FAIRPORT CONVENTION – WALTER SCOTT AND AN ORIGIN FOR THE GROUP’S NAME?

The legendary UK folk-rock group Fairport Convention need no introduction to lovers of folk or neo-folk music, with a rolling membership over decades including some of the most important names in that world, among them the late great female vocalist Sandy Denny and the still prolific Richard Thompson. Fairport’s album of 1969, Liege and Lief, is often considered to be folk-rock’s finest moment. The origins of the group’s somewhat arcane name have been charted in the past, but the last word is perhaps yet to be said.

It is known that in the mid-1960s an early avatar of the group used to rehearse in a largish house located in the Fortis Green district of the north London borough of Haringey, built around 1900 and going under the name of Fairport House, or just plain Fairport. It belonged to the family of founder member Simon Nicol but was later converted into bedsits, one of the tenants being another group member, Ashley Hutchings. Fairport House was thus umbilically connected with the emerging group, to which its name became attached –  the place where the budding folk-rock musicians convened as … Fairport Convention. The story is narrated by Patrick Humphries in Strange Affair, his 1996 biography of Richard Thompson: Humphries tells the tale of how the name Fairport Convention was coined by a friend of Simon Nicol’s. But why was the house called Fairport in the first place? On that, Strange Affair is silent.

I would not have taken the matter further had it not been that recently I began reading (and have now finished) The Antiquary, a novel published in 1816 by none other than Scotland’s national novelist, Sir Walter Scott (Penguin Classics edition, 1998). This, Scott’s third novel, is set in and around an imaginary Scottish small town and seaport, believed to have been based on Arbroath in Angus – but in the novel called … Fairport!

Could this fictional place lie behind the naming (by the original owner?) of the house that gave its appellation to Fairport Convention? It is far from impossible: houses have been named before now after novels or elements in novels. In French-speaking countries no-one would be surprised to find apartment blocks named after characters from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. In Scotland, Edinburgh’s Waverley station and the Heart of Midlothian football club both share their names with novels by Scott.

A connection with Walter Scott would make sense as part of the ambiance around Fairport Convention’s music. Scott’s seminal collection of traditional ballads from 1801, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, included material like ‘Tam Lin’ or the celebrated ‘Sir Patrick Spens’ that getting on for two centuries later would be recorded by Fairport. Richard Thompson, meanwhile, tells us in his recent memoir Beeswing that as a child he read three of Scott’s novels, Waverley, Rob Roy and Ivanhoe. We do not know if he also read The Antiquary or if he would have recognised the link when he entered the portals of Fairport, but the connection can at least provide an interesting literary-musical intertext.

Meanwhile I would be interested to know if anyone has tracked down more data on this!

Note : For Patrick Humphries’ account of the group’s formation and naming and the Fairport house and name, see his Richard Thompson – Strange Affair : the Biography (London : Virgin Books, 1996), chapter 3 (pp. 34-47) ; for Richard Thompson on reading Scott, see his book Beeswing: Fairport, Folk Rock and Finding My Voice 1967-1975 (London : Faber and Faber, 2021), p. 98.

Note 2 (added 3 March 2022): I passed this piece to Patrick Humphries and am pleased to relate that a subsequent post on his Facebook page elicited replies from both Simon Nicol and Linda Thompson, Richard Thompson’s onetime spouse. Simon Nicol said that the house’s previous owner, a Dr Munro or Monroe, was Scottish, a fact certainly interesting with regard to my speculation!

ESCH-SUR-ALZETTE, Luxembourg – EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE 2022

The locality where I live – Esch-sur-Alzette, situated in the south of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg near the French border and enjoying the role of the Grand Duchy’s second city – is now living one of the most exciting times in its history, having been chosen as European Capital of Culture for 2022. It shares this distinction with two other European cities, Kaunas in Lithuania and Novi Sad in Serbia. If Esch is the epicentre of E22, as the year-long festival has been dubbed, there will also be multiple activities in other municipalities of southern Luxembourg and across the French frontier.

Yesterday 26 February was the date of  the official launch of E22, as the year-long festival is known, and Esch’s main square, Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, colourfully lit up, was the designated venue for REMIX OPENING, an event made up of a series of eloquent inaugural speeches interspersed with live music. Dignitaries spoke representing Luxembourg (including the mayor of Esch), France, the European Union and more, the main languages of communication being Luxembourgish and French.

The festival having been officially opened, the coast is clear for a multitude of creative manifestations spanning all the arts. The current situation in Europe and its challenge to European values was evoked, as alas had to be the case, with the bridge-building role of culture now appearing more important than ever. It was affirmed that there can be no Europe without culture, and no culture without Europe. Meanwhile, it should never be forgotten that Luxembourg is a multicultural and multilingual country, and it is to be hoped that the minority and migrant cultures will be fully represented as the cultural events unfold. It is now over to the inhabitants of Esch to express their creativity and support their fellow citizens’ creative acts, over 2022 and beyond.

THE EDGAR ALLAN POE REVIEW, 22.2 – Autumn 2021

Released is the latest issue of the Edgar Allan Poe Review, published twice-yearly by the Penn State University Press (Vol. 22, No 2, Autumn 2021). See: https://www.poestudiesassociation.org/publications

and

https://muse.jhu.edu/issue/469404

The issue features (pp. 390-397) Renata Philippov’s review of Anthologizing Poe, the volume edited by Emron Esplin and Margarida Vale de Gato and published by Rowman & Littlefield and Lehigh University Press in 2020 which was that year’s winner of the Poe Studies Association’s J. Lasley Dameron Award, and to which I contributed a chapter on British and French popular editions.

Also included (pp. 397-404) is my review of the collective e-book of essays Edgar Allan Poe: Efémerides em Trama, edited from Brazil by Flavio García et al.

The volume as a whole ranges in its varied content from in-depth essays on ‘The Black Cat’ (Bethanie Sonnefeld; on its reception in Greece, Dimitrios Tsokanos) and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ (John A. Dern), through several texts on ‘The Raven’ (Paul Lewis on imitations and parodies of the poem, Richard Kopley suggesting overlooked sources, George Poe reviewing Julian Zainetta on French translations), to Eloïse Sureau reviewing Sonya Izaak’s study of the Poe-Baudelaire axis and Chris Sentmer on Poe’s statue in Richmond.

Note : For Anthologizing Poe, see the earlier entries on this blog for 26 August 2020 and 27 September 2021.

**

Brief extract (slightly amended) from my review of Edgar Allan Poe: Efémerides em Trama:

Flavio García, Luciana Colucci, Marisa Martins Gama-Khalil and Renata Philippov, Eds. Edgar Allan Poe: Efemérides em Trama. Rio de Janeiro: Dialogarts, 2019. 340 pp. Electronic text only.

This collective volume, published to commemorate the 170th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s death, is published in Brazil, a country where there has traditionally been significant interest in Poe, as manifested through some of its most important writers and critics. Among novelists, Machado de Assis translated ‘The Raven’ in 1883, and in 1974-1975 Clarice Lispector put her hand to Poe’s fiction, while in 1971 the poet and critic Haroldo de Campos analysed ‘The Philosophy of Composition’.

The book’s subtitle may be translated as “Plotting an Anniversary”. It consists of an editorial introduction and twelve essays. The editors are all based in Brazil, as are six of the contributors, the other two (the distinguished scholars David Roas and Henri Justin) hailing respectively from Catalonia and France. There appears to be rough gender parity among editors/contributors.  Each of the four editors has one essay, as do the remaining contributors, except that the editor Luciana Colucci co-authors a piece with Valéria da Silva Medeiros and one contributor (Roas) is represented by two essays.

The introduction offers a general biographical and critical perspective on Poe as immensely gifted writer, acute social critic and “voz paradigmática das letras ocidentais” (“paradigmatic voice of Western letters” – 13), followed by a conspectus of the volume and a chapter-by-chapter summary of the content. Each essay has a bibliography attached; the authors’ biographies are collected at the end. All texts are in Portuguese except for Justin’s (in English) and for Roas’ two (both in Spanish). Regarding the translations of Poe used, there is an overwhelming preference for the Oscar Mendes/Milton Amado Brazilian Portuguese renderings which appeared in 1944, these being treated in today’s Brazil as the standard translations. However, the actual quoting of Poe in the different chapters is lacking in consistency. Some authors quote Poe in Portuguese translation without supplying the original, while others offer translated passages in their text body but add the original in footnote form: a uniform house policy would have been welcome here. (…)

REVIEWS OF MY BOOK ‘READ BOOKS, REPEAT QUOTATIONS: THE LITERARY BOB DYLAN’

My recent book, ‘Read Books, Repeat Quotations : The Literary Bob Dylan’, has attracted favourable reviews,

and I am pleased to share details of the following: 

Review by Dave Junker, The Dylan Review, Vol 3 No 2, Fall/Winter 2021-2022, pp. 9-16.

Review by Jesús López-Peláez Casellas, Theory in Action (Transformative Studies Institute, USA), Vol 15 No 1, 2022, pp. 99-102.

Click to access 10.3798tia.1937-0237.2208.pdf

Review by Bob Jope, The Bridge (Gateshead, UK), No 71, Winter 2021, pp. 107-11

The Dylan Review is an online-only journal. Theory in Action exists both online and in print. The Bridge is only available in print form, but see its website at : http://www.two-riders.co.uk/

There is also a brief notice on Michael Gray’s Facebook page for 8 January 2022, as part of a post entitled ‘Books Read in 2021’ :

I am very grateful to all for their appreciation of my work !

Details of my book are :

Christopher Rollason, ‘Read Books, Repeat Quotations’: The Literary Bob Dylan, Gateshead (UK), Two Riders, 2021 – 221 pp., paperback, ISBN 978-1-9196390-0-0

And see :

http://www.two-riders.co.uk/rollason.html

MICHAEL GRAY, ‘OUTTAKES ON BOB DYLAN’ – MY REVIEW IN THE DYLAN REVIEW 3.2.

I have reviewed Michael Gray’s excellent essay collection ‘Outtakes on Bob Dylan: Selected Writings 1967-2021’ (Pontefract: Route, 2021), in the Dylan Review 3.2 (Fall 2021 – Winter 2022), pp. 45-52, at : https://thedylanreview.org/2022/01/15/review-of-outtakes-on-bob-dylan-selected-writings-1967-2021/

I hope this review of a book by a major Dylan scholar will be of interest to Dylanites generally.

This Dylan Review issue is extremely interesting and, alert to new events in the Dylan world, contains, among much more, reviews of Dylan’s film Shadow Kingdom and the latest Bootleg Series (No 16), Springtime in New York and a joint review of the recent Emma Swift and Chrissie Hynde cover albums.

The journal is at: https://thedylanreview.org/

The issue also features Dave Junker’s review of my own book ‘Read Books, Repeat Quotations: The Literary Bob Dylan’, for which see a separate entry on this blog!

Chrissie Hynde’s Live Homage to Bob Dylan – London, 26 December 2021

On the evening of Boxing Day 2021, Chrissie Hynde, best known as the vocalist of the classic group the Pretenders, offered the world a concert streamed from the Royal Opera House in London. It featured 17 songs, nine of them by Bob Dylan. The US-born, UK-resident singer performed the same nine Dylan compositions as on her album Standing in the Doorway released earlier this year, in the same order but with the added spontaneity and immediacy that comes from live performance, certainly when the artist gives it their all as Chrissie Hynde did that night:

https://chrissiehynde.veeps.com (at time of writing, stream available till 2 January 2022)

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 29: Chrissie Hynde performs at The Royal Opera House on July 29, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage )

The artist’s song selection for CD and concert reveals an in-depth knowledge of Dylan’s work and an emphasis away from his better-known earlier work. The songs were, in order: ‘In the Summertime’, ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’, ‘Standing in the Doorway’, ‘Sweetheart Like You’, ‘Blind Willie McTell’, ‘Love Minus Zero/No Limit’, ‘Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight’, ‘Tomorrow is a Long Time’ and ‘Every Grain of Sand’ – thus, two from the 60s, one from Blood on the Tracks (1975), all of five from the Shot of Love/Infidels period (1981/83) and one from Time Out of Mind (1997).

The songs were performed in line with the original lyrics, with no stanzas left out and, interestingly, with two divergences from Dylan’s own main album versions removed as compared with Hynde’s own CD. In ‘Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight’, ‘Saint James Street’ is restored from from Infidels, whereas the CD had ‘Napoleon Street’, as in Dylan’s drafts of the song recently released on The Bootleg Series vol. 16; and in ‘Sweetheart Like You’ the first half of the second stanza, on the CD altered to restore lines (‘You know, conmen don’t need strangers …’) that Dylan sings on the draft released on that same volume 16, is changed back to what appeared on Infidels (‘you know I once knew a woman who looked like you …’). For ‘Every Grain of Sand’, choosing from Dylan’s alternate lines at the end she prefers ‘reality of man’, as on Shot of Love, to ‘perfect finished plan’. Chrissie Hynde has thus done her homework: she has made her choices and shown herself to be conversant with the history of the songs.

It is difficult to point up standout performances with a set of so uniformly high a standard and a vocalist so very much inside the songs, articulating Dylan’s words with such care. However, an elegiac ‘Tomorrow is a Long Time’, a contemplative ‘Every Grain of Sand’ and a doom-laden ‘Blind Willie McTell’ were particularly impressive. Hynde’s choice of ‘Every Grain of Sand’ to end her Dylan selection gels nicely with Dylan’s own recourse to the same song as encore in his most recent tour setlist.

The remainder of the concert offered diverse material including Pretenders numbers, notably two Ray Davies songs famously covered by the group, ‘Stop Your Sobbing’ and ‘I Go To Sleep’, and, as encore and in French, Charles Trenet’s ‘Que reste-t-il de nos amours?’. All were well performed, but it is a fair guess that most spectators will remember this concert for the Dylan material. As Chrissie Hynde said from the stage at one point, ‘it’s all in the writing’ …

‘MI CLAVE’: EL FLAMENCO EN LUXEMBURGO / ‘MY KEY’: FLAMENCO IN LUXEMBOURG

El 26 de noviembre de 2021 tuvo lugar, en el centro cultural Kulturfabrik de Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxemburgo) y bajo la égida de ese centro y del Círculo Cultural Español Antonio Machado, un recital de flamenco protagonizado por el guitarrista y compositor Manuel de la Luz, bajo el título genérico de MI CLAVE. En realidad se trata de una extensión del XV Festival Flamenco de Esch: ese evento nació en 2006 y ha sido repetido anualmente, excepción hecha por el año pasado cuando tuvo que ser anulado debido a la pandemia. Afortunadamente este año fue posible montar algo, aunque de una forma más reducida que la habitual, y ahora tuvimos este espectáculo ante nuestros ojos.

Manuel de la Luz, nativo de Huelva y discípulo del célebre Manolo Sanlúcar, es un guitarrista excepcional, y él y sus acompañantes se empeñaron con fuerza para dar todo a fin de crear un espectáculo memorable. Sus colaboradores fueron, en el canto, su esposa Olivia Molina, Paco Vega en batería, Fran Roca (flauta, armónica, segunda guitarra), y Felipe Mato en el baile.

Las músicas interpretadas coinciden con el último disco de Manuel de la Luz, también con el título MI CLAVE. La atmósfera en el recinto fue cálida y a la vez relajada. Así y a pesar de todos los factores de que sabemos, fue posible traer una dosis del espíritu andaluz a estas tierras del Norte …

On 26 November 2021 the Kulturfabrik cultural centre in Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg) hosted, under its own auspices and those of the Círculo Cultural Español Antonio Machado, a flamenco recital featuring the guitarist and composer Manuel de la Luz, under the title MI CLAVE (MY KEY). In reality it was an extension of the Fifteenth Flamenco Festival of Esch. That event was born in 2006 and has been repeated annually, with the exception of last year when it had to be cancelled owing to the pandemic. Fortunately this year something was possible, albeit on a less extensive scale than usual, and now here in front of our eyes was this spectacle!

Manuel de la Luz, a native of Huelva and disciple of the celebrated Manolo Sanlúcar, is an exceptional guitarist, and he and his companions gave all they had in a memorable performance. His collaborators were: his wife Olivia Molina (vocals), Paco Vega (percussion), Fran Roca (flute, harmonica, second guitar), and Felipe Mato (dance).

The pieces interpreted coincide with the most recent CD release by Manuel de la Luz, also entitled MI CLAVE. The atmosphere in the venue was warm and at the same time relaxed. Thus and in spite of the circumstances of which we are all aware, it was possible to transport a dose of the spirit of Andalusia to these northern lands …

Fotos por / photos by Hilda Hurtado

‘IN DIALOGUE WITH SARAMAGO’ – SECOND EDITION

I am pleased to note that the collective volume from 2006, In Dialogue with Saramago: Essays in Comparative Literature, which brings together a range of essays from a comparative perspective on the work of the Portuguese Nobel laureate José Saramago, has now been reissued in a second edition. Details are:

In Dialogue with Saramago: Essays in Comparative Literature, eds. Mark Sabine and Adriana Alves de Paula Martins,

Firsr edition;

Manchester: University of Manchester, 2006 (Manchester Spanish and Portuguese Studies, 18)

Second edition:

London: SPLASH Editions (Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies in the Humanities), 2021

The text of the essays has not been changed. I should add that the volume includes my own contribution: Christopher Rollason, ‘How totalitarianism begins at home: Saramago and George Orwell’, 105-120.

Writers of the stature and lucidity of Saramago are rare, and the reissue of this volume with its multiple perspectives merits a warm welcome from his many students and admirers.

Note: for the first edition, see entries on this blog for 30 May 2006, 26 July 2006 and 7 January 2007.

COLLECTIVE VOLUME ‘ANTHOLOGIZING POE’ REVIEWED IN SPAIN

The collective volume ‘Anthologizing Poe’ (edited by Emron Esplin and Margarida Vale de Gato) which I mentioned in a blog post here last month as having been honoured with the Poe Studies Association’s J. Lasley Dameron Award (and in which I participated with an article) has now received a favourable review.

Details of book reviewed: Emron Esplin and Margarida Vale do Gato (eds.), Anthologizing Poe: Editions, Translations and (Trans)National Canons, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: Lehigh University Presss / Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2020

Details of review:

Revista de estudios norteamericanos (Seville), Vol. 25, 2021; reviewer: José Manuel Correoso Ródenas, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha; on-line at:

https://revistascientificas.us.es/index.php/ESTUDIOS_NORTEAMERICANOS/article/view/15756

I will log more reviews as they appear!

EDGAR ALLAN POE: PRIZE-WINNING BOOK ‘ANTHOLOGIZING POE’

Each year, the Poe Studies Association’s J. Lasley Dameron Award honours an outstanding essay collection or bibliography in the field of Edgar Allan Poe studies. For 2020, I am pleased to report that the award went to the essay collection:

Emron Esplin and Margarida Vale do Gato (eds.), Anthologizing Poe: Editions, Translations and (Trans)National Canons, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: Lehigh University Presss / Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2020,– details at:

https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781611462586/Anthologizing-Poe-Editions-Translations-and-(Trans)National-Canons

This volume includes my chapter:

‘Popular Poe Anthologies in the United Kingdom and France’ (pp. 277-292)

(see my blog entry from 26 August 2020 at: https://rollason.wordpress.com/2020/08/26/anthologizing-edgar-allan-poe-new-essay-collection/)

I am delighted at this award, as I am sure the editors and fellow collaborators are too!