Folk Music in The Winter’s Tale



By Brian Ford

Several people have asked me about the song Click go the Shears. It is based on a nineteenth century Australian folk song about the events and people in a sheep shearing shed in the days when all the work was done by hand. Helen has cleverly reworked the lyrics so that they are relevant to our play. In the original, an old shearer fixes his gaze on a ‘bare bellied yo’ (a ewe with no wool in her underside), hoping to shear her faster than the Ringer, the best shearer in the group, can shear his sheep, thus the old shearer would enhance his reputation and standing.  

Various people are mentioned, such as the tar boy with his pot, waiting to slap tar on a sheep with an open wound and the colonial experience man, an upper class English wastrel.

The song is derived from an American sea shanty called Strike the Bell in which a group of sailors try to persuade the second mate to strike the bell to allow them  off duty.  This song is performed by Wivenhoe’s very own shanty group The Hoolies, who will be appearing at the Wivenhoe Regatta on July 22nd, and at a shanty concert in St. Mary’s on 1st September.

The lovely recorder melody that Robin plays is from Percy Grainger’s suite for military band called A Lincolnshire Posy. It is a folk song called, appropriately, Lost Lady Found, which tells the story of a young woman kidnapped by gypsies, but her uncle is accused of murdering her and sentenced to death. Her lover goes in search for her and, after travelling through England, France and Spain (poetic licence here, I think), finds her (in Dublin!), they go back home and, in the nick of time, save her uncle from the gallows (Hooray! Hooray!)

The music at the start of the interval is the march from Vaughan Williams’ Folk Song Suite, based on the song Seventeen come Sunday.  There are a number of versions of this song collected from different parts of the country by Victorian folk song enthusiasts, including the splendidly eccentric clergyman Sabine Baring Gould, author of Onward Christian Soldiers and, for a time, rector of East Mersea.

I’ll stop there, I could bore you for hours with this sort of stuff. I think I should get out more!

Brian playing guitar (Alan on harmonica) while the cast dance and sing