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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, December 20, 2006
    Such earthy glory
    Last night Norma Waterson wasn't quite the stage presence she usually is. Not because she'd lost any of her massive style or substance but whereas usually there are three others with her onstage, each equally brilliant, on the Frost and Fire tour there are eleven others, yes, each equally brilliant too.

    But Norma - excelling as ever on the vocals and hand jive - also provided a series of pithy intros to the tremendous mix of songs, folk dance, brass and mummery offered by members of Waterson:Carthy and The Devil's Interval plus assorted others. And in that role she offered one of the evening's memorable messages, in explaining the rationale for the event as being a celebration of 'a time when Pagan rite and Christian rhyme lived side by side'.

    Of course, in the hands of excellent craftspeople, such a time can be revived for real today. The great thing about Frost and Fire, and the accompanying album Holy Heathens and the Old Green Man, is that with this project these great artists kick aside all those wearying cliches about the commercialisation of the season, and instead just celebrate. Waterson:Carthy and friends celebrate all that our rich folk tradition has to offer in such a full-on way that they create fresh and fulsome moments in time where Pagan rite and Christian rhyme truly complement each other once again. It's a rebirth. It's incarnational. It's inspirational.

    The joyful Newtown gig did Christmas for me, roll on the new year now. And those great hymns they fill with such earthy glory - I want them at my funeral.