For those of you that are new to the Commoners Choir they have blossomed from small beginnings to a “rag bag assortment of ne’er-do-wells, misfits, and trouble making cake eaters who have come together from all corners of the globe to sing harmonious insurrection, to rouse the rabble and to raise a smile or two.”
Here they are with their new video for Commoners Go Trespassing, our Song of the Day.
“When your heart says ‘yes’, but the sign says ‘no’ – go where you’re forbidden to go.
You may find out things that you weren’t supposed to know…
Go where you’re forbidden to go.”
I have a lot of empathy with the songs of Commoners Choir which are written by Boff Whalley (Chumbawamba), and it seems only fitting that the northern-based song-writing co-operative label No Masters should be releasing their eponymous debut on September, 1st.
‘Trespass’ has cropped up more than once this week. In our latest Folk Show, I played Martin Simpson performing Rufford Park Poachers (from his new album Trails and Tribulations), a well known traditional folk song in which the poachers rise against the gamekeepers of the Dukeries Rufford Park near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. In my notes for the show, it allowed for a short rant regarding land enclosure after Martin mentioned in his liner notes that such risings were common due to the enclosure acts. While some 7000 areas of common land are registered in England today, millions of acres of common land once existed which served the common man, allowing certain rights such as grazing livestock to collecting firewood. Those enclosure acts were a triumph of wealth over democracy…something we continue to struggle with today.
A more recent event involving rights of access to land was the Mass Trespass of Kinder Scout in 1932 which eventually led to land access reform that allows for us to enjoy more of the countryside. The event saw some 400 Ramblers head to the Peak District to highlight the fact that walkers in England and Wales were denied access to areas of open country. Some of the participants would be jailed although trespass was not a criminal act at the time. Folk singer Ewan MacColl had helped publicise the event and celebrated it with his song ‘The Manchester Rambler’. MacColl was only seventeen at the time, and its defiant lyrics remained popular for a long time after: ‘I’ll Walk Where I Will’ and ‘I may be a wage slave on Monday/But I am a free man on Sunday.’ Chumbawamba also sang about the event on their 2005 album ‘A Singsong and a Scrap’ with ‘You Can (Mass Trespass, 1932).’
It was on Kinder Scout commemorative walk in 2015 that the Commoners Choir was formed. Upon reaching the summit they “sang their entire repertoire (two songs) to a handful of startled hikers.”
As they say…From such small acorns, mighty oaks have grown.
Their self-titled debut album will be released on September 1st via No Masters.
Order it Here: http://www.commonerschoir.com
Photo Credit Casey Orr