A rural idyll and some Edwardian notebooks
On a beautiful late summer North Norfolk day I found myself in the Reading Rooms in Sidestrand, North Norfolk. A building I had not been in since I was a child and so naturally it felt tiny. I spent the first 11 years of my life in Sidestrand and having very recently found out I was pregnant I was feeling nostalgic for my idyllic rural childhood.
I had actually come to the Readin Rooms to meet a man about a hammond organ. It had belonged to the old organist at Sidestrand Church, Henry Lloyd. I remember Henry from my childhood because rather than play somber hymns as we came in on a Sunday morning, he would play american song book classics, very gently so you almost thought they were hymns. Henry had given this hammond to the Reading Rooms previously but now that they were being renovated and there was noone playing it so they were looking for a new home for it. On hearing this I jumped at the chance of procuring a big old organ!
At some point it was suggested, I think by my dear father Eddie, that perhaps in payment I could do a concert of some type the following year. Standing outside in the warm sunshine all was soft and hazy in that special September North Norfolk way and full of raging hormones (6 weeks pregnant) I said "yes what a great idea, I will write a song cycle about the area!".
The idea took root in my thoughts as the Poppyland Song Cycle. The area being known as such since the writer Clement Scott wrote a series of articles about the rural idyle of this part of norfolk turning the area into a fashionable holiday spot for adventurous Victorian Londoners.
This same week my Dad showed me some notebooks that he had found in the house that I had grown up in in Sidestrand. They were written by my great great aunt Kit Hood. She had recorded stories, songs, poems and local history and knowledge from local people in the area at the time, between 1910 and 1914. There were even pages of field names carefully noted down. Possibly one of the few places these names have been recorded. Within these pages I found lyrics that inspired me to either find the melody for them or when I couldn’t find one I put them to music. He also showed me a poem written by a shepherd from Mundesley called Lines on the Beck which I also set to music.
I have also written other songs inspired by local legends and people like Sally Bean and the smugglers and the mythical beast Black Shuck. Some of these songs are available to buy listen and download through my shop.
The project is definitely not finished. My big plan is to put the whole song cycle together with interviews and local history to create a walking musical historical tour following one of the well trodden walks from Cromer to Mundesley so people can listen to the music and hear the stories as they walk through the land it was written about. WATCH THIS SPACE!