Here’s the latest film diary!
Here’s the first little trailer for the forthcoming movie, enjoy!
Last Sunday, after the Anderida Gorsedd open ritual at the Long Man of Wilmington, many of the people stayed behind to be extras in the Spirit of Albion movie. It was an amazing day, and here is a short interview conducted by my friend Greg while I had a little time out of filming, and had the opportunity to watch a scene from the film develop.
Here’s the latest production diary for the Spirit of Albion movie. Things are progressing beautifully!
As with many of my songs I had the tune for this song for a number of weeks before the lyrics finally arrived. Looking back I think I wrote two sets of lyrics for this and both ended up in the bin. But finally I was noodling with the tune on my mandolin in the living room and it was the chorus that came first.
Come follow me, come dance with me,
Come with me to the Greenwood Grove such magic there to see,
The Lord of the Wild with his Faerie Kin,
Deep within the Greenwood Grove,
We’ll dance the Magic Ring.
I remember looking at these words and thinking, ‘the only way I’m going to find out what this song is about is to do as the chorus asks, and follow the Lord of the Wild into the Grove itself.’ So I carried on playing the song, and closed my eyes.
Music takes me away. I can lose hours simply playing an instrument, closing my eyes, and riding the notes to wherever they take me. On this occasion I was taken into a woodland (no surprise there then!) and pretty soon I heard the sound of music being played, coming towards me through the woods. I hid behind an oak and waited as the music drew closer and closer. A huge horned figure led a procession of dancing spectral figures past me. Then came others walking behind, laughing and smiling, and others on horseback. Now I’m quite familiar with the stories of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer, but I had to follow, I had to, the music was irresistible.
I kept a small distance so as not to be seen, and soon the host began to gather in a clearing up ahead – an almost perfectly circular Grove. There was a hill in its centre that reminded me of a large round barrow, and the large horned figure slowly climbed the hill, and silence began to fall around the glade. He had a large club in one hand which he raised above his head, then brought it down onto the hill which resounded with a deep, hollow, sound. He raised it again, and once more it fell upon the Hollow Hill below, and then again, and again, until I realised he was creating a consistent bass rhythm, as other drums began to join him. The figures began to circle and dance in a magical ring dance around the edge of the Grove, then from the hill emerged a Man of Birch, followed by a Lady of Rowan. Other leafy-faced figures began to step from the Otherworld, through the Hollow Hill into the grove, and join the dance. I realised I was watching the Spirits of the Ogam trees join the dance, and in that moment the words of the song began to form.
I am the Birch of the new beginning,
The Rowan star with magic guarding…
The images around me began to fade, and I became aware that I was still playing the tune on my mandolin, and had been throughout all of this, and that it was this tune that the Faerie Host had been dancing to. I became more and more aware of the room around me, until I opened my eyes, and began to write. It was finished in no time at all after that. A gift from the Spirits of Nature!
My Dad was, and still is, a big country music fan. My very early introduction to music consisted of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Don Williams, Emilou Harris, Dolly Parton but above all of these was John Denver. His songs were the soundtrack of my childhood, and of all of the country music I heard in those early days it’s really only John’s that has stayed with me. You only have to listen to the opening bars and the groove of Song of Awen to realise what an influence on my music he has been.
John Denver was a true country boy. Living in the mountains his inspiration came from the sights and sounds that surrounded him. Nature really is the best artist, and his lyrics and melodies manage to capture that essence of wildness that so many modern Pagans seek as part of their spiritual path. Add to that his voice, one of the purest voices in music with a natural vibrato and quality that I don’t think any other singer has matched since, and you have a near perfect singer/songwriter for a budding Bard. John Denver’s songs convey a connection with the Natural World that speaks directly to the heart. I regularly, even now, find tears of joy streaming down my face when I’m listening to his songs. I find myself nodding my head saying, “Yes! Yes! That’s it! You’ve got it, you understand!” Here are some examples of what I mean –
The Eagle and the Hawk
I am the eagle, I live in high country
In rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky
I am the hawk and there’s blood on my feathers
But time is still turning they soon will be dry
And all of those who see me, all who believe in me
Share in the freedom I feel when I fly
Come dance with the west wind and touch on the mountain tops
Sail o’er the canyons and up to the stars
And reach for the heavens and hope for the future
And all that we can be and not what we are
Rocky Mountain High
Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes
His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand
The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake
And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply
Rocky mountain high
Sunshine on my Shoulders
sunshine, on my shoulders – makes me happy
sunshine, in my eyes – can make me cry
sunshine, on the water – looks so lovely
sunshine, almost always – makes me high
if i had a day that i could give you
i’d give to you a day just like today
if i had a song that i could sing for you
i’d sing a song to make you feel this way
if i had a tale that i could tell you
i’d tell a tale sure to make you smile
if i had a wish that i could wish for you
i’d make a wish for sunshine all the while
He started the Winstar Foundation, a charity that promoted sustainable living, back in 1976, and was a keen environmental activist. His song Annie’s Song is still one of the most romantic, beautiful love songs ever written. Who knows what other great songs lay in wait from the Awen of John Denver, but sadly we will never know as on 12th October 1997 he got into his experimental light aircraft which crashed, taking his life and with it, his genius. Forever missed, his music will always live on in the hearts of those who believe that ‘they would have been a poorer man if they never saw an eagle fly.’
Blessed be John Denver.
One of the things I am asked more than any other is who have been my major influences when it comes to songwriting, so I thought it would be nice to write a series of blog posts addressing this subject. The question is where to start? So I think I should start with the first time I consciously became aware of the skill of the songwriter. For that I need to go back a number of years…
When I was 12 I asked my parents to buy me the latest album by David Bowie. I remember putting Heroes on my simple record player and listening to the opening music. I liked it, but it didn’t move me. I had loved his earlier album, Diamond Dogs, but there was a quality to his voice on Heroes that I just couldn’t get on with. I loved the songs, but wasn’t keen on the direction of the delivery. At the same time my friend had bought the new album by a band called Thin Lizzy called Fighting. He brought the album around and we played that, and Heroes over and over again (as children are apt to do with new favourite records). I still had trouble accessing Bowie’s new album, but when I heard the opening notes of Fighting I was immediately hooked.
When the first notes of Rosalie played I guess that was probably my first conscious encounter with a real guitar ‘riff’. There had been others – Blockbuster by The Sweet, Rebel Rebel by David Bowie, but there was something that shifted within me when that Lizzy guitar lick flew from my speakers. And then there were the lyrics. Within Phil Lynott’s music the lyrics and music are formed together in a vital marriage where the music holds the song, and the lyrics tell the story, but the music also acts as a kind of film score, changing here and there to emphasise and add accents where needed, but not overtly so anyone would really notice how their relationship with the song had been influenced.
My friend preferred the Bowie album, I preferred the Lizzy, so we swapped. I must have played that album to death – I still have it. Phil Lynott was a writer of real quality, his music had meaning and depth, but it also made you want to bang that head! This wasn’t something that was usual at the time. Even Ronnie Dio’s Sword and Sorcery lyrics were often confusing to me – they promised a lot, but actually when I listened hard I was often left not really understanding what he was singing about. Phil Lynott left no such grey areas, he delivered great words, and blended them with melodies that just didn’t leave you alone. My love of Thin Lizzy continued and they were the first rock band I ever saw live in 1979 on the Black Rose tour. I saw them many more times, and each time was a treat. Phil Lynott was not only a great lyricist, but also a brilliant bassist, singer, and an incredible front man and entertainer. I’m sure he also inadvertently taught me how to interact with an audience too.
I was at a rock club in Sussex the night I heard about his death, and it was on that night I realised that the golden age of rock, at least as I had known it, had died with him. After that the sounds of LA Hair Metal, Thrash and Death Metal became the major trend. But years later in my mind it is the music of Thin Lizzy that has proved its longevity. I listen to Boys are Back in Town, Waiting for an Alibi, Suicide, Black Rose – the list is endless, and they sound as fresh to my ears as they did when I was 12 years old.
So a big HENGWAH to Phil, now rockin’ out in the Otherworld with Gary Moore, and what a party I’m sure they are having!
The young Myrdhin when taken to the doomed tower of King Vortigern saw a vision. He saw that beneath the tower were two dragon eggs out of which hatched one white dragon and one red dragon. There have been many theories as to what this vision might have meant but the most popular is that it describes the oncoming battle between the Britons (the red dragon), and the Saxons (the white dragon). The red dragon is still on the Welsh flag, but the English sadly adopted the George Cross.
For many years it was thought that the English were the descendants of the Anglo-Saxons, a simple dividing line that separated England from Wales, Scotland and Cornwall quite neatly. But some years ago extensive DNA tests revealed that it was not that simple. That a good majority of people living all over England also had within them the genetics of the indigenous Briton, as well as the Saxon and (in some areas) the Viking. This suggested that although there certainly were battles, these battles were not constant over time, and that the Saxons, rather than invading and forcing the indigenous population to the western fringes of the island, actually lived together with the Britons, and obviously found companionship in each other, and gave birth to children of both Briton and Saxon parents.
Therefore I know that within me flows the blood of the red, and the white dragon, and I find that very exciting. I am Briton, and Saxon (and many other things too I’m sure!). I have spent, and will continue to spend, much time with my inner Briton, and right now I can feel the eyes of the white dragon turning its gaze towards me – beginning to stretch its wings. Among the voices of the Horned One, Arianrhod, Blodeuwedd and Taliesin, I also hear strange voices in another language speaking of Woden and Wayland. The Gods of the Briton and the Saxon are not at war within me, they are seeking a better understanding of each other, as they meet in this one body. Who knows what I might hear them say, what they might tell me, but their songs need to be sung too.
I have seen a number of discussions on Pagan Internet forums about whether the Gods can travel. Suggesting that the old British Pagan Gods are tribal and therefore linked solely to a particular piece of land. The most obvious being Herne with Windsor forest and Ceridwen with Lake Bala in Wales.
Since I’ve been here in Australia I’ve been open to this idea. As we’ve travelled the land I’ve been receptive to the spiritual energy of this Singing Land, asking it to share itself with me, to tell me it’s stories. The voices I’ve heard have been beautiful, awesome, but also familiar.
When we stood in the Bush surrounded by huge gum trees I heard the voices of the land and
the Woodland Spirit. When I stood with my feet in the warm ocean the Ancestral Spirit of the Sea sung me its song. It has been an honour to hear them, and the thing that struck me is that, even so far from home, the Spirits of Woodland and Ocean had the same voices as Herne and Manawydan.
It’s obvious really. There is no seperation between the water I paddled in here in Australia and the English Channel other than the human construct of name – it is the same water. The land I walk upon is the same Earth merely
As I spoke to the Bush and the Sea I heard familiar voices reply
to me. The same voices I speak to in the UK, just with different names. Our Pagan Gods don’t operate by our imposed regulations. They don’t need to make a 22 hour journey to Australia. All we need to do is be open and listen to the Land. So for me the discussion of whether the Gods travel is answered with a quite obvious ‘they dont need to, they live here already!’.