Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Things that made me what I am....

Eureka! Only because after searching regularly on and off for a couple of years, I've finally found a place online where you can hear something that changed my life, because I'm sure you all know, when something touches you deeply, you want to share it.

If you don't know, the photo is of Robin Williamson (photo from John Haxby Photography).  I won't go into much detail about his musical career here (the link takes you to a Wiki entry on him), because it would take ALL DAY.  Suffice to say, for me, this man is THE bard (as fond of Will as I am).  When I was 16, I happened to catch him singing on a folk radio program.  The track I heard, in its entirety, was Five Denials on Merlin's Grave, an epic song-poem of almost 14 minutes length.  I happened to have a tape in the tape deck, and I pressed 'record' as it started. I can remember standing in the kitchen listening in amazement, it was like nothing I'd heard before, but EXACTLY like something I'd imagined all my life.  I listened to that tape over and over for years, recording onto more and more tapes to try and preserve it as each one wore thinner and started to stretch.  Eventually I managed to get hold of the book of the poem (complete with Robin's notes about all the mythological and historical references)...and finally, about 20 years later, I managed to get a CD of it (and finally hear the few seconds I missed all those years before as I scrambled to turn the tape over and start recording again!)

The poem is a broad history of Britain in five stages, and in it Robin compares the factual "stacked and dried" version with the version of myth and majesty...I probably don't need to tell you which version comes out best!  It is full of knowledge, gorgeous poetry, magical music and it was at 16, and remains to this day, the only way I can imagine a true Bard telling a story.  When I was 24, and backpacking around Britain, I managed to see him in concert.  He performed in what was really just a glorified lecture hall, with no fancy lighting, just a low stage lined with instruments of all kinds.  And Robin himself, alone.  And he sang and played, told stories old and new, both sad and funny, told jokes and recited poems.  And he held the audience spellbound in the palm of his hand.  It was one of the most magical performances I've ever seen.

And I've found a podcast!  This is from 'Druidcast', and contains several of Robin's songs plus a long interview, but finishes with a live version of Five Denials.  It's a long podcast and they waffle on a bit, but I urge you to listen to the end.  Pour yourself a glass of Mead, curl up somewhere cosy, and pretend you're sitting in a great hall somewhere, somewhen, back when magic was real.

And a shorter taste of what to expect.

Other useful Robin links:
Robin's own Website: Pig's Whisker Music
Robin on Amazon

A little later (after tea in fact)....I thought I'd scan the first page of my copy of Five Denials on Merlin's Grave, so you can read his lovely poetry.  There are lines in this poem that are engraved on my mind and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if, forgetting all else, I can still recite them when I'm 99.


Jess said...

Thanks for posting about this, I've heard of the Incredible String Band but never realised how good they were! I think I've probably missed a lot of local gigs they've done too!
I need to find out where and when the next gig is, thanks Christina!xx

Windsongs and Wordhoards said...

I've seen Robin doing his bardic song and story telling at a little theatre near by a few years back. I vividly remember his telling of Taliesin, the harp weaving in and out of the story and song - it is the way these ancient tales were meant to be heard.
I believe he still does a story telling around the firelit Great Roundhouse at Castell Henllys in Wales each year, and I would really love to hear him in that setting - its always at the wrong time for me to make the journey...
(I am about to post up some pics of Castell Henllys and its roundhouses... It's a really wonderful place!)
Sorry for the long comment!

Ruthie Redden said...

Isn't his stuff great, i love it. Seems we have similar music tastes!! i should love to see him live.

Wayward Harper said...

Ohhh! I remember hearing about him years back...i think he may have been in australia on a tour? not sure...Anyway, thanks for the post, I haven't actually heard his music but I'm going to have a listen tonight, he sounds absolutely incredible :)

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