Title: Folklore Tapes Calendar Customs Vol.II: Merry May
Format: Embossed cassette box including screen printed cassette sleeve, research booklet, essay, maypole ribbon, download code.
Release Date: 01/05/15
Carl Turney & Brian Campbell – SumerIsIcumenIn
The Blue Funz - Beltane, Isle of Mull: Need-Fire and Milking Cows Through Cake
Arianne Churchman - Minehead Hobby Horse
Rob St John - Bringing in the May
Ian Humberstone - The Hunting of the Earl of Rone
Mary & David - Wish Before Sunrise (May Dewing)
Children of Alice - Rite of the Maypole: An Unruly Procession
Sam McLoughlin - I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think
Malcolm Benzie - Hawthorne
Unite and unite and let us all unite,
For summer is a-come unto day
And whither we are going we will all unite,
In the merry morning of May.
May Day is one of the turning points of the year, when the transformation from winter to spring is ritually observed and celebrated. The Eve of May displays an obverse face to Halloween’s soot-blackened mask, fixed on the opposite arc of the annular globe. Both have origins in the Celtic pastoral year and the solar festivals which lent it formal division. Superstitions surrounding May Eve, May Day and the ensuing days at the start of the month persisted well into the medieval period, and even into the post-Reformation era. Fairies might steal or sour milk, or witches spell maleficent harm on the herd.
May Day festivities are all about getting outdoors and inhaling the first breath of summer; throwing the windows wide and heading for the woodlands and meadows with a light skip in the step. The custom most widely associated with May Day is the bringing in of the May. Boughs of blossoming hawthorn would be cut and brought back from meadow’s edge and strewn about town or village, some woven into garlands, others left as they were found. Maypoles were erected in villages, towns and cities. These towering columns would be painted with colourful stripes and hung about with ribbons and flowers. They became the focal point for local festivities, for dancing, whether in a wheeling, handlocked circle or weaving approaches and evasions. Morris dancing featured frequently, and there might be pipers and harpers, drummers and Fools to fuel the festivities with music and general jollity. Mummers plays were sometimes staged, the performers disguised, which gave them a certain license to mock the high and mighty. Parades were peopled by stock figures of British folklore, religious devotion and popular legend: George and the Dragon, regional saints, Jack-in-the-Greens, Giants and Devils.
‘Merry May’ explores this world of Spring carousing sonically, with contemporary music and sound informed by specific age-old traditions. The artists contributing to this compilation have each researched a particular May ritual and, informed by their findings, conjured a piece in response. As such, the cassette takes its listeners on an audiological journey where, mounted upon clacking Hobby horses, they will meet with May Birchers and Dewers, reel around Maypoles and parade the streets in the company of the Earl of Rone and the Fool.