill and Callum, who provided lovely blended backing harmonies and guitar. They played some traditional folk instruments - autoharp, banjo, guitar, concertina and piano. Ewan and Callum sang Freight Train. and also a couple of unaccompanied songs. 

The family trio finished the set with the life-affirming Ewan song The Joy of Living. For their encore Peggy treated us to the real version of MacColl’s most famous song, First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Folk artists sing with a realism and true heart and never over sing or over do the emotions. 

There are no pretensions or airs or graces around Peggy. She stood for several songs and for others she clutched her instruments. Occasionally she waved her hands and arms wide. Peggy beamed and showered little pearls of wisdom.  It was heartening to see Peggy still full of joie de vivre and ready to command the stage! At 80, not only is she wise and like the highest quality red wine, she is still challenging herself to be fresh and relevant. 

After Ewan died Peggy returned to America. She returned to the UK in 2010 and has recorded her first ever solo album which marks a musical rebirth after she suffered from serious ill health.

In 2015 Peggy released Everything Changes. She has said that she enjoyed greatly working with a full session band for the album, which was produced by her son Calum MacColl and features musicians Simon Edwards (Talk Talk, Kirsty MacColl), James Hallawell (The Waterboys, David Gray), Martyn Barker (Shriekback, Goldfrapp) and Kate St John (Dream Academy, Nick Drake). 

I was pleased with my photos and hope they tell the story of the gig - it is always a challenge and at a classy gig like this full of dedicated folk fans I don’t like to disturb the set and I always aim to be discreet.  I take photos either seated or at the side. This was a family affair with her sister-in-law managing the tour.

Women need to say STOP! 
One story from Peggy stood out – about an Amazon tribe where they considered the men tended to be destructive – they cut down trees for canoes, they killed animals for food and they fought wars. Wheras the women were the nurturers of the crops and the children. So they felt the women needed to tell the men when to stop. They would say STOP, we have enough canoes stop cutting down trees. They would say we have enough to eat, STOP killing animals. We don’t need any more wars STOP! When one of the tribe visited the western world she wondered why there were only male voices to be heard and why the women were not saying STOP.

Music is the healer and motivator.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Blood and Roses: The songs of Ewan MacColl

Neill and Calum MacColl
Concert for Ewan MacColl Celtic Connections 2015
A joyous celebration of the life and songs of Ewan MacColl and a family affair along with the English folk family the Carthys.  

MacColl was many things, a diamond in the rough - a self taught actor, playwright, author, singer, songwriter, activist, song collector. He is known for his part in the folk revival movements of the 60s. He wrote one of my favourite songs ever, the well loved - 'The First Tie Ever I Saw Your Face.'

He is also best known for his songs and tonight we were enriched by hearing them interpreted in the traditional tried and tested way by some of England’s and Scotland’s finest folk singers - Dick Gaughan, Karine Polwart, Martin Carthy, Eliza Carthy, The Blue Nile's Paul Buchanan, American musician Chaim Tannenbaum, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, his sons Neill and Calum MacColl, and four of MacColl's grandchildren.
Neill and Calum MacColl

The event was organized by his two sons (with folk singer Peggy Seeger) Calum and Neill MacColl, and by Kate St John. His second wife Peggy was unable to be there due to illness.  For Peggy he wrote one of the most perfect love songs - The First time Ever I saw Your Face and Neill commented that his parents had a display they called the 'Chamber of Horrors' for some of the dire covers of this now very famous song. 

The band played acoustically and included double bass, accordion and guitars and with stripped back arrangements so the songs were able to shine through. On stage there was a backdrop of black and white images of Ewan and his wife Peggy Seeger.   
Dick Gaughan
**Some true gems tonight –
Scottish folk legend Dick Gaughan and Karine Polwart began the concert with a strong interpretation of Ewan's song Ballad of Accounting. Gaughan also sang a dramatic Father's Song. Karine Polwart's truly felt cover of the song Nobody Knew She was There.

I especially enjoyed the Blue Nile's Paul Buchanan’s subtle interpretation of The First Time Ever I Saw your Face which was full of honest depth and heart and with none of those trills or unnecessary overdone vocal gymnastics so common these days on reality shows.

Eliza Carthy, Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy
English folk singer Martin Carthy sang with character Champion at Keeping Em Rolling and Freeborn Man of the Travelling People. Eliza Carthy performed with honesty and verve the MacColl songs Alone, Space Girl and The Fitters Song. Martin and Eliza Cathy were joined by Norma Waterson to sing a moving interpretation of MacColl's The Moving on Song. 
Pulp's Jarvis Cocker sang in his own very unique way the song The Battle is Done With.  
American musician and philosopher Chaim Tannenbaum impressively joined the cast of players. He sang MacColl's Go Down Ye Murderers and My Old Man and the well-known song now in the folk cannon, Shoals of Herring. (For 40 years, folk music’s first family, the Wainwright-McGarrigle clan, has enjoyed Tannerbaum's quiet support.)

MacColl's grandchildren performed some shanties.  Calum MacColl sang the well kent Sweet Thames Flow Softly and Neill MacColl sang the poignant The Joy of Living, before the encore songs for us all to sing along with - Dirty Old Town and Manchester Rambler.  

Jarvis cocker
Martin Carthy
Ewan McColl concert PHOTOS -
MacColl was a fine storyteller with a magic way with words and wrote life-affirming songs. McColl died in 1989 at 74.
His wife, Peggy Seeger, now 80, still tours and records. She is an American classically trained musician and part of another famous folk family - the Seegers (Pete Seeger).  Her father was Charles Seeger, a folklorist and musicologist; her mother was Ruth Porter Crawford, a modernist composer who was one of the first women to receive a Guggenheim fellowship.

They are also known for their folk club, The Singers Club, in London and their Critics Group a "master class" for young singers performing traditional songs or to compose new songs. Seeger and MacColl performed and recorded as a duo and as solo artists;

A four disc boxed set of MacColl’s songs to mark the centenary, will be released later this year and will include some of the singers at tonight's show.  MacColl's parents were Scottish
He has released albums twenty solo albums and thirty albums with Peggy.