From Norfolk – the distinctive singing and melodeon playing of Tony Hall

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Yarmouth, engraving by William Miller after Turner

A 19th century engraving of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, by William Miller, after a
typically drama-packed painting by Turner. Image from the Wikimedia

For the last few days I’ve been listening to the melodeon playing of Tony Hall, a musician I’ve admired since the 70s. Tony plays the melodeon, a kind of push-pull accordion that came to dominate the music of much of England, when cheap models arrived in large numbers from Germany in the 19th Century.

Of course, it’s commonly been a seaman’s instrument – just think of old Bob Roberts, skipper of the last working sailing sailing barge, the Cambria. I’m glad to say I was lucky enough to hear him perform not so very long before he passed away.

Now, since one of Tony’s recently recorded songs, Down on the Hard, has some dreamy boatbuilding references, I thought I should share it – with the CD label’s permission, of course. Click on the link for a little song that I think will make many of you smile.

And for a bonus, here’s Tony again, this time playing his version of The Abbot’s Bromley Horn Dance.

For more of this stuff, order a copy of Tony’s new album, One Man Hand on the Wild Goose label.

Follow the link for more references to songs and singing at

‘O hear us when we cry to thee, For those in peril on the sea’

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The Storm by William Miller

The Storm engraving by William Miller after Van de Velde, published in 1858.
From the Wikimedia

We’re in the midst of yet another storm here in the UK. I might have enjoyed them as a child, but now they set my mind racing, first to worrying about safety on the roads and to property such as houses and boats, and then I start thinking of those at sea, and finally the lifeboat crews who have to go to sea in a storm that’s already raging when they leave the land. It’s enough to stop me sleeping, but in the scheme of things that’s a minor irritation.

Last night I found myself thinking about grandeur and truth of the hymn For Those in Peril on the Sea.

Here are the lyrics complete with written-out music.

Here they are again with a playable midi sample.

Here The Daily Telegraph newspaper tells the hymn’s story.

For a little history, read a historical discussion of how Scottish fishermen coped with storms before the days of weather forecasts and also about how storms affected the fishing community at Polperro, Cornwall.

Again, here’s a 19th century story of heroism in the North-East of England.

I’ve also been thinking about the terror of going out onto a big sea in a small open without the benefit of a weather forecast. No doubt that spawned a host of superstitions and the slightly neurotic activity described in the song The Candlelight Fisherman. There’s a joke that some allegedly lazy fishermen wouldn’t go if the flame didn’t blow out, on the grounds that there would be no wind to carry them home, and like most jokes I’m sure it had some grain of truth.

Also, see Out on a Shout, the RNLI’s rescue activities as they happen. In case you’re wondering, there have been a lot of launches in the bad weather of this winter.

I started off by saying that we’re thinking about storms here in the UK, but I’d argue the weather is making many of us think of more than just the weather. Stay safe and stay alive, everyone.

PS – If you get a moment, print out the Miller engravings – on some nice paper, they could be just what you need to hang on your wall!

The Shipwreck, engraving by William Miller after J M W Turner

The Shipwreck engraving by William Miller after JMW Turner, published
as part of a series of 120engravings from Turner’s paintings.
From the Wikimedia

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