August 05, 2011

And Now It Is So Early, Songs of Sydney Carter - Bob and Carole Pegg [1972]

Sydney Carter (1915 - 2004), folk poet, holy sceptic, gentle satirist, theological iconoclast and composer of two of the most popular songs sung in morning assemblies in British schools: One More Step and Lord Of The Dance. Neither appear on Bob and Carole Pegg's [ aka Mr Fox] collection of interpretations, though Lord of the Dance is covered on their contemporaneous He Came From the Mountain

(Sydney wrote Lord of the Dance in 1963, as an adaptation of Shaker hymn Simple Gifts featured in Aaron Copland's ballet Appalachian Spring. Sydney sees Christ as "the incarnation of the piper who is calling us. He dances that shape and pattern which is at the heart of our reality... I sing of the dancing pattern in the life and words of Jesus.")

Bob and Carole present a mix of borderline street cabaret (Last Exit to Brooklyn, Doctor Spock) and wyrdly Christian (Come, Love, Carolling, Shake and Shiver, Judas and Mary). To these ears, it's the latter pieces that continue to resonate most fearsomely.

Fearless and declamatory, Friday Morning has the robber crucified with Jesus cry out: 

"It was on a Friday morning that they took me from my cell 

And I saw they had a carpenter to crucify as well. 
You can blame it on to Pilate, you can blame it on the Jews, 
You can blame it on the Devil, it's God I accuse. 
It's God they ought to crucify, instead of you and me, 
I said to the carpenter a-hanging on the tree."
If any church comes close to holding Sydney's allegiance, it is the Society of Friends, with its rejection of dogma, and reliance on personal experience, social activism, and affirmation of God's presence in every human being. Suitably Morris flavoured closing track George Fox then is a canny choice. Fox toured the country giving sermons arguing the irrelevance of consecrated buildings and ordained ministers to the individual seeking God.

Sydney: "Bibles, legends, history are signposts: they are pointing to the future, not the past. Do not embrace the past or it will turn into an idol." Jesus is central, not "the official Jesus - but the Jesus who is calling you to liberty, to the breaking of all idols including the idol which he himself has become." 

01 Come, Love, Caroling
02 Run the Film Backwards
03 Glass of Water
04 Last Exit to Brooklyn
05 Up at the House of Cecil Sharp
06 Port Mahon
07 Shake and Shiver
08 The Holy Horses
09 Judas and Mary
10 Friday Morning
11 Doctor Spock
12 The Candlelight
13 George Fox

Oddi wrth y brawd


Reimer said...

sounds a treat. Thanks so much.


Holly said...

Lovely, lovely share. Thank you!

Edwin Moore said...

Excellewnt thanks have had my copy of that album for over 30 years now!

Sydney Carter was a genius.

Anonymous said...