King’s Lynn’s ancient Hanse House was the venue for the launch of Gareth Calway’s latest book, Doin Different. New Ballads from the East of England, writes Barry Allan.
After Vanessa Wood-Davies welcomed us, with her harp, a selection of ballads from the book were performed by Gareth to an appreciative audience: we did not require much cajolery to join in with the choruses.
The subjects of the songs were all folk heroes, heroines or villains of these eastern counties: Boudicca, Nelson, Edith Cavell, William Sawtrey, the ghost of Anne Boleyn, and a humourously gangsta take on Bad King John, amongst various others.
Old stories were given new life, through new music and words in traditional ballads. Songs to share in the folk clubs that grace this region; songs to be shaped, and songs to be enjoyed.
Performance duties were shared with Anto Morra who, along with many other contributors to the book, had put Gareth’s words to music. Their on-stage chemistry was effusive, infectious, and rattled the ancient rafters of the room with the raucous Half God, Half Nelson. This contrasted poignantly with Anto’s moving solo of The Ballad of Edith Cavell, which left this reviewer blinking back incipient tears for that singular tragedy of 100 years past. Bravo.