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The Gift of Music, Keswick House, Branthwaite Road, Workington, Cumbria, CA14 4ED, United Kingdom.

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Upstairs, Downstairs

Upstairs, Downstairs

Ref: CDG1235

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Music from the servants' hall

Traditional tunes, witty lyrics and old instruments make music for having a good time below stairs, where life could be tough and the work was hard. But when the work was over and a holiday came round there would be singing and dancing, often with wistful reflection on a better life to come, or featuring traditional tales of Robin Hood and rich and poor.

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Upstairs, Downstairs
Music from the servants' hall

Traditional tunes, witty lyrics and old instruments make music for having a good time below stairs, where life could be tough and the work was hard. But when the work was over and a holiday came round there would be singing and dancing, often with wistful reflection on a better life to come, or featuring traditional tales of Robin Hood and rich and poor.


1 Coortin' in the kitchen
Ian Giles, Jon Boden, John Spiers, Joey Oliver
2 The Lincolnshire Poacher
Benji Kirkpatrick and Dr Faustus
3 Pied du cheval
Sara Stowe, Matthew Spring, Jon Banks
4 Dou way Robin
Serendipity
5 Ah Robin, gentle Robin
Serendipity
6 Jenny pluck pears
The Broadside Band
7 Can she excuse (The Earl of Essex Galliard)
The Broadside Band
8 Millisons Jegge
The Broadside Band
9 Trolly lolly
Sara Stowe, Matthew Spring, Jon Banks
10 The moreen (the minstrel boy)
Jon Banks
11 Roses in bloom
The Oxford Girls' Choir
12 My neat auburn maid
Sarah Hill
13 Drink old England dry
Ian Giles, John Spiers
14 Whisky is the life of man
Graham Metcalfe, Ian Giles, John Spiers, Jon Boden
15 Portsmouth/Bonny Kate
John Spiers, Jon Boden
16 The green fields of Americay
Marguerite Hutchinson, Jon Boden, John Spiers
17 Tripping upstairs/The old favourite/Going to the well for water
Joey Oliver, John Spiers, Jon Boden, Ian Giles
18 The maid behind the bar/The earl's chair/The silver spear
Joey Oliver, John Spiers, Jon Boden, Ian Giles
19 Trooper and maid
Benji Kirkpatrick, Paul Sartin


CCL CDG1235
Cover image: Rinso advert courtesy of The Advertising Archives
Made in Great Britain

This selection of music from times past represents some of the historical and social themes which lie behind the lives of servants at great houses. 'Coortin' in the kitchen' is a witty song, which perfectly captures an imaginary scene below stairs - even the very title suggests something slightly illicit: the two lovers in the song probably had no time for 'courtin' elsewhere, since life was hard and working hours so long. 'Tripping Upstairs' is in similar vein, while many of the tracks included here are pure dance music for enjoyment during the limited leisure time which was available to servants.

Other songs tell of new life, and a yearning for something different. In 'The green fields of Americay' the potential benefits of change are clear to hear, and in 'Portsmouth', the lure of the open sea is very important, as an opportunity to explore new horizons and break away from daily life.

Some of the songs are just plain cheerful - and often have to do with the benefits of drink, whether as a way of 'drinking old England dry', or as a comfort in hard times and during hard work, as in 'Whisky is the life of man'. Some have dark undertones, not at first obvious from the words. The Lincolnshire poacher is in many ways a tragic figure, forced to steal for food, despite the cheerful nature of his song. He 'gets away with it' this time, and cocks a snook at the authorities. Some songs will have been used to help with the daily repetitive tasks that took up the lives of most servants, rather in the way that sea shanties helped with the back-breaking tasks of gathering sail and rope.

Other tracks are all old songs, some being medieval in origin, and they tell of Robin Hood, who, legend has it, robbed the rich to help the poor. We can imagine them being sung by minstrels in the hall - and afterwards in the servants' quarters - for many hundreds of years. Tracks 6-8 set famous songs 'of times of yore': with an emphasis on repetition, all make good dance material (more opportunities for 'courtin'?) and are played by the sort of small band that a typical household might have been able to muster below stairs whenever a festive opportunity arose.

The instruments used on the recording are traditional, and the voices are, in the main, those of the folk music world. The album has an simple, straightforward feel which we hope you enjoy.


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