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Halsway Manor: Some Memories

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Haven't forgotten you, LJ! Been busy, um, having fun... like last weekend... here in no particular order are some memories of an enchanted stay at Halsway Manor in Somerset:

Sword dancing courtesy of Tim Walker and his son Jared, which utterly entranced me – the more so because I was engaged in doing it! *How* excited was I? And *how* sneaky and generous was Tim to allow me the honour of raising the Rose?

Delightful half hour concerts: Tim and Annie in full energy and connection, with new songs of deepening greenness, and my own ‘The Rising of the Sea’ which is clearly meant for Annie’s voice since I’ve not found a way to perform it myself... Kathy Sterry all over the stage with terrific presence and confidence, and she sang my ‘Rampisham Down’ among her other choices... Playing Rapunzel were as ever delightful and joyous, (they sang my ‘Uffington Hill’ – last heard at the Redbridge Green Festival – again, a delight)... Mike and Ali Richards with a lovely mix of old and new, some moving, some funny, and Ali on a low recorder with a lovely tone... Chris Malme with a movie-themed set of old and new songs, a pleasure to see him shine onstage again... oh, and I did a set too, which I shall detail later in this account.

Oh! The ceilidh! I love a ceilidh. Marvellous fun. Just... marvellous.

I adored the Manor. Our room was quirky and beautiful and had a tower room attached with a stone window seat and table and chair – I wrote two songs there during the course of the weekend.

The layout of the venue, the setting, the whole vibe – and the phenomenally helpful and friendly staff, were an utter delight – it was balm to the soul to be there, and to be there amidst so many friends making such fine and varied music together was even better.

The food – dear gods, how they fed us! Tea and biscuits and cocoa and high tea and cooked breakfast and lunch and dinner and more tea and biscuits...

The ‘Onefer/twofer’ concert was truly splendid, and compered beautifully by Chris O’Shea – very well done. Every performer gave something I enjoyed, and there were several surprises – Rika’s ‘Bonny Broom’ was not a song I recalled hearing from her before, and Piers closed the concert with ‘This is my Home’ which had every voice singing. His own is rather fine, and so is Gill’s, and – well, take it as read I enjoyed pretty much everything non-stop.

If there was a theme, then it was simply – everyone joining in. Lots and lots of sea shanties, traditional songs, singalongs and the like gave everyone lots of chances to belt out a harmony where they liked.

Scratched the songwriting-geekery itch I’d had for some time by holding a geek session over tea and biscuits with Chris Malme and Mike Whitaker, and many others joining in and contributing generally. I love talking songwriting, and really enjoyed this. I hope others did as well.

Got to see my dear friend Chantelle debut her first song – she brought me in to sing backup, which was an honour – and in fact got such a kick out of seeing her enjoy *everything* so much – the ceilidh, the singalong, the geeking, the company and the crafting, the chat and the general community of it all... she fitted right in, as I knew she would, and was a joy to watch.

What have I missed? I’ll tell you my setlist –

Next Year’s Garden (Simon)
Plum Velvet (Janet)
The Finding of the Feather (Tim)
Scarlet and Green (Annie)
Underpass Mary (Kathy)
Catching Asteroids (Rika)
The Red Blue Braid (me!)
Fourteen Hundred Hours (Mike)
Everything in G (me!)

I had to drop ‘On Hadrian’s Wall’, which I would have sung for Chantelle, owing to time constraints. She forgave me, she’s nice like that. Each song I did sing was for someone particular (including indulging myself, it’s true) as I got assorted friends to help me whittle my songlist down with choices – in one case, by numbers as he was feeling brave... that was Tim, gamely suggesting ‘Number Four!’ or whichever it actually was.

We had sunshine and relaxing, green lawns and secret gardens, moments of silence, a few tears but none of them bad, and I finished a patchwork project whose purpose will be apparent in due course... I also finished my Potager Socks. I’m wearing them right now, as a matter of fact. (Regards foot to check.)

There’s much I’ve forgotten, but that’s the bones of it. What an utter delight. Annie Walker made a magic thing happen and invited a whole bunch of us to come and play in her world with her. It doesn’t get any better than that.
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