Live at the OBOD Summer Gathering 2011

I just found this on YouTube. The complete concert filmed at the OBOD Summer Gathering from Glastonbury Town Hall. Guests on stage are Paul Newman, Kate and Corwen, and sadly you can’t see Keiron Sibley on the Djembe. We had one run through the set together before we played that night, so what you are seeing and hearing is pretty much a live jam. I remember Kate saying, “Imagine what we would sound like if we actually practiced!” So true.

Enjoy!

Advertisement

Magic in Avalon

Here is a lovely video presented by the website Druidic Dawn taken at the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids ceremony on Glastonbury Tor at this year’s Summer Gathering.

Sources of Inspiration 2 – Places of Peace


The Quest for the Awen, yearning for those three sweet drops to fall upon my tongue, to open my eyes and see the world through the eyes of a poet is still a Quest that drives me every day. Nature is the world’s most intoxicating drug and the great thing is that in all of my encounters with her, the side effects of this particular addiction have all been, without exception, completely positive.

I am blessed by the fact that my chosen medium, acoustic folk, is infinitely portable – from an acoustic guitar or for even more portability, the tiny mandolin. I have written many songs in the quiet of my own home, but a number of the songwriting experiences I remember with most fondness are the songs that I caught whilst playing outside.

Some people find inspiration in conflict. Friction can be a wonderful source of inspiration and it has been for me a couple of times, Only Human instantly springs to mind, a song that I had to write after watching a program about animal experimentation, but for me the main source of inspiration is peace. I guess some may find no inspiration in peace at all, finding it too dull, still or quiet, but I have always known that I have within me an inner hermit who yearns for that sacred solitude that opens us up to the Divine.

Oak Broom and Meadowsweet was written in a woodland near Beltane, the floor covered with bluebells, and the voices of the Faerie almost dictating the words; Noon of the Solstice was written in the same woods, near the time of the Solstice, singing the words to the Horned God standing with my back to a mighty Oak; Hills they are Hollow was written in the stone circle at Merrivale with the ‘Tors standing as Guardians to the rites to Nature’s Gods of darkness and of light’; and Grimspound was written in the large roundhouse at the site listening to the calling Ravens and the voices within the fallen walls.

Other sites have inspired songs that have arrived some time after getting home. Land, Sky and Sea was inspired by a visit to St Ninian’s cave in Dumfries and Galloway where every day St Ninian used to make a pilgrimage down to the sea, to sit in this tranquil cave, and here he said he could talk to God and hear his reply. When I went to the place I also sat and spoke aloud, possibly to different Gods, but still there was a sense of connection that I can vividly remember whilst writing this. It is taking these experiences and putting them into words that have been a large part of my songwriting over the years.

So what to do? Well, I get on my walking boots, go outside, take my instrument with me, and a pen and paper. Choose a site that I love, and make a sacred pilgrimage to the place, making my intent the connection to the Site, not writing a song – the song comes from the connection.

When I get there I open up to the spirits of place, sit and open my senses – look, listen, smell, and touch deeply. A technique I learned from my Bushcraft training was to see with the eyes of the deer, listen with the ears of the hare, feel with the skin of a new born baby, smell with the nose of the wolf. This intense opening to the senses quiets the voice that chatters in my mind about the washing up, the bills to pay, that I am wasting my time and shouldn’t be here, that kind of thing. If I turn my attention away from that voice and solely to my senses, that
voice cannot get through. Combine this with conscious breathing and the connection with the place, and its energies, open to me, and then, sometimes, something wonderful happens, and I begin to hear the words of the Ancestors, then voices of the Faerie, the stories of the Stones.

Usually I just ‘noodle’ on the guitar, playing the words I hear with notes. We know that sound is vibration, that music is tuned vibration, and notes do not end after the string is played, but rather carry on out into the universe, and endless space. That is the space I get into, and if I am lucky I will catch a word or two, and begin to sing over the tune, and sometimes these words become a song.

It is the sense of peace I feel at these places that lets me open up to the flow of Awen. It is when I allow my inner hermit his space that the songs I feel most connection with are given voice. Do you have an inner hermit/monk? Do they get enough space? If not, try to give them time and space, and there you too might find peace, and taste the Awen.

Pendragon

In March 1994 I sent off for the introductory leaflet for the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I remember receiving it in the post a few days later, opening the envelope, seeing the stone ‘trilithon’ on the cover, and then reading about the Druids, the Ovates, the Bards. As I read I realised that I’d thought this way for years. I was so excited that I immediately sent off for their introductory pack. Soon, this large brown envelope appeared through my letterbox, so I took it to Ditchling Common pond, to read it by the water. It was a beautiful hot day. I settled down and began to read…

How the price of a stamp can change your life.

16 years later I am standing in Glastonbury Town Hall with 200 other Druids. A ceremony has been prepared for two people – the Pendragon of the Order, Will Worthington, and myself – the person who will shortly step into the role he has so wonderfully fulfilled over the past 19 years. I am feeling excited, nervous, a waterfall of emotion is flooding over me as I see Will stand before the altar, and return the Order’s sword. He is honoured, he is celebrated, he is loved. Tears are filling my eyes as I know just how much he has gone through during those 19 years, and what this moment must mean to him.

Then I am brought forward.

I have been a facilitator of the Anderida Grove for 13 years. I have initiated many people into the Bardic tradition, as I was initiated as a Bard at the Spring Equinox in 1995. After completing the training courses of the Order in 2002 I asked my Grove to re-initiate me as a Bard as this is where I felt my life’s journey had led me, and it’s where I wished to stay. So I hadn’t been through a rite of passage like this for 8 years. It’s good to remember what it feels like. The unknown, the way it can feel like the Universe is watching you, seeing what you do, listening to your responses, taking note, and shifting things into alignment. There is no need to go into any detail about the ritual itself. All of those feelings returned to me, and reminded me once more of the hidden power that lies behind this modern Druidic tradition. I was given the blessed scabbard, and the Order’s sword, and proclaimed the new Pendragon of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. With it, new doors have opened. I felt as I did the day after my Bardic initiation. It’s like my eyes have opened even more to the wonders of life. It’s hard to explain how this all feels. I am so full of the excitement for life I could just explode! But there are quieter, subtle shifts too. Magic is happening.

I’m off to the USA on Saturday to play some concerts at the Pagan Spirit Gathering. It’s a week-long camp so I’ll hopefully have some time to just sit quietly and meditate, and allow this all to sink in. But I don’t think they’ll let me take the sword on the plane! I’m sure this won’t be the last post about this experience, and I thought long and hard about posting anything at all. I didn’t want it to seem like an ego driven thing, but silence can also be interpreted as ego. I take this role on humbly, with honesty, and integrity, and with the aim of service to the Order, and this tradition I love so much.

Tales from the Road – Nakedness, Excitement, and an Ovation

I’ve just returned home after a wonderful weekend in Glastonbury at the Pagan Federation’s Wessex conference. It was held at the Town Hall, a venue very familiar to me as that’s where I organise the two gatherings each year for members of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. I was playing in the evening, just before my mates The Dolmen took to the stage, and I was also asked to give a presentation in the morning about the modern Bardic tradition – The Creative Quest.

I don’t tend to do talks. Put me in front of a crowd of 1500 people with a guitar and I feel completely at home. 200 in a hall, minus the guitar, and I was very nervous – I thought I would feel naked, exposed, but I needn’t have worried at all. This is my passion, my life-quest, and when I sat down to write the talk, I discovered that I really had a lot to say! The challenge became more about how I fitted everything in!

In the end I got really excited about it, and the response from the audience has made me wonder whether I should organise a Bardic weekend workshop/retreat. Do get in touch if you’d be interested.

The evening concert approached, and The Dolmen arrived with their PA system. If you’ve ever seen these guys play, you’ll know that it is impossible to just sit still and listen – you just have to get up and dance. In preparation for this there was a massive gap between the stage and the audience. Now, people do occasionally get up and dance to my songs, but that is rare. More often I entertain the audience in the traditional folk concert style, with conversation, music, singalong choruses, stuff like that. I looked at that dance floor gap, and realised that I just wouldn’t be able to communicate from that far away. I took a gamble and made the decision to play the concert completely acoustically. So I set up my three instruments on the dance floor, right in front of the audience. It was the right decision.

The danger might have been that some people would talk, and I just wouldn’t have been able to compete with the noise, but I am so blessed to have such loyal audiences, and this was no exception. It was the audience themselves who asked the few remaining chatterers to quieten down, and soon I had their full attention, and the magic began.

What a night. It always feels so wonderful when you hear people singing along with the choruses of your songs. But when they also join in with the verses, you really know something is happening! At one point during Lady of the Silver Wheel I sang the wrong verse, but the audience sang the right one – so I just stopped singing, continued to strum the mandolin, and they carried on for a while singing without me! Absolute magic! It was like that throughout the whole set, the circle span with the audience feeding from my energy, I fed from theirs – the perfect night.

When I got my Ovation guitar 8 years ago, a musician friend of mine said, “You know what they say. If you can’t get an ovation, buy an Ovation!” Cheeky sod, I thought. Well, on Saturday night I got my very first standing ovation. It was a point in my musical life I will never forget. So if you are reading this, and you were there, thank you!