A new project is well underway to create an album of folk music inspired by the life and work of the 18th-century romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The album will be supported by a tour culminating in fourteen performances at locations of rural significance to the poet.
This is an exciting prospect on a number of fronts. The first being the lineup of artists involved which includes 2015 BBC Folk Award nominee Ange Hardy and some great players from the British folk music scene (see below) and the second is that it’s all taking place on our own door-step here in Somerset amongst the beautiful landscape that inspired Coleridge to produce some of his best known work.
Esteesee – Along the Coleridge Way
The album is being released under the title “Esteesee” (pronounced S.T.C, forming the initials of the poet) a moniker that Coleridge himself liked to use. The live tour is being promoted under the banner of “Along the Coleridge Way”.
The songs have been written, arranged and produced by Ange Hardy. Ange herself lives along the route of the Coleridge Way, a 51-mile footpath that runs from Coleridge’s old home in Nether Stowey to Lynmouth and crosses both the Quantocks and Exmoor.
The album features Ange on vocals, guitar, whistle, harp and she is joined by Steve Knightley (‘Show of Hands’) who provides guest vocals on a number of songs, Patsy Reid (founding member of ‘Breabach’) on fiddle, viola and cello, Lukas Drinkwater on the double bass, Young Folk Award winner Archie Churchill-Moss (‘Moore Moss Rutter’) on melodeon, Jonny Dyer on the piano, Jo May providing percussion (including triangle and spoons!), Andrew Pearce on the drums, Kate Rouse as the damsel with the hammered dulcimer, Steve Pledger on backing vocals, poetry readings from David Milton (the Watchet town crier) and Tamsin Rosewell (broadcaster and historian) with album cover art by Michael Cook.
In January 2015 Ange started and completed the task of researching and writing the fourteen new songs. Although the press release states this sees her stepping outside her comfort zone of writing from her own personal experiences we also feel she’s a natural choice for this project. When we reviewed her album ‘Lament of the Black Sheep‘, a featured album of the month on Folk Radio UK (read the review here), Simon noted Ange had a natural story tellers gift so the songs she writes for this project will be interesting to hear.
The songs variously touch on Coleridge’s relationships with his family and friends – with songs about his mother, his brothers, and his close friends and associates William Wordsworth and Robert Southey. There are glimpses of attitudes towards the French revolution through Coleridge’s raucous support of William Frend, and allusions to the strength of his faith in a reworking of Coleridge’s own self-penned epitaph.
There are songs inspired by Coleridge’s classic poems The Ancient Mariner and The Foster-Mother’s Tale, musical adaptations of Kubla Khan and Epitaph On An Infant, and new works inspired by his almost life-long battles with ill health and opiates. There’s even a song based on fragments of Coleridge’s dinner table conversation.
Speaking of the project Ange said: “I’m honoured and a little overwhelmed by the wonderful opportunity presented by this project. Circumstances meant I never got the chance to finish school or study music… I have no GCSE’s… none… so this is the first time in my life I’ve been able to approach a project like this – it’s been so exciting and I can’t wait to share it with everyone! These songs were researched and written in a single month so it’s definitely a snapshot of Coleridge through the eyes of my own experience, but I hope I’ve done him the justice he deserves! He’s a fascinating man.”
Along the Coleridge Way 2015 Tour Dates
Saturday October 3rd – Nether Stowey Village Hall
Sunday October 4th – Halsway Manor
Tuesday October 6th – Holford & District Village Hall
Wednesday October 7th – Bicknoller Village Hall
Thursday October 8th – East Quantoxhead Village Hall
Friday October 9th – Sampford Brett Village Hall
Saturday October 10th – Stogumber Village Hall
Sunday October 11th – Moorland Hall at Wheddon Cross
Monday October 12th – Roadwater Village Hall
Wednesday October 14th – Luxborough Village Hall
Thursday October 15th – Luccombe Village Hall
Friday October 16th – Porlock Village Hall
Saturday October 17th – Brendon & Countisbury Village Hall
Sunday October 18th – Lynmouth Pavilion